A few months ago I was invited to take part in a project called Silent Cacophony. This project, conceived and organised by Platform-7 will see a series of live performance events, across London and beyond, exploring silence during war and conflict.
Clarice’s archive is a constant source of inspiration and this project offered a great opportunity to use the archive in a different way. Clarice’s archive is a silent one, yet it speaks so loudly and I have often had to find the means to listen to what it says. Looking through her belongings I rediscovered her hand written knitting patterns. These patterns, written in a notebook, and dated 1908, have been a source of fascination for some time. How a series of written instructions, lead to a series of actions, that results in a 3 dimensional end product has seemed, as a non-knitter, to be a complete mystery. These seemed the perfect starting point and led me back to some research I did a few years ago.
During both wars women assisted the war effort in numerous ways, one of these being knitting for the troops. During WW1 socks were particularly sought after and for a soldier to receive a new,dry pair was not only a welcome and comforting reminder of home but also essential to lessening the possibility of trench foot. War poets often mentioned knitting and one particular poet – Jesse Pope – often wrote about the silent messages that each stitch represented – of love and luck, a message to a son, husband, brother, fiancée. The silence of longing for their safe return knotted and weaved in every stitch, unseen and unspoken.
Amongst Clarice’s patterns is one for Shamrock Lace. A short pattern that seemed to a beginner to be a fairly simple one (with a little help from YouTube). The words representing each stitch, each thought, each message. I begin to knit:
Cast cast cast cast cast cast cast
Knit knit make together together knit make make knit knit
Knit knit knit purl knit knit purl knit knit
Knit knit make together together knit knit knit make make knit knit
Knit knit knit purl knit knit knit knit purl knit knit
Knit knit make together together knit knit knit make make knit knit knit knit
Knit knit knit knit knit purl knit knit knit knit purl knit knit
Knit knit make together together knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit
Cast cast cast cast cast cast knit knit knit purl knit knit
The silence of this pattern made audible by the words, a cacophony in my head.