Many of our local villagers have noticed a large increase in the number of gloves that they have seen wedged to the top of fencing, balanced on top of walls or pushed on top of fence posts in the past few weeks.
To many people this is just a sign of changing times or changing local demographics with either an increase in the number of older people who have forgotten where they have put their gloves or of younger people with a general disregard for property (their own or other people’s) who drop a glove and just casually leave it without thinking of its value or the consequences of their actions. The theory then goes that a helpful villager on spying a discarded or forgotten glove on the ground picks it up, brushes it off and then places it somewhere with greater visibility and ‘out of the way’ so that the fortgetful/unfortunate/selfish glove owner can spot it more easily and reclaim it – without it being trampled underfoot.
You might think that this would be the case. But you would be wrong.
After seeing around about 7 to 9 of these gloves – of all different shapes, sizes and wool types – poking up from fences, lying on wall tops and other places of high visibility around the village I decided to investigate further. Since all these gloves were knitted from wool my investigations led me straight to The Village Knitting Circle and to their leader Stella Phelkins. I confronted Stella with evidence of the woollen glove epidemic at a meeting of the circle but she refused to be interviewed for this site and literally pushed me out of the door of their meeting place, raising her voice as she said ‘how do you expect my members to mumble ‘knit one, pearl one, knit one pearl one’ with these interruptions?’
I left the meeting determined to get to the bottom of this local mystery and sure enough Stella’s story began to unravel like a cheap jumper – a woollen one.
Later that day I received a phone call from someone wanting to be known only as ‘The Big Needle’ she said she knew the truth behind the village gloves and to meet me at the waste ground near the car park at the far, far side of the High Street. I asked to meet somewhere nearer but she said there was a chance of a stumbling injury if we did and she didn’t want to take the risk.
When I turned up at the meeting place at the allotted time, I didn’t know what to expect. To tell you the truth I was a little nervous. More than a little nervous. I wondered if ‘The Big Needle’ was someone somehow related to drugs. Drugs that you inject – with a needle.
After waiting for a little while I began to get very nervous, every footstep I heard on the gravel nearer the High Street made my heart leap. I was just about to leave when a figure wearing a knitted balaclava helmet, a knitted cardigan and knitted jogging bottoms approached me. She looked like the paramilitary branch of the local knitting circle.
“Are you the reporter from the WeLoveOurVillage website?” she snarled through the balaclava – it was one of those without the mouth holes so understanding her was difficult.
“Yes” I replied “are you The Big Needle?”
“Yes,” she replied and then “follow me. We’ll need to avoid low hanging branches or other things that poke out. One gentle snagging in this little lot and my cover will be blown.” With that she was off to the darkest part of the waste ground near the car park and I followed.
When we arrived at the very darkest part of the waste ground, my woolly hostess stopped. Turned to me directly and then told me this:
I heard you asking about the gloves around the village, the ones that have been seen wedged to the top of fencing, balanced on top of walls or pushed on top of fence posts. Well, I know all about it. It’s street art. It’s a statement. The Knitting Circle are trying to subvert accepted social norms of belongings, possessions and retrieval. And I think they are going to far.”
“Tell me more” I said. And got out my ‘phone to take pictures and perhaps even film my balaclavered friend.
“Put that away” she said “no cameras, no filming, no recording – but you can capture me in needlepoint or a tapestry when you get home if you like.”
This did sound like the paramilitary section of the Knitting Circle indeed.
And then Big Needle coninued.
“It all started as a bit of a lark. A few of us down at the Knitting Circle had seen a few installations and works by Banksy and we thought they were funny. We thought they challenged the very ideas of what art is, of our place in an increasingly alienating society. We saw Banksy and his peers start to reach out through their media and onto the streets into the very spaces of their viewers. A few of us in the knitting circle liked it. We watched Banksy’s film “Exit Through the Gift Shop, and it fired us up. We wanted to make a statement – no just a pair of walking socks or a jumper for a loved one – but a big statement to the whole village. Most of us are mothers and we are concerned at many things in the world. We wanted to reach out.
At the same time as this many of us had enjoyed seeing Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon and liked the idea of objects, things appearing throughout the village.
One the girls was knitting a pair of small gloves for her niece. And with this idea of reaching out – we thought we would knit a load of gloves and plant them around the village. And try to make them join up – like holding hands across the village. A great symbol of togetherness but also somehow confronting uncaring authority. Defiant somehow.
And that’s what we decided to do. A number of us met up and just knitted gloves. We reckon we needed 100 gloves of all sizes, shapes and colours to circle the village. Maybe more. But we found it tough – not everyone had access to a knitting pattern and some gloves ended up with 3 or 7 fingers – which made it more inclusive in a way. When we thought we had enough we made a date and planned to stick the gloves in visible places throughout the village in the middle of a night we had chosen as the darkest night of the year.”
I listened in shocked admiration to the knitting outlaw – a kind of Crochet Guevara. I couldn’t help it I needed to know what happened. So I asked “what happened?”
“Well, when it came to the night in question. it didn’t start well. There were a few of us and there was a bit of an argument about whether it was the darkest night of the year. A couple of us thought it was. Another couple thought the following night would be darker, because they had plotted a darkness trend over a few weeks. And still others thought the previous night had been darker and that we had missed our chance.
After raised voices, we decided it had to be then. So we all took our gloves and scattered to assigned parts of the village to do our work – it was a labour of glove.”
“That’s poor” I interjected.
“Sorry, but it’s late. Anyway. We all went around the village. And tried to find places to out our gloves. But it wasn’t that easy. Some of us couldn’t reach high places, some couldn’t reach low places. We knew we weren’t getting the coverage we wanted. But it was too late to turn back.
We carried on until all the gloves were set. And then we went to bed.
The next morning we woke up early and decided we should meet up at a coffee shop in the village for a coffee and no one would suspect us.
We thought that on our way to the meeting place we would be struck by the beauty of 100 hands of all different shapes and sizes holding each other in a beautiful way. But it didn’t appear.
It seems some of our team had lied about how many gloves they had made, or how many they were giving to the cause – some said that a few birthdays were coming up and they needed the gloves. Some said they had seen the villagers collecting the gloves as they didn’t want them spoiling their fences – their nice white picket fences that keep them in their nice white houses.
So by the end of the day we only laid out about 7 to 9 gloves and they are all over the place.
It was a beautiful idea, but it seems that our village is not quite ready for this street art.”
I thought I saw a tear well up in the eye hole of the balaclava and that I heard a small sob.
“Nevermind” I said, it was a jolly good effort. “And about 7 to 9 gloves are up there waving at everyone – it’s a grand effort.”
So as you wander around the village or further afield and occasionally spot a glove on a fence or atop a wall, or if you see one on the pavement, pick it up and make it visible think about the brave folk of our Village Knitting Circle and their woolly message of love.