Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

tom of holland

Image – Tom Van Deijnen wearing his own making, I think socks, gloves and trousers.

I met up with Tom Van Deijnen late last year at MADE in Brighton to interview him following his very good paper given at In the loop 3: the voices of knitting. He had spoken about his “Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches” which received thunderous applause from the delegates. Tom has visited the Knitting Reference Library located at Winchester School of Art a few times. He has always found much to interest him as a knitter. So I decided to find out more about him.

The pleasure of making

Of course his mum is a really good knitter, she can famously knit, watch tv and do a crossword all at the same time! Tom remembers choosing the colours for a polo neck Fair Isle type jumper she knitted him when he was about twelve. However she did not teach him to knit. He learnt at primary school where he knitted a tiny cable scarf for his teddy bear, with the not unusual beginners problem of too tight tension. He told me he has always liked making and that he just can’t stop it. This is perhaps one of the reasons that knitting and sewing have made a notable comeback. “The pleasure and meaning of making” by Ellen Dissanayake from American Craft, vol.52, no.2, pages 40-45, published in 1995 is an interesting article on this subject. She discusses the centrality of making in everyday life.

Tom now knits for his mum.


Image – a very beautiful scarf knitted by Tom for his mother

Early projects

Although Tom took a different path through school he continued making and seriously returned to knitting in his early thirties. Seeing a Paul Smith scarf he coveted he decided to knit his own version using Rowan felted tweed in russet-brown. Running out of wool near completion led to an improvisation with a purple stripe and tassels.

A tank top followed using a Sirdar pattern which proved too prescriptive stifling this makers own creativity. At this point he turned to the books of Elizabeth Zimmerman describing her as “the knitter’s companion”. Her emphasis on construction, pattern elements and stitches proved a good fit. Consequently a key tip from Tom is “always knit a swatch”.

Sanquhar gloves

The first pair of plain knitted gloves were for a Christmas present. These were from a recipe which Tom says gives guidance rather than strict instructions. Having enjoyed this challenge Tom moved onto the complexities of knitting Sanquhar gloves spotted on Ravelry. He used the written pattern with no charts from the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute http://www.swri.org.uk Tom has told me he has an interest in mathematics which I have noted many knitters share. Amongst them my knitting friends Deryn Relph http://www.derynrelph.co.uk and Sarah Elwick http://www.sarahelwick.com The yarn first chosen for the gloves was discarded when he discovered Prick you Finger at Bethnal Green in London where he replaced it with Shetland Spindrift from Jamiesons of Shetland.


Image – Sanquhar gloves knitted recently by Tom for “Wovember”

The reading gloves

Prick your Finger http://www.prickyourfinger.com is described by Tom as a wool shop that would never belittle anyones work. It was here that his obsession with gloves reached a peak in his exhibition entitled “The Reading Gloves”. Developed as a knitting shop like no other by Rachael Mathews a founder member of the “Cast Off Knitting Club for boys and girls” the shop window was a fitting location for Tom’s knitted literary gloves. He had begun with a pair based on a Mary Thomas recipe and gave them the title of “Lady Chatterley”. Of course “Mellors” followed, also “Anna Karenina” and “Dorian Gray”.

Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches


Image – from the Curiosity Cabinet

This project has been based on Tom’s reasearch into knitting stitches and has recently been completed. It will be having a first showing very soon at Prick Your Finger from Friday, 15 February 2013. A reclamation of forgotten stitches and techniques is presented as an homage to the curiosity cabinets of past collectors often seen in our national museums.

Knitters and their books: visits to the Knitting Reference Library.

KRL Animals

Image – The Knitting Reference Library

Tom has been a welcome supporter of our work with the Knitting Reference Library. Consistently posting information about his visits and the resources he has come across. His interests are wide-ranging but often come to rest on the unusual and unexpected. The earliest printed books commence with the Victorian knitting manuals donated by Richard Rutt dating from the 1830s. One of Tom’s prefered periods is the early to mid-twentieth century which he describes as refined and sophisticated. There are also many classics from Mary Thomas through the decades to present day authors. I think Tom should join them some time.

New Projects

The challenge of learning to spin is next with advice from a friend Felicity Ford alias Felix http://www.thedomesticsoundscape.com A lovely hand-made spindle had arrived in the post and Felix was sending Wenslydale and Jacob fleece. There are also “bursiforms” knitted in the round to explore soon for this super knitting geek.


Image – the new spindle

All images courtesy of Tom except for the Knitting Reference Library image from Linda Newington. You can read all about Tom at http://www.tomofholland.com His blog includes all the knitting projects mentioned and new work, there is darning too. Do take a look, visit Prick Your Finger and us too at the Knitting Reference Library http://www.soton.ac.uk/intheloop


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In the loop 3: the voices of knitting recently inspired some yarn bombing in the Hartley Library at the University of Southampton. All images are from the yarn bomb with permission from Jayne and Verna.

Winnie the witch

Two colleagues who acted as “knitting ambassadors” to the conference heard the paper given by Alyce McGovern, a criminologist from New Zealand, entitled “Guerilla knitting: the craft of subversion”. Like the University Librarian they found it very interesting. It was also illustrated with some fine examples of this recent sometimes controversial craft form which may be found in the urban landscape, on actual buildings and in the countryside. Of course it may appear anywhere. But do you need to permission to yarn bomb? Is it actually a criminal offence? Is  it solely decoration or can it also have a political message? Alyce McGovern attempted to illustrate and answer these questions in her challenging and thought-provoking presentation. 

Spooky creatures

Yarn bombing is sometimes regarded as part of “Craftivism” which brings craft and action together, this is a theme covered in the book In the loop: knitting now edited by Jessica Hemmings published from the first In the loop conference held in 2008.  The section – Site and sight: activist knitting – includes works by Sophie Horton and Lacey Jane Roberts. Yarn bombing started in the early 21st century and has become, some would argue, a distinctive part of reclaming and reinterpreting the once traditional domestic skill of knitting. The Knitting Reference Library includes books covering this somewhat unexpected aspect of making public art through the use of knitting. So do take a look at titles such as Radical lace & subversive knitting and Knit, knit profiles + projects from knitting’s new wave. 

Halloween mobile


Meanwhile it was a surprise to see in November  yarn bombing in the Hartley Library, guerilla action had taken place for Halloween. Both knitting and crochet had been used to create an installation leading to the University Librarian’s Office. On the day I visited and saw it the installation appeared to amuse and interest the many library staff passing by, indeed many of us took pictures on mobile phones. The bombers had been at work for quite some time making during their evenings using their creative camaraderie to develop and create  a scene redolent of a fairy story. However not everyone celebrates Halloween so it also had its critics.

The owl sat above the Librarian’s office

The yarn bombers, Verna Acres and Jayne Tweedle, both learnt their textile skills as young children  from their mothers whom they remember as constant knitters. Jayne admitted that she had not taken up the crochet hook for a long time but the technique came back to her fairly quickly once she started again for this project. Verna has always knitted, now partly for health as it helps if her hands stay active. She likes making and knits on her own, with others, for presents, and will give away her work. She is now also interested in more public projects.  

Jayne and Verna had made me a knitted card following the conference which itself is an example of what In the loop sets out to do for the very broad community it has developed. Their mind map inside the card covered – creativity, academic, thought-provoking, inspiring, inclusivity, research, and renewal. From this small item their yarn bombing project then grew so I look forward to their next yarn intervention perhaps others will join them.

WebCat named after the library catalogue

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Richard Rutt, popularly known as the Knitting Bishop, donated his library to the University of Southampton in recognition of his knitting friendship with Montse Stanley whose Knitting Collections were already held by the University Library. I first visited Richard and his wife Joan at their home in Falmouth to view the collection in preparation for packing and transport. I continued to visit over the years, they always made me very welcome with tea and cake whilst I updated them on our work with the Knitting Collections.

Jumpers hand knitted by Richard Rutt

At the time of his donation and at my request Richard wrote a text entitled A boy’s knitting which outlines his life in knitting. He learnt to knit at the age of 7 and was taught by his maternal grandfather. From that age he learnt a range of technical skills always enjoying the challenge of construction and technique. In 1987  at the age of 52 he published A history of hand knitting which remains a key text for the subject. At this time he was also chairman of the Knitting & Crochet Guild. Richard’s life included more than knitting, a full biography is available on Wikipedia and an obituary remains available on the internet.

A special feature of Richard Rutt’s library is a collection of Victorian knitting manuals published from the 1840s through to the end of the 19th century. As part of a JISC funded project led by the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) all these books have now been digitised and are available to search through a link on our website. Leading on from this work we are in the middle of a pilot project to digitise a selection of his knitting patterns focusing on six boxes of menswear totalling about 1000 patterns in total. However this is dependent on copyright clearance being granted through yarn companies who are usually the publishers.

Page from a Victorian book by Miss Terry

His library is now part of the Knitting Reference Library (KRL) based at the School of Art in Winchester. It also includes the printed resources of Montse Stanley and Jane Waller. The KRL overall comprises books,  journals, magazines and patterns. We aim to be a resource for all those interested in any aspect of knitting including designers, historians and students,  also visiting researchers. Since 2008 we have had a notable number of enquiries and visitors from both University staff and students but also from the external community who are not only from the UK.

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