Conference on knitting to be held at museum

Shetland Museum is to host an international conference on knitting in collaboration with the University of Southampton.

“In the loop 2: knitting origins and evolution” will take place from 1st to 5th September. The five-day event will build on the success of “In the loop: knitting past, present and future”, a conference held at the Winchester Campus of the University of Southampton in 2008.

In the loop 2 will give a focus for the many facets of knitting, ranging from academic research to contemporary art practice. Another hope is that it will foster study and promote the revival of the craft.

Linda Newington of the University of Southampton said: “During the first In the loop conference, Shetland just kept coming up in conversation. The islands are so instrumental in the development of knitting, we had to consider a second conference in Shetland.

“I approached Carol Christiansen, curator of the textile collection at the Shetland Museum, at the first conference to see if it was possible and, two years later, here we are. I know there will be many knitters world-wide looking forward to visiting Shetland.”

In the loop 2 will open on Wednesday 1st September, with presentations by conference co-coordinators Dr Christiansen and Linda Newington about the respective knitwear collections held by the museum and the university.

Ms Newington said both collections provided rich resources and distinctive histories with the potential to map the social history of knitting, charting the work of the all-too-often anonymous knitters who had contributed so much to the practice.

A range of conference papers will be delivered from 2nd to 4th September under the themes of: tradition and renewal; artists and designers crossing boundaries; knitting narratives; knitting cultures; and fashion and the industry.

Speakers will include academics, artists, curators, designers, craftspeople, knitters and students as well as three keynote speakers: Susan Crawford, Deidre Nelson and Annemor Sundbø.

All are respected in their fields: the first an author, publisher and knitter; the second a textile artist whose work is influenced by traditional textile objects and techniques; and the third a textile designer and author of a number of books on knitting, knitwear and Norwegian social history.

Throughout the conference there will be a range of knitting exhibitions and activities open to the public. This will include knitting lounges, book stalls and focus displays detailing both the museum and university collections.

Dr Christiansen said: “As part of the conference we wanted to recognise the return of knitting as a social experience, where modern knitters gather in a variety of venues to share ideas, skills, experience and friendship.

“We expect a great deal of networking to take place between visiting and local delegates, creating a real buzz in the museum. Knitters from all over the world will be in Shetland for the conference and I’m sure everyone will be excited to see the different techniques employed by different cultures.”

The final day of the conference will be an optional excursion to Unst on 5th September. Stopping at the Old Haa in Yell and the Heritage Centre in Unst, delegates will get the chance to discover more of island life as well as the fine lace for which Unst is famous. They will also have the opportunity to see some of these traditional techniques first hand, with demonstration by local spinners and knitters.

Ms Newington said: “The aim of the conference is to raise the profile of knitting and to encourage further research, both academic and practical, using the collections as a foundation. We hope to uncover the social history, recognise the contribution of knitters, and explore the potential contemporary facets of maaking.

“We also want to investigate knitting cultures from other parts of the world, to provide a global perspective on how traditional knitting has influenced contemporary makers, artists, and researchers.”

The conference fee is £60, with an early bird booking fee of £45 available until 15th June. Single day bookings are not available and there are additional fees for a conference dinner on the Friday night and the Unst excursion on the Sunday.

A full conference programme and online booking is available from Monday 17th May at Anyone without access to the internet can access the online booking at the museum, where staff will be on hand to help with the process.


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