When I tagged along at the Harrogate knitting and stitching show, it was more for the chance to have a poke and a sneer at the town centre than anything else.
I’d heard tales of lunch at Betty’s, where you always have to queue but once inside you’d be able to sit back and relax over tea and cakes, a light lunch or something stronger.
I’d been promised an hour or two at the exhibition, where I might be able to pick up some knitting needles that I didn’t really need, or splash my cash on a skein or two of merino wool. And finally I’d been tempted by a nip of brandy that would be offered along with my coffee on the coach home.
I knew there would be sewing exhibitions, demonstrations and a certain amount of shopping but what I wasn’t prepared for was knitted art.
Beyond the snooty professional stands adorned with textiles labelled “do not touch” and “for sale £300,” we came across a corner where the work was witty and unselfconscious. Here was art, knitted into rubbish bins and bicycles and washing hanging on a knitted line, pegged out – yes you guessed it – with knitted pegs.
And in the back there was a knitted wedding cake.
You didn’t need to read the blurb to find out that this collection of shopping bags, dressing tables and lamp shades wasn’t just knitting. It wasn’t just art. There were lives knitted here.
Apparently these ladies took part in an art project because the woolly sweaters and gloves they’d been used to knitting wasn’t appreciated by family and friends. No one wanted another fairisle jumper, so they created things that had significance to them, they knitted up memories of their own lives.
I wish I’d signed the visitors book so that the ladies knew how much I’d appreciated their wit and artistry. How much I’d enjoyed the exhibition, and how when we stumbled on their corner of the show after passing by the snooty professionals I couldn’t help whispering “now this is art” as I joined the people crowding around to get a look or a feel of their creations.
And I wish I’d asked if they’d knit me a cake for a certain celebration I’ll be attending next year.