Wool Against Weapons Day

Wool Against Weapons Day, Aldermaston

One of those days you really don’t know what to expect, after all the knitting and the excitement online, I packed myself, the 9 month old Tiny Overlord and an ample load of picnic provisions in to the van and we headed in to the West Berkshire countryside. And to Aldermaston and Burghfield, home of the UK’s atomic weapons development centres.

I’ve always been rather in awe of this diverse little county’s legacy of peace protest (you must visit the Greenham Peace Garden near Newbury) and daydreamed of crafty projects decorating the high militarised fences of AWE Aldermaston, in the spirit of the Greenham Common women. So, despite not really knitting anything since childhood, I jumped at the chance of getting involved in making a piece of the ambitious Wool Against Weapons seven mile peace scarf, to link AWE Aldermaston with AWE Burghfield. Having sent my piece to the wonderful Jaine Rose, I wondered if it would be a suitable protest to take the kiddo to. One way to find out…

Rolls of Pink Knitting

We parked and headed to the purple milestone, a meeting point for protesters from Berkshire, Hampshire and the South of England, and were confronted with the site of these huge pinwheels of reams of knitting – the picture above is one mile of beautiful hand knitted and stitched with love peace scarf. The little guy and I were made very welcome and those without babies in tow started to roll out and stitch together the beautiful pieces along the road from Aldermaston to Burghfield.

Peace Scarf on the road between Aldermaston and Burghfield

While the scarf was joined in to one peace, people happily chatted about the issues of the day – nuclear proliferation, military expenditure in a time of austerity and, most importantly, peace. Huge thanks to the lovely guy who played Twinkle Twinkle on his accordion to entertain the little guy. When the scarf was joined in to one seven mile long piece at 1pm, we all stood and rang bells to celebrate peace for five minutes and then stood silently (well nearly all of us, it is difficult to tell a nine month old to be silent) in respect of Nagaski Day  and in memory of all those who had lost their lives to nuclear weapons.

We headed home, but not before we drove the length of the scarf route from Aldermaston to Burghfield. Beeping the van’s horn at everyone gathered round each milestone. It was quite overwhelming to see the sheer extent of it, in some places so much had been knitted it took up both sides of the road. And to think that each metre of those seven miles had been knitted with love, by someone that believed in something better. One of the most beautiful things about craft based activism is that it engages people that wouldn’t go to a traditional protest. It gives people all over the world, from all walks of life, a voice they might not otherwise have. It gets people involved in issues from an angle they might not gave previously considered and gives them time to think and reflect. Just a wonderful and inspiring day. I’m so pleased we went.

Obviously, there was little chance of me ever finding it in situ, but this wouldn’t be a crafty blog if I didn’t share what I had knitted. Made from wool from charity shops and rather imperfectly: here is my little piece of peace.

My piece of Peace

If you want to know more about Wool Against Weapons, my first post is here and there are lots of updates on their website.

 

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Wool Against Weapons

Recently I have been overcome with an increasing sense of urgency. Not to do small stuff, like pair up socks or weed the garden, but to do big stuff, like find world peace. Or eradicate weapons of mass destruction. Things that are easily achievable while the baby is having a nap. Ahem.

But something does boil, deep within. We often walk up the slopes of the Thames Valley to my local park where, on an admittedly rare clear day, you can see AWE Burghfield. One of the UK’s atomic weapon establishments. The second, AWE Aldermaston, is located a mere seven miles away. Like find this a difficult concept to get my head around, that WMDs are developed here on our doorstep. And it’s not just infuriating on a global justice level, I can’t understand how we can live in a country where millions of public money is spent on new nuclear weapons, yet services like our local children centres are frequently facing cuts. It boils inside me. Repeatedly.

Fortunately our little county of Berkshire has a fine history of visual protest against nuclear arms. The women of the Greenham Common Peace Camp decorated the fences of Greenham Common Airbase. In the spirit of these protests comes Wool Against Weapons

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Exciting? No? Imagine the lush green Berkshire countryside being draped with lovingly crafted pink stitches of peace. And that’s not all, after the knitted pieces have made their stand against the atomic menace, they are going to be repurposed in to blankets for children in need of some extra warmth. Win win win.

Let’s have a think about some of the gritty, not knitty, facts – the U.K Government is going to spend over £80 billion on renewing the Trident Nuclear warhead, not only is this a WMD project, I think it is an insane amount for our national government to be spending on arms in a time of financial austerity and recession. The world has a global arms trade worth $1.74 trillion. I’m with Wool Against Weapons on this. Lets invest in people instead – lets move from a war economy to a green economy. Cut the military, address the root causes of violence, wars and terrorism. Please.

I’m not much of a knitter, but even I’m trying to make my metre. I’ve been collecting pink balls of wool from the local charity shops. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been making progress. I have about 30cm left to go. But I’m so excited to be part of this. Even while the baby sleeps I might be able make tiny steps or stitches to change the world.

Want to get involved? Check out the Wool Against weapons website here

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A Mini Fashion Protest: Reading

Cast your minds way back to last Autumn, to a London Fashion Week held in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh and the Craftivist Collective and War On Want’s highly inspiring Mini Fashion Protest campaign.

Heavily pregnant and armed with my hand stitched mini protest banners, I headed to Reading’s bustling Oracle shopping centre, in the hope that my tiny embroidered words might make someone think twice about where the clothes they are buying might be coming from and who might be making them.

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This banner reads “Please show respect to the women who make your clothes. Let’s pay a living wage to all garment workers“.

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Exploitation: It’s not okay here, it’s not okay anywhere” This one was stitched not only in solidarity for those exploited abroad, but also in solidarity for many British retail workers who are paid minimum wage (not a ‘living’ wage) and have unfair working contracts.

One thing I have learnt about display mini protest banners is that it is hard to feel inconspicuous when putting them up there. My heart always pounds, my hands feel a little clammy. Add to the mix being eight and a half months pregnant (and unwisely wearing bright pink and red stripes) and these feelings double. Triple even.

But I really believed in this campaign and believe in conscious consumption, safe working conditions, fair wages, human rights and thinking about the environmental impacts of our consumer choices and we’ve not even touched on the emotive issues around child labour yet.

Maybe someone saw my stitched words by the Oracle riverside and briefly thought about some of those issues? Someone definitely saw them, as nearly five months later the cable ties holding my ‘exploitation’ banner to the bridge are still there.

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops: A #minifashionprotest

Mini Protest banner at London Fashion Week AW 2012 Somerset House

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about ethical fashion, not only for myself, but also when I’ve been looking for clothes for the impending arrival of the Tiny Overlord. Many adult and children’s clothes seem to be made to meet fads and to be disposable.

Now I love my clothes, I see them as part of my self expression, but I don’t want my clothing choices to have a human cost. Millions of workers around the world suffer poverty wages and exploitation producing cheap ‘fast’ fashion for our shops.  In April, over 1000 garment workers were killed in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, they were making clothes for major brands such as Benetton, Primark, Mango and Matalan. And this wasn’t an isolated incident – check out this shocking infographic.  But these unsafe working conditions are not the only issue associated with our love of fashion, there are also low wages, human rights abuses, as well as awful environmental impacts and we’ve not even mentioned the issues around child labour.

I don’t think people should have to suffer like this to provide clothes for my family and I, so alongside making ethical shopping choices, I’m going to be joining the Craftivist Collective and War on Want for a fantastic and beautiful #minifashionprotest.

Mini Protest Banner in Paper Dress Vintage Boutique

Regular readers of this blog will have seen the Craftivist Collective’s mini protest banners in action before, they are a wonderful way to make people think in a non-threatening way. This time I’ll be joining many other craft loving activists in making these beautiful eye catching banners and putting them in a public place for people to discover and to encourage people to consider the uglier side of fashion without feeling preached at.

Craftivist Collective mini banner kit

If you would like to get involved, it couldn’t be simpler: All you need is stitch a thoughtful and provocative slogan on to a small fabric banner and photograph it in a public place. Send your photograph to the Craftivist Collective and it will be included in an exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching Show’s Upcycling Academy in London in the Autumn, in the run up to London Fashion Week.

Not sure where to start? Then the Craftivist Collective have mini banner kits (pictured above) available here, there is also a video about how to make a mini banner here, ask the Collective (who are very friendly, especially if you are a bit shy – trust me!) a question on their Facebook page or check out where you can join other crafters to make your banners together at a ‘stitch-in’ here. Photos of your mini banner need to be with the Craftivist Collective by 5th October to be included in the exhibition.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we can create.

All photos in this post are by the Craftivist Collective.

 

Britain Cares

embroidery that reads "just a note to let you know I CARE #britaincares"

“Social care is the support that many disabled people need to live ordinary lives. Depending on the person’s needs, it might be help with dressing, washing, eating, using the toilet, communicating or getting from place to place to do everyday things like going to the shops…” – Scope

Next week the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George (or Jeffrey, if you are Barack Obama) Osborne, will announce the next round of cuts to public service in the Spending Review. I feel very strongly about the impact of ‘the cuts’ on our society as a whole. Britain has one of the highest rates of social inequality in the world, which is just appalling and this inequality has a dreadful impact on those who are more vulnerable, like the elderly or disabled, those people who are reliant on social care. I believe that those of us who are able to have a responsibility to speak out about this, however we can. Which is why, in the light of there being even more spending cuts next week, I was inspired to cross stitch a card for my MP by the Britain Cares campaign.

Lead by the charity Scope, the Britain Cares campaign is asking people to let their MPs know that they care and to tell their MPs public funding for social care should be safeguarded and not cut by the government. And you can do this by making a card, like I have above, sending your MP decorated soap or socks – so they would see your message everyday to remind them of the impact the lack of social care can have – or even just by simply taking a photo and sending an email.

There are still 4 days until the spending review, so plenty of time if you would like to get involved – please have a look at the Britain Cares website and ask your MP to protect vulnerable people.

Making do: Thoughts on Conscious Consumption

A few things have been playing on my mind recently. The first came from reading Lucy Siegle’s incredible thought provoking book ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?‘ and the realisation that I am very guilty of not knowing where many of my purchases come from. The second came after visiting a well-known High Street baby care shop and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ that is thrust in the way of parents and parents-to-be. Along with the polite but clearly primed to ‘push stuff to the bumps’ sale assistants (no one had even ever spoken to me, when I had visited the same store pre-bump…), I left feeling intimidated and with a strong desire to protect the creature in the bump from what felt like an unnecessary level of consumerism.

How can I avoid this consumerism for the bump creature, when I am not currently in a position to be able to justify a lot of my own purchases to myself? As a result, I have recently been reading a lot about conscious consumption, about making do with less, about reining in the impulse spending and having more disposable income to spend on experiences, rather than ‘stuff’. About knowing where the ‘stuff’ comes from (being able to explain where stuff comes from) and making informed shopping decisions based on that. We are very lucky to be able to afford everything we ‘need’, I just wonder if we need so much ‘stuff’?

While browsing many money saving sites and blogs, I stumbled across the fantastic ‘My Make Do and Mend Year‘, the blog by the rather fantastic Jen who is undertaking the challenge not to buy anything new for a year. Anything she buys that is non-perishable  must be secondhand, pre-owned, vintage, retro, upcycled, re-conditioned etc etc. But NOT new. Now this appealed to me on two levels – it would meet my desire to be a responsible and conscious consumer, but it also fires sparks of creativity in my direction. Not buying things, but making things, fixing things, upcycling things, getting crafty and inventive while trying to be more ethical… Now you are talking my language!

So, while I set myself some ‘rules’, I’d like to introduce to you my ‘Making Do’ project where, in the spirit of Little Stitch, I hope to share with you my crafty endeavours while I strive to ‘make do and mend’ more and buy less. I think it will be interesting and I think it will also be fun, let’s see how we go…

More Pieces of the Puzzle: #imapiece

Have you been wondering about what happened to all those jigsaw pieces that were embroidered for the #imapiece project? Here’s a little update on what they (and I) have been up to lately…20130514-193224.jpgIn April I was honoured to be invited by Save the Children UK to attend a showcase of all the embroidered pieces (completed to date) for the #imapiece project. It was exciting and very moving to see all the pieces together, knowing that each one had been carefully embroidered by someone that felt so strongly about global inequalities and wanted to send a message to G8 to act.20130514-193405.jpg To see over 700 pieces together was really moving, knowing the time, energy and focused passion for fighting inequality that had gone in to each piece.

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I think this might be my new favourite piece, I love the play on words and its affirming message.

The showcase seemed to be really well received, people spent a lot of time reading the individual messages and admiring the whole impact of the jigsaw. It was a fantastic evening.

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Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective in Crafty Magazine

In more news, it is always a delight to see the lovely Sarah, founder of the Craftivist Collective, in her regular column for Crafty magazine. However, I got rather excited to see #imapiece featuring alongside her, especially because you can spot a lot of the pieces from our Reading Stitch-in in the picture. Fame at last lovely Reading crafters!

People holding the letters 'IF' in Hyde Park

But amongst all this excitement it could have been easy to lose focus on the reason we made the pieces and who their messages was ultimately aimed at. But when I went along to the Big IF rally in Hyde Park on Saturday, it was brilliant to see Save the Children UK showcasing some of the pieces and encouraging people to make some more. The Big IF Rally was timed to run alongside the ‘Hunger Summit’ that was held by David Cameron before the G8 meet later this month in Northern Ireland. It was wonderful to see the jigsaw pieces there as part of the rally, engaging people in thinking in the wider issues around food inequalities around the world.

#imapiece at the Big IF London

But #imapiece doesn’t stop there: If you are in Belfast this Saturday, there will be more #imapiece workshops at the Big IF Belfast.

And if you can’t make it to Belfast but still need some motivation on how and why you can get involved, check out the incredible work done by Anne Clark. A truly inspirational lady. I loved what Anne managed to achieve, it really makes you think about what more you can do yourself.

You can keep up to date with the #imapiece project with the Craftivist Collective. If you want to catch up on all of my personal #imapiece journey please check out my posts here.