I always guessed when a new baby was about to join the family as my mum would get out her knitting needles and white 4 ply yarn. Each new addition would be welcomed with a full layette (I’m showing my age!) if a close relation. For a friend it would be a set comprising mittens (or pawkies as we called them in Scotland), bootees and a wee hat. Whatever the gift was to be, I remember being called to action to help make lengths of twisted cord for the mitts and bootees. This was a two person job involving a double length of yarn stretched out between us. Each end was looped over a knitting needle which was spun round by a single finger to create a twist in the yarn. The longer you spun, the tighter the twist became. Then the magic happened: after enough knitting-needle twizzing, the yarn started to twist round itself creating a cord four times as thick as the original yarn. I found and still find the physics of this intriguing and satisfying in equal measure, seeing the twist evenly and regularly spacing itself out along the length of newly created cord.
So when I was commissioned to work with the pupils at Cheetham Academy what better way to introduce the Year 4s to the delights of textiles than this little bit of woolly excitement? They worked in twos choosing coloured yarns based on simple colour theory and set off twisting – with pencils though as I couldnt bear the thought of herding 60 knitting needles! It was quite moving to see their excitement as they saw the energy they were twisting into it change how the yarn behaved. It wasn’t on a screen, it was real, it was a first hand experience. They were affecting a physical change using their own hands, feeling the tension in the yarn with their fingers, they were in charge.
Each finished cord was arranged onto a square of coloured card and glued into place. We had trees, spirals, hearts (lots of hearts), zigzags and knotted heaps. Each unique, all fantastic. 120 little works of art ready to be added to the final piece