Guerilla crafters dress Brisbane in winter woollies

If you’ve been in the Brisbane city heart this week, you may have noticed that it is a bit more colourful than usual.

Pompoms are hanging from trees, green hearts and mushrooms have sprung up in the quirkiest of places, and the statues have put on their woollies to ward off  the winter chill – like this little fella in King George Square, who’s sporting a very nice stripey scarf (in Biggan yarn, of course!):

© Stephen Jaensch. Used with permission.

They are all part of I Knit Brisbane, a community knitting and crochet project that brought together crafters from all over Brisbane – school students, artists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, seniors groups, knitting/crochet groups and associations, and the craft businesses that service them.

Hundreds of hours of knitting, crocheting and assembly went on behind the scenes, culminating in a massive effort on the night of 31 May, when the guerilla crafters took to the streets of Brisbane to ensure the city heart was warm and cosy for the first day of winter. I wish I could have seen the faces of the city workers when they came across their first piece of woollen sculpture that morning – I hope it made them smile!!

Biggan and I were awed and inspired by the army of fantastically creative guerilla crafters who put their hearts and hands into making Brisbane a warmer place this winter. We were honoured to be a small part of this amazing community by providing some of the wool for the installations.

Channel 9’s news story about the project can be viewed here (and yes, that is Biggan being interviewed behind Sebastian di Mauro’s hand sculpture)

If you’re in Brisbane and want to check out I Knit Brisbane, this map will point you in the right direction…

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An inspirational weekend at Harrogate

Just back from a most stimulating weekend up at the Woolaballoo yarn stall at Harrogate, with Lucy Bush and her lovely mother, Anne. This year I opted to do the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate with Woolaballoo, as they have all our yarns and are doing a stellar job of selling them. I was lucky to meet quite a few loyal knitters at the stall and together we put together some beautiful individually chosen colour combinations, particularly for the Sarah sweater and the Judith vest. It always makes me happy to see other knitters playing around with my wide range of colours and using it, just as it was meant, as a colour palette of yarn to be inspired by. It was lucky that I decided to do the show with Woollaballoo this year, as I went down with the most horrendous tummy flu shortly after arriving in the UK, which knocked me for six, and no food for three days. I was very happy to have Lucy and her mum organising the stall and the running of it.

Biggan with Lucy of Woolaballoo at Harrogate Knitting & Stitching show, Nov 09

I managed to get up on the Saturday afternoon after several long standstills on the motorway for roadworks! But it was all worth it. The Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show is definitely one of my favourites. Not only is it situated in one of the most picture perfect Victorian spa towns you can imagine, with the best shopping possible and a lot of good restaurants, but the show itself has such a variety of exquisite craft exhibitions on hand. Houston-based Cindy Hickok’s masterful machine embroidery of selected bits from famous artists’ best known works, from the renaissance until our time, had me completely gobsmacked. Her mastery of the machine and getting all these famous characters perfectly reproduced in an entirely new setting and with hilarious captions to go with it – very much tongue in cheek – had me back there twice slowly trailing every picture. I could have bought the lot, had I had the money!

Then I saw the knitted boat, yes, that’s right, the fabulous art project put together by the Sanford Goudie Gallery at the Customs House in Tyne & Wear, UK, by knitting a coat and a sail for a boat and putting it to use in the water!!! The knitting had been coordinated by very colourful knitting artist Ingrid Wagner using her enormous knitting needles. I also saw US based Tom Lundberg’s exhibition of beautifully machine embroidered artwork in the form of condensed sized badges, very skilfully executed. Lastly I ran into the embroidery duo Jean Littlejohn and Jan Beaney, whose fabulous embroidered wall hangings I was already admiring last year at the main exhibition. There they had a lot of pieces inspired by the Australian bush, which, of course, struck a special chord with me.

I’m now back in London again working on a plethora of new designs and ideas. I don’t know quite what to prioritise as they all are as much fun to develop and knit – several children’s garments, a shrug for a wedding in Adelaide in December and some commissioned work to get ready for deadlines. But it is all fun and I am brimming over with new ideas. London is a very stimulating place for me to be, as a designer. The enormous variety of art exhibitions, beautiful parks and buildings, theatres and movies make my inspiration soar.

A cuppa with friends

All of us here at Biggan Design are big tea drinkers. So when it came to hosting a small knit-together with twelve of our friends recently, a tea party in the beautiful garden of Biggan’s home was the natural choice.

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Sophie, Stephanie and Henrietta

With the flamboyant tropical flowers heralding the Australian spring, it’s easy to see where Biggan gets the inspiration for her work. Nature has an unerring eye for combining colours — the purples of the jacaranda and tibouchina blooms, the scarlet and cerise bougainvillea, and the orange and indigo Bird of Paradise.

Giving Mother Nature stiff competition, though, were the colourful projects we were all working on! Biggan was knitting a version of her Light and Shade shawl in shades of green, while Henrietta worked on a pair of scarlet wristwarmers. Judith was finishing up a lampshade in shades of pink, Valerie was working on Stefanie Japel’s Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug in turquoise and deep turquoise, and Anita was working on a baby blanket in an untraditional light khaki.

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Biggan works on her shawl

And, of course, there were pots of tea and plenty of yummy home-baked biscuits, buns and cakes to keep our strength up! The tea was Stockholm Blend from The Tea Centre, a firm favourite with Biggan and Henrietta. It’s quite a common blend in Sweden — black tea lightly scented with calendula, rose, safflowers, orange, vanilla and apricot — and its floral aroma is unmistakeable.

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Judith in shades of pink

Apart from giving us a reason to catch up with friends over cups of tea and balls of yarn, the party had a second exciting purpose. Henri’s friend Hannah — a talented photographer — was on hand to capture images of the tea party that will eventually make it onto the pages of our upcoming pattern book, along with recipes to many of the home-baked goodies we enjoyed at the party. We’re working hard on the book at the moment, and we’ll be keeping you updated on our progress.

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The Biggan Design team: Henrietta, Biggan and Anita