Lauren O’Farrell is the founder and leader of Stitch London; a feisty knitting group, now the largest in the UK, which has won awards and acclaim for its fresh, contemporary approach to knitting. Lauren is also known (under the alter ego of ‘Deadly Knitshade’) for her impressive graffiti knitting. I spoke to Lauren about her love of knitting and her recent projects…
“The best thing about knitting is that there are absolutely no rules to what you can make with your sticks and string. Don’t let people tell you there are either!”
What was your first knitting project?
“My first project was a hideous eyelash yarn scarf that crawled away and died soon after. At least I hope it did. Unless it’s out there somewhere waiting…”
“My top tip is to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t get it first time, then keep going. I was an atrocious knitter when I first started and sometimes I still am but keep at it and the knit will be yours. Also if you mess up you can always stick a button or a googly eye over the hole.”
What inspires all of your brilliant ideas?
“I stuff my brain full of other people’s art, books, films, comics, computer games, and wander the world like it’s a museum. The world is an inspiring place. You just need to stop for a minute and notice. Some of my ideas are also brought to me by insistent pigeons. They’re quite pushy when they think it’s a good one.”
“Yarnstorming is the art of making something for a public place; going out into the world, releasing your make into the wild and running away giggling. It’s street art you can touch and take home.”
Are there any cool new trends in the world of graffiti knitting?
“Everyone and their cat seems to be doing graffiti knitting these days. It’s marvellous seeing all the new handmade craziness. Since I started telling stitched stories back in 2007 people have jumped on board with using characters and themes rather than cosies, which is great to see. I’m encouraging folks to use all kinds of craft these days. ‘Craftstorming’ is taking over.”
“So hard to choose! But I guess it has to be Plarchie, the 8-metre knitted squid I made for the Natural History Museum. He took over 100 hours and over 160 plastic bags to create. He now has his own Twitter account and regularly eats his followers. I apologise in advance if he eats someone you love.”
Do you prefer making smaller pieces, like the quirky characters in Stitch New York, or your large graffiti knitting projects?
“To be honest I love both. The ‘quick and kooky’ projects can take as long as the big ones at times because I like to put in tonnes of detail. The large ones are great to see in the wild. I pretty much just love making stuff. If I didn’t, I fear I would implode.”
What do you do when your knitting goes wrong?
“Swear very loudly, make tea and start again. There is a lot of swearing in my flat when I make patterns. Luckily my cat is deaf so she is blissfully unaware of the profanity while I purl!”
“I already feel like I have one since I seem to be able to conjure the wierdest woolly creatures without quite knowing where they come from. But if I had to choose I think I’d go for the ability to freeze time so I could march in, cover stuff with my woolly artworks and nip off again with ultimate sneakiness.”
What’s your favourite snack?
“Unexpected cheese and crackers. Or anything with chilli on it.”
How do you spend your time when you’re not knitting? If that ever happens?!
“I dimly remember a time when I didn’t knit all the time. I am a big fan of nerdy computer games, bad movies, good books and putting googly eyes on things I shouldn’t in a blatant act of vandalism. I also tweet a lot about all of those things. It is rumoured that I never sleep.”
Check out Lauren’s books Stitch New York. There’s a great Stitch New York book review too! Lauren has loads of great free knitting patterns to browse on her website, and you can keep up with her latest yarn adventures on Twitter!and
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