Spin a yarn

Liz Farrelly previews a Crafts Council exhibition that creates a new, provocative pattern for that long-forgotten pastime, knitting.

The selection is inclusive; from a French outsider artist to a recent RCA graduate; from work on an architectural scale to toy-making. What remains constant between the pieces, however, is a sense of surprise and invention. Cuddly toys they may be, but Donna Wilson’s are surreal, angry, cannibalistic; it’s only a knitted balaclava, but when worn by Andy Diaz Hope in a busy financial district of a North American city the public may think a bank job’s in the offing; light and filmy though it is, a cobweb by Shane Waltener is gigantic enough to span a museum’s entrance-hall, evoking nightmare visions of a giant spider prowling the galleries.

Another not-to-be missed redefinition of the art of knitting is Kelly Jenkins’ machine-knit jersey ‘canvases’ featuring sensational tabloid headlines (‘Knit Uncensored’) and phone-box sex-cards substituting the words ‘knit’ and ‘sex’, simultaneously confusing gender stereotypes and making you smile.

Robins’ own contribution to the exhibition resulted from an artist’s residency in Berlin, when her daughter was just six months old. ‘My hands were itchy to make something, but I was emotionally and physically exhausted, so I invented a way of working where I didn’t have to make decisions.’ Robins inscribed the faces of a number of dice with a series of choices – colours, number of stitches, increase or decrease. ‘I could sit in bed at night, throw the dice, and the next day apply the instructions on a knitting machine.’ The pieces are pure chance, highlighting the process of knitting rather than any end result. And although they’re pinned out as if to be sewn together, they could never add up to anything wearable. ‘If you’re not a knitter, though, you won’t recognise that reference and instead may read them as architecture, defining the space left between,’ adds Robins.

As an exhibition that revels in rule breaking, highlights diversity and questions your assumptions, whether you’re a knit-head or a knit-novice, Knit 2 Together delivers.

Knit 2 Together: Concepts in Knitting runs from 24 February to 8 May at the Crafts Council Gallery, 44a Pentonville Road, London N1

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