Lorna Hamilton-Brown: Knitting the Blues, Knitting in Jamaica

in knitting •  last month  (edited)

I met Lorna Hamilton-Brown back in 2006-2007 when we were both part of Narrative Laboratory at De Montfort University (DMU), a project which explored the opportunities for writers and other creatives to monetise the web.

Back then, Lorna was the Project Manager for the East Midlands NTI Creative Industries Centre for Knowledge Exchange, based at DMU. I remember that we had a long conversation during a blogging workshop. We talked about knitting, the Internet of Things and the many connections between knitting and the digital world, including blogs made of knitting and code being embedded in yarn.

Source Knitting the Blues promotes the benefits of knitting for mental health, featuring Lorna as Lady Yarnarella, with appearances from knitting designers Laduma Ngxokolo, Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably and Jeanette Sloan.

Source Lorna in her knitted Lady Yarnarella costume with stressed blue nails. The blue wig was made using Erika Knight Fur Wool.

Source I've always loved this Carmen design by Lorna featuring knitted portraits of Noah Stewart and Leontyne Price. Lorna was commissioned to create this artwork for the Royal Opera House Deloitte Ignite Festival in 2015.

Lorna learned to knit and crochet from her Jamaican mother and started out designing and selling items at school. Her mum was born in St D'Acre in Jamaica in 1930 and came to England in 1956. She's a keen knitter.

My mother explained that when she was a child all the women and girls did handicrafts. She was taught sewing and embroidery at school. When asked what yarn she knitted with in Jamaica as a child, my mum explained that they would undo flour bags and use the sewing thread to knit with.

It has been well-documented how flour bags were recycled by cutting them up and sewing them into garments. This became so popular in America and other parts of the world in the 1920s-1930s that the bag manufacturers would put special designs on their bags and some would even sell their own dress patterns. Source

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Source: Myth - Black People Don't Knit, Lorna Hamilton Brown, 2017

As part of Myth - Black People Don't Knit, Lorna also interviewed Madge, an 87 year old prolific knitter from Jamaica, who told Lorna that she learned to knit on needles made from bicycle spokes. Knitting needles were also made from coconut bone, the spine in the middle of a coconut leaf:

The leaves would be stripped to reveal the coconut bone and this was then sharpened at one end and used as a knitting needle ... my mum ... said it was quite a common practice in Jamaica.

I asked my mum why would they use bicycle spokes to make knitting needles if there was a ready supply of coconut bone. My mother said that bicycle spokes were quite rare and women liked to show off by owning shiny knitting needles. Source

You can find out more about Lorna and see more of her work at Lorna Hamilton-Brown, MBE, Artist and Myth - Black People Don't Knit.

Lorna is a member of the Vogue Knitting Diversity Advisory Council.

@needleworkmonday hosted by @crosheille, @muscara and @marblely

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Knitting the blues away - how right that is. I think we all experienced how needlework made us forget bad things or allowed us to work through them. And the song is so catchy!

Now please excuse me while I dive into a previously unknown part of the knitting internet ;)

Yes, it was like that for me too, I got very caught up on Noah Stewart's website, listening to opera (also good for chasing the blues away).

And here is another motivational needlework song:

(debunking further the "black women don't knit" myth...)

Hehe 😜

@shanibeer, Definitely Needlework is somewhat old work now but in my opinion it's the most beautiful Art for sure and people should pursue it. Stay blessed.

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  ·  last month (edited)

@chireerocks, needlework and knitting have their place in the here and now as everyday activities, art and activism. Have a look at The Yarn Mission, for example..

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I meant with old work is, it's in use from old times. And this is most beautiful art because my Mother use to do it. Generally many don't do this work now and it's unfortunate. So inturn i want that this art work will grow worldwide. Stay blessed.

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What an interesting character. Lorna has found her bliss and dove in head on. I think there is gonna be a resurgence of knitting in Jamaica, my Aunts knitted all the time, especially furniture top pieces. I was even sent a few from my aunt in Florida recently.

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Yeah :) it was very interesting in Lorna's writing where she talked about Jamaican women's ability to "freestyle" - they see an item and can recreate it without a pattern. Lorna's mum didn't learn to read a knitting pattern until she came to England.
You realise that I'm going to want to swap my nightclub passes for entry to museums and galleries when I come over? 😜

I realize, gonna have to get @miyard to make a list of all the museums and galleries in Negril. In Kingston now the place to visit is the Peter Tosh museum.

Ammm I think this is knitting lol or is it crochet lol? . But seriously you used to be able to find these in any Jamaican home ( I took a pic of the aunty special 😂)


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  ·  last month (edited)

Hehe, look forward to seeing the list :)

I think this is crochet, I've seen some beautiful lace curtains similar to this in houses of friends.

Re galleries etc: I'd be happy to do reviews :)
Also, I saw a really interesting bird-watching tour ... hehe

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I first stumbled over Lorna Hamiltons work because of her catchy Yarnarella costume. I love the photography: not only is especially the wig impressing, I also love how the photographer caught Lorna’s expression. I interpret it as something between being amused, absorbed and knowing a secret.
This fascinated me and I wanted to know more and have to admit that before I researched her have never heard of the tale that black people do not knit. After reading of this “single story” (in regard to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), my attention changed and I suddenly saw how seldom POC were featured in magazines or on Ravelry.
Still I know near to nothing about the knitting/crochet culture of for example Jamaica, so thank you for pointing me in this direction.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post and Lorna's work led you into new directions. That's one of the things I enjoy about Steem, you find yourself drawn into things that you hadn't thought about before.

code being embedded in yarn.

Sounds like someone is spinning a yarn ;)

In all seriousness though, I understand what you (and Lorna) are saying here about

the benefits of knitting for mental health

I used to paint lead figures in my adolescence, and the focus that it took really helped me to reign in my destructive (hormonal) tenancies.

Thankfully I grew out of it! The destructive (hormonal) tenancies that is.... not the focused activities ;) I find I get the same cessation of thought from writing and editing poetry these days. Perhaps I should take up knitting as well. Great blog shanibeer.

P.s. that video is cool :)

Sounds like someone is spinning a yarn ;)

Hehe, very good :)

I think it's true, though: one of the claims for the Internet of Things is that you will never lose a pair of socks again as they will have a code and you'll be able to locate them using, say, your mobile phone. We're already building houses with sensors in the walls, I can easily see that garments could carry information about the wearer e.g. body temperature and I'm sure lots of other things that I can't imagine. Yarn could carry care instructions, information about its source and materials and recycling. I imagine you might be able to have code that provides immersive experiences (bed-time stories in a sleep suit) or alerts.

Yes, creative/making activities really help focus. Some of the studies of knitting show that the brain waves change - that's probably true for other making activities as well.

The needlework monday community would be delighted to see you if you want to take up knitting (it's good for in the pub, you can talk as well as knit). One of the things I like about knitting is that you can have a project on the go for "every degree of tiredness".
Glad you liked the video :)

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Nice one, @Shanibeer. Now winter is here, I could use a new knitted tam. It's been more than a year since I lost my old favourite one! 🥺

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I've been wanting to try a tam ...

Congratulations @shanibeer! Your post has been placed in the spotlight for this week's @NeedleWorkMonday Featured Posts! Thank you for your quality post and for being a part of the needlework community!

#NeedleWorkMonday is an initiative that supports and rewards the needlework community while inspiring the Steemit blockchain. You can read more about us by visiting our FAQs.

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That's very nice @needleworkmonday, thank you :)

Your knitting needles work is really appreciated and i like these types of work.

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

I am delighted with the ingenuity of these women for weaving using various materials, they created their own knitting needles, the art they use is very interesting. I love the fabric, in fact I practice it since I was a child, my grandmother taught me ..

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Hello @mariluna, if you like knitting and sewing, you may enjoy posting in the needlework monday community - have a look at all the amazing posts! We use the #needleworkmonday tag on Mondays and the #needlework tag on other days of the week.

Must have met a lot of other interesting people at DMU too. This is post sums your Steem activities up in so many ways.

Did something similar to Steem ever come up in your Labratory?

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  ·  last month (edited)

Between DMU and the bookshop, I had a lot of fun :) I have just started working with DMU again on a Steem project for the 28 charities I'm involved with in London. That looks like fun, too. How are you?

Me, sleepy, the cat happy. She's been running around since 5am.

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