A Dutch visual artist with a passion for knitting is inviting islanders to pick up their needles and get yarning to create Jersey jumpers that capture the spirit of the island today - with patterns adapted from the traditional garments worn by local fishermen.
Harald ben Breejen, who specialises in creating and using objects as "conversation pieces," will be at the Jersey Heritage ‘Make Space,’ on the second floor of Jersey Museum, until Saturday to meet fellow knitters and talk about the ‘One Stitch for All.’
The project came about last year when Harald was in the island as part of a residency with the Morning Boat. Harald, an avid knitter since the age of nine, ended up researching the history of the Jersey jumpers traditionally worn by local fishermen.
Video: Harald talks about the 'One Stitch for All' project. (Music courtesy of Purple Planet)
“I’ve been a knitter for a long time and I am very enthusiastic about knitting, so part of me coming to Jersey was really hoping to find an active knitting tradition and people knitting traditional jumpers and seeing people wear these jumpers and I was quite disappointed that I didn’t find any of I,” Harald explained.
“So, I tried to look into the history, tried to talk to people and find out why people might have stopped wearing the jumpers or what happened to the tradition.”
Harald also asked islanders what symbols might represent and identify Jersey today to develop patterns for jumpers that would “capture the spirit of the island.”
He returned to the island last week with a proposal for an “updated” Jersey jumper, that is more contemporary. His pattern got rid of the anchor that was common to most of the traditional designs. He is also suggesting replacing the oiled wool for sock yarn which is easier to find but also to wash and wear.
Harald has been spending time with his needles at the Make Space, which is part of the Handmade Jersey exhibition at Jersey Museum. Islanders have been invited to bring their own knitting projects or to get started on their Jersey jumper. Yesterday, members of the Hollies Day Care Centre joined him to share tips about knitting.
While he has provided a basic pattern, Harald is encouraging knitters to adapt it to create new designs. “I am trying to give people licence to reinterpret what a traditional garment might look like because I think it’s something worth having,” he explained.
Pictured: Harald has been knitting since the age of nine.
“There is a lot of traditional dress that people might wear at festivities but here is a garment that could actually be worn daily, or just be a regular thing that you could wear.
"It’s quite nice to have something in your wardrobe that belongs to the place where you are from or that you visited. I know a lot of Americans come here and want to buy traditional jumpers and have quite a hard time finding them."
Through the project, Harald is hoping islanders will reflect on what they think is important about the island and find a jumper that can symbolise that.
He explained: “If you can wear it with some sense of pride that you feel you belong to, without excluding other people; I mean Jersey is a very varied demographic, from what I can tell, and I think that is a great thing about it and a jumper like this, in my opinion, could celebrate that.”
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