Keep and Share Party


20140821_195757-550x412 Amy Twigger Holroyd’s party to celebrate a decade of her research and making of knitwear was in full swing. People came from all over, while ‘The Backbone of Britain’ hung, looming in the long gallery. The Back Bone of Britain was origionally made by Amy’s Nana, and then sculpted into it’s present form by Amy. Smelling of that smell of acrylic knitting, made with clean hands, washed in carbolic soap, it may have been packaged in a draw serviced with lavender bags, a moth ball, and perhaps some sealed plastic. It now hung comfortably, nestling in it’s own oxters, and inviting it’s audience to formation dance.


When Sally Anne first went ‘In’ she said it was like a bad dream. The acrylic overwhelmed her and she imagined the horror of wearing all 20 cardigans at once.


But then she realised just how much care, and generosity of time had gone into the stitches. That made her feel better.


That thought actually made her feel quite at home.


Prof. Sandy Black commented how wonderful it was that all the cardigans fitted together so well. The arms were perfect fitting jigsaw pieces. Sally Anne realised she could try on all the cardigans at once, some up right some upside down, and suddenly even the colours stopped clashing.

There are many ways to interact with this piece.

Amy’s Nana, created a support structure which continues to inspire. This is a structure of endurance, with high standards, and usefulness. The garments can not be worn, (for reasons that are obvious on touching) but they still exude warmth if you look in the right way. The warmth is the story. No colour is bad, no knitting is bad, and ideas never die.

10 Years of 'Keep and Share' with Dr. Amy Twigger Holroyd, To Be Celebrated at Prick Your Finger


Backbone-Amy-499x500 2004 was a great year for Knitting. Amy Twigger Holroyd, now known as Dr. Amy Twigger Holroyd, launched her project Keep and Share. To me, it feels really important for us all to celebrate Amy’s last decade. She researched ‘Folk Knitting Fashion’ and she must be congratulated on becoming a Research Fellow at Leeds University, looking at ‘Design Routes.’ Amy’s last decade was busy and complex, and she will be showing a variety of her works including a time line and a newly published pamphlet about her discoveries. A new piece to be hung in the Long gallery excites me enormously – and Amy will tell you all about it here…

Hello! Amy here! This story is called, Celebrating ten years: the Backbone of Britain

Yesterday I popped into knit mecca Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green to firm up my exhibition-and-celebration plans with the lovely Rachael Matthews. We’re celebrating ten years (to the day) of Keep & Share, with a party next Thursday. The exhibition will stay up for a month or so, including a range of pieces from the Keep & Share archive, plus a new work called The Backbone of Britain.

This work comes with a story.

It is made from a collection of twenty cardigans which my dad found stashed in a chest of drawers when he was clearing out my great aunt’s house – hand knitted, seemingly unworn, all acrylic. Within the collection, there is a range of styles – although there are multiple versions of several patterns, knitted in different colours and sizes. We think my nana, Gladys (Auntie Alice’s sister), knitted them – but can’t be sure, as she died a few years before they were found. My nana was a prolific knitter, and taught me to knit when I was little, so this pile of cardigans felt emotionally significant, as well as representing a staggering amount of effort.

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For obvious reasons, I ended up with this collection of cardigans. I didn’t feel a desire to wear any of them – despite my cardigan fetish, I don’t ‘do’ acrylic – but didn’t feel I could get rid of them either. So, for years they were stashed away in a cupboard, and each time I saw them, I felt guilty.

Last autumn I reorganised the studio, and the cardigans re-emerged from the cupboard. Still, I didn’t know what to do with them. The huge pile of knitting continued to lurk, as I shifted it from surface to surface in the studio. The cardigans needed to be resolved!


A little later in the autumn, I met my wonderful friend Celia Pym, told her about the cardigans and asked for her help. Celia – accompanied by Rachael – came to visit me in Hereford on a gloriously sunny day. We drank tea and ate cake and looked at the cardigans together… talked about them… played with them. As you will see in the photos, the weight of all this skill and time and effort weighed heavily on our shoulders for a while! (That’s Celia with her head in her hands.) But as we talked and played, a plan began to emerge. The cardigans organised themselves into a new form which will be unveiled at Prick Your Finger in a week’s time.


Nana, or whoever knitted these cardigans originally, made most of this work. I have just arranged it a little. Many, many thanks to Celia and Rachael for their help!

During the playing process, we were thinking about the amount of effort that women like my nana have put into catering (and over-catering) for their families’ knitwear needs over the years. Rachael suggested that we might think of such effort as the Backbone of Britain – and the name stuck.

Please come and see! All are welcome at the tenth anniversary celebration on Thursday 21st August, 2014 at Prick Your Finger, 260 Globe Road, E2 0JD – join us to celebrate between 6pm and 9pm. I’ll be giving a slideshow talk – sharing my experiences of a decade in experimental slow fashion knitting – at 7pm.