Yan Tan Tethera is a project exploring and celebrating the connections between the making of textiles and song.
It was first curated by David Littler in partnership with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), from May - September 2014 at Cecil Sharp House in London.
The project featured an exhibition of new work by artists Freddie Robins, Shane Waltener, Prick Your Finger, Stewart Easton and the McGrath Makers Group who delved deep into the EFDSS's archive.
It culminated in a live performance from sonic arts collective sampler-cultureclash as they united Gaelic song with spinners, weavers and knitters, and traditional and electronic musicians in an exploration of things that spin.
Prick Your Finger staged a making-and-singing event accompanied by a booklet of knitting patterns, guiding our participants through the knitting of charms inspired by images in the folk songs.
The band played, and we sang as we worked. David Littler collected cosy arm chairs and lamps to place around the hall to give us a massive living room vibe. Only a very clever curator can pull that off...
Here is the contents page of the booklet.
In red and blue faded writing you can see the ancient counting system for sheep which begins 'Yan Tan Thethera'. I used the Westmorland version because that is where I was born, but there are lots of other regional dialects to sing.
The knitted charms were gathered to form a knitted mandala.
This is mandala #2 made for Yan Tan Tethera Wolford Mill. A string art mandala was easier to construct by a community, rather than mandala #1 which was knitted.
Charms are added freely by trapping them in between the threads.
There was a knitting pattern for miniature socks in our booklet, written and made by Max Alexander to the tune of...
'Run Rockie, Run Rockie,
Run Run Run,
How many sheep have you lost today?
19 have we lost and one have we found,
Run Rockie Run Rockie Run Run Run. '
Although Run Rockie Run is clearly a song about a sheep dog gathering sheep, it also works well to help with counting rows of a sock, especially with the turning of a heel.