Thursday, September 04, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
The World Wide Knit in Public Big London Knitty Treasure Hunt
A massive thanks to everyone who came along to take part. We eventually had 20 teams and 63 entrants all of whom got well into the spirit of things and followed our clues from Waterloo, The Old Vic (below) along the South Bank, over Waterloo Bridge, into Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square (left) and home to the IKL shop via Big Ben and Banksy's Leake Street tunnel. Congratulations to the victors, team 4 Ply, a fabulous achievement especially as they produced the 2nd longest scarf! Late arrivals, team Unprepared who arrived about two hours after the first team had headed off and arrived back after the prize-giving ceremony with a whopping 117 points. They took home some prizes but due to their lateness they sadly didn't qualify but congratulations on a fabulous effort. Congratulations also to team A Tension Seeker for winning the WWKIP Day scarf challenge with a humungous 90+ inches long (beating the 4 Ply team into second with only 86")!
Along the way teams discovered bits of hidden London, they knitted on Routemaster buses, they knitted with policemen and street performers, pearly kings and queens and celebrities (congratulations to the teams who met and knit with Terry Pratchett and Una Stubbs!). We saw Laurence Olivier wearing a knitted hat, Field Marshall Monty with a legwarmer and Charlie Chaplin with a knitted scarf (all statues of course), and special mention to team Pop who, aptly, sabotaged the balloons of fellow treasure hunters in a display of ruthless competitiveness (which ultimately didn't do them any good!)
I hope a brilliant day was had by all. I popped over into town to search for teams mid-afternoon and got lost amidst the throngs at Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, but well done for sheer tenacity in finishing the course. We've even learnt to say "I Knit" in 21 different languages, including Urdu and Kiribati!
Please post your pictures from the day's events to the free I Knit on Flickr group. If you haven't an account you can join up now or send us the photos by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can put them up for you - show everyone how you got on, and we really want to see Una!
A few of the challenges included:
knitting on a Routemaster bus - yes, there are still Routemasters running in london and a few of our teams managed to get on and knit on this London icon
knitting with a celebrity - only a few teams scored points on this ne. Terry Pratchett was popular with three teams knitting his presence, but top marks to the team who knitted with Una Stubbs (who was also an answer to one of the questions!)
dressing up statues in knitting - from Laurence Olivier and Charlie Chaplin to Frank Dobson's 'London Pride' sculpture, London statues were kitted out in knittiness from armbands and woolly hats to legwarmers and scarves
knitting with the Old Bill - London's boys and girls in blue were (for the most part) only too happy to pose with knitters for WWKIP Day!
knit at landmarks beginning with P, U, R and L - Ok, so we gots lots of knitting in front of the London Eye and the River Thames, but what about a Urinal!?
knit with a Pearly king or Queen - ah, yes, those quintessentially Cockney characters. We Londoners see them all the time right..? Well, surprisingly three teams did manage to meet up and knit with some genuine Pearly Kings and Queens!
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Banksy in Leake Street
What's very funny to me, and just a little ironic, is that I remember coming upon an original Banksy in the very same street a couple of years ago (a monkey with a detonator preparing to blow up a bunch of bananas)...it was unceremoniously painted over by Network Rail who said, "We don't want graffiti on our property and we will remove it," he said. "It's ugly, illegal and the public don't like it." Now, it would seem they've changed their minds!
Go see it, it's only there in full for three days (until 5th May), and best of all the tunnel comes out on Lower Marsh, and only a few yards from I Knit London!
Monday, March 10, 2008
A house is not a home...
The shop is taking shape. It's an empty shell with some of the previous fittings and fixtures in place. In an ideal world we'd start from scratch but time and money are against us on that one. We're of the opinion that IKL is more than just bricks and mortar though, and when it's filled with the sound of chattering knitters it could be a barn and it'd still be great. The best thing about the new space is that it's so much bigger...which means more room for yarn, more room for lounging around and more room for classes. As Hal David once wrote, "A room is a still a room, even when there's nothin' there but gloom. But a room is not a house and a house is not a home"...which, basically means I'm trying to say that it's what happens inside IKL that's the most important thing. Having said that, we have splashed out on some lovely new IKEA furniture to fill up with yarn and there's even a chance our new sign will be ready before we open, or perhaps not.
One of the things I'm looking forward to the most though is being part of Lower Marsh. Gerard and I both worked at the National Theatre (I still do!) so it's somewhere we're familiar with as it's so close to the South Bank. It's a really 'local' street, and there's been a market here for centuries. I'm always telling the story of how we stumbled upon the shop in Bonnington Square, and the same serendipity has landed us with the new address. Wandering past a few months ago I noticed the empty shop and thought we'd make the big decision to go for it. It was a clothes shop called The Closet (and all jokes about us both moving into the The Closet have already run dry!) There's a brilliant shop called Radio Days which has, in the past, been a destination for the ladies of the box office at Christmas Party time for a fancy frock or two. I like rooting through the fabulous vintage mags from the forties, and have picked up a few vintage knitting patterns in there too. Further up there's the retro What The Butler Wore for some 60s/70s fashions and next door to that one of the city's best kept secrets, the Scooterworks café. All this and a local bookshop, a couple of nice pubs, Iceland, Boots, sex shop and even the woodwind instrument shop! All it needs is a fabulous knitting shop and you've got a village in the centre of London! I fear that with Cubana at one end and The Walrus at the other we may see late nights at IKL go on til the wee small hours.
For a history of Lower Marsh and a view of some of the shops and cafés you'll find there check the Lower Marsh website.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
London's newest knitting shop...
It's been just over two years since Gerard and I started I Knit London. Back then we were a regular knitting group, organising weekly meetings for knitters in London pubs. Every Wednesday we'd choose a pub, send out a newsletter and wait for people to arrive. So far, so easy. It's only ever worked because people came, what we did was really nothing at all. So we'd teach people how to do stuff, and sometimes they'd teach us and we all had a few drinks and got on like a house on fire, made new friends and made stuff. But there was more to do, there was a Sunday market stall at Spitalfields, a decision based on the fact Gerard couldn't buy any recylced sari silk in London, so thought he'd do it himself. Those very early Sunday mornings were very hard work and even if we didn't make back any of the stall rent, we met more knitters and we invited them along to our weekly pub meetings too. Our circle of friends got bigger and our plans did too. but, the last thing we wanted was a shop - why would we need another full-time job on top of the two we already had?
One of our local hang-outs was the Bonnington café, where I'd meet Gerard for lunch when it was my day off from the National Theatre, and he was working around the corner for WaterAid. I don't remember when it was that I first suggested asking about the corner shop, at that time looking pretty grim with the metal shutters down and a blight on the square to be honest. Gerard was working from 8am til 4pm so we thought we could run a shop for people after work, open from 4 to 9 and still give ourselves a little time to have a life. We'd close on Wednesdays so we could still go to the pubs and knit and all would be well. We knocked on a few doors, found the owner and decided to give it a go....and it's been an unexpected journey.
Shortly afterwards Gerard was promoted and had to stay on til 5pm. It's only an hour difference but somehow 5 to 9 each night didn't seem proper, so we got someone to sit there for afternoon, usually on their own, pretending to run a shop, only with no customers. This is when we decided to get our licence to sell alcohol and decided that we'd alternate our weekly knitting group between shop and pub, giving everyone a chance to come and discover IKL and to live up to the 'sanctuary' part of the name which we'd been adamant about from the start. And so it went on....
Recently I've been hearing that because we're a 'business' we're different to other knitting groups; somehow this makes us less worthy of praise, as if our 2 years of work is somehow reaping financial rewards. I only wish! True, Gerard did, finally give up his full-time job at the end of 2007, meaning he can now spend his time and energies on his first love, but it's also true that it means from two incomes we're down to only one! I'm glad the 14 hour working days are over, I'm ecstatic that we won't have to give up our flat and live in the shop again (well, not as far as we plan it anyway) but with only two of us running the shop and the knitting group, not to mention organising SnB Day last year and this year's I Knit Day, it's still a long way from time to relax and put our feet up.
So, the last thing we need right now is more stress and more sleepless nights - but we genuine love IKL so much that we're going to do that anyway...and we're moving. Bonnington Square has been good to us, it's been a beautiful place to rest our knitty heads and it will always be part of our IKL story...but there's always time to move on. Next week London has it's newest knitting shop, at 106 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, SE1. Open late, licenced bar, gorgeous yarns and still a place for knitters to drop-in, put their feet up and have a natter. We wouldn't miss it for the world and we hope knitters from London and those visiting the city think so too.
From a weekly pub knitting group to what we consider to be a very good local yarn store, it has been a long hard slog. We won't be retiring anytime soon and we'll continue to do our best to offer London's knitters what we think they want and need. To all those who think it's easy you are welcome to have a go, and for those who think we're in it for the money - well, I can only laugh! The one thing I will say is that I am never a do-er, I'm always a wannabe! Thanks to Gerard this has been the most interesting (most stressful, most exciting, most unpredictable, most fulfilling...) 2 years of my life. If you want to do something just do it...we are no businessmen, and I still feel like I'm making it up as I go along. The clever part is making it look, apparently, so easy.
I Knit London will open at Waterloo on Saturday 15th March....until then, there's lots of painting, scrubbing and shelf-building to get done!