FEATURE: DIY Knitting | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Given the history of our region it’s no great surprise we talk about DIY culture a lot in NARC. The North East has always been one of the most socially driven, hard-working regions that thrives off the creativity and ingenuity of its inhabitants, and recently there’s been a resurgence in the area with an explosion of arts and crafts. In the last few years we’ve seen studios opening up across the region offering up empty spaces for artists and craftspeople to come in and set up shop. The Biscuit Factory in the Ouseburn Valley has become the largest art, craft and design factory in the UK and the Shipley Gallery in Gateshead is the leading gallery in the country for contemporary crafts.

One of the Shipley’s current exhibitions is Blooming Marvellous (exhibiting until Saturday 5th September), an entire garden fills the gallery; flowers, tools, sheds and gnomes, and every single item has been knitted. It’s a heart-warming exhibition with a bewildering display of talent and is guaranteed to bring a smile to all ages.

Knitting is indeed one of the fastest growing crafts in the region, with a host of new knitting clubs and exhibitions springing up. As well as the Shipley’s exhibition, Darlington’s Crown Street Gallery will be playing host to A Grand Tour from Tuesday 12th May until Thursday 2nd July; a dazzling array of re-workings of infamous paintings from around the world, including Munch’s The Scream and Hokusai’s The Great Wave, all created through knitting, embroidery and crochet.

A Grand Tour is a touring exhibition from an group of enthusiastic volunteers known as The Materialistics. Having been going for six years they meet regularly to work on large-scale exhibition projects, they also go to groups that can’t visit them to work on the projects, such as Asian women’s centre Apna Ghar, Bulmer House aged miners home and many others. The exhibition has toured across the country and received a good deal of national press, and shows not only the joys of creating your own crafted masterpieces, but craft can be used to build communities and bring people together.

craft can be used to build communities and bring people together

An even finer example of this is the growth of knitting clubs in the area; Stitch & Bitch Sunderland (The Mackem & Tap ’em Branch) have been housed in Pop Recs Ltd. for over a year now, with a friendly group of knitters young and old (with a cheeky fun Facebook page worth checking out); there’s also Purl Jam at NewBridge Books in Newcastle and of course the long running A Good Yarn at Tyneside Cinema, which is now run by the members themselves and remains busy each and every Tuesday night, and that’s to name but a few.

We’ve also seen a rise in the phenomenon of ‘yarn bombing’ (or guerrilla knitting) enter the region, where brightly knitted woollen works are placed around objects in the public realm. Last year a group of ‘ninja knitters’ yarn bombed a tree in Prudhoe in aid of the spirit of an African charity and Heaton has seen a number of its lampposts adorned with delightful knitwear. A Newcastle based yarn bomber who wished to remain nameless commented “it’s a fun, harmless way to brighten up our community. Graffiti has such negative connotations but everybody loves a nice bit of knitwear don’t they?”

It’s looking to me that knitting is the way forward.

Blooming Marvellous is at The Shipley Gallery, Gateshead until Saturday 5th September.

A Grand Tour is at Crown Street Gallery, Darlington from Tuesday 12th May until Thursday 2nd July.

Take a look at some of the works on show at the Crown Street Gallery below:

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