Foodival is Transition Town Tooting's annual food festival, celebrating everything that's good about locally grown food. Foodival aims to show how it's possible to grow local, eat local, be sustainable and have fun while doing it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Phantom Knitter of Tooting is Knitting for Foodival

The final preparations are underway for Foodival with all kinds of making, harvesting and cooking planned this week.  Now, if you're wondering where Samaj Hall is, worry no more, our friend the Phantom Knitter of Tooting (a.k.a. Penny) has been working tirelessly the last few weeks knitting an amazing banner so you can find us this Sunday.  We took some time to find out more.

"Tooting says No to more betting shops"

Penny, how did you get the name, "The Phantom Knitter of Tooting"

The name “Phantom Knitter” was given to me by the local Guardian newspaper after I made a banner and placed it in the Broadway at night. This banner was started out of frustration with the increasing number of betting shops in the Tooting area. I had attended a local licensing hearing and it became very clear that planning changes meant that intended limitations from gambling deregulation could no longer be applied. The banner which said “Tooting says No to more betting shops” was my way of making the voice of objectors heard. It was made very quickly and in thick wool and is now very dirty and needs to be removed.

How have you made the Foodival banner?

I came up with a design quite quickly using images of fruit and veg as references. The banner has been completed in blocks. I have designed patterns for each block on Excel and provided my knitters with the acrylic yarn to complete a square. I have been assisted by knitters from Wandsworth U3A and from Earlsfield Townswomen’s Guild. I kept the centre part for myself. The big challenge was the stitching up. I worked some crochet around the edges to bring it all together.

It looks amazing. You're certainly an expert knitter. How did you get started and learn such great skills?

I started knitting at around the age of 6, taught by my grandmothers and my mother. I started with doll's clothes and remember making a brushed pixie hood for my sister for her first birthday. I made quite a few of my own sweaters, often receiving wool as Christmas and Birthday presents. In those days, there were wool shops in every village who would lay away wool so you could purchase a ball at a time but still have everything in the same dye lot.

We were a large family and by the time I was 11 I was making jumpers for my brothers, plain at first then becoming more complicated. I suppose I came from an era where it was considered wrong to just sit watching TV in the evenings so I would always have something on the go – usually knitting or needle point.

In the 90’s I got out of the knitting habit. I was working very long hours and it was easier to pick up a needlepoint (tapestry) project.

But in the mid noughties I began to knit again with renewed passion, finding it was good therapy to help deal with work stress and then depression. I began to devour knitting books and attend courses to refresh and extend my skills. I became involved with an online therapeutic knitting group “Stitchlinks”, and with “In the Loop” an academic knitting group based at the Knitting Library in Winchester. Lately I have also become a knitting history enthusiast and was delighted to give my first talk in July.

And now you help people young and old learn how to knit, is that right?

I started running a knitting afternoon at Broadwater Primary School about five years ago. I teach year 4 children in a lunch club, then am open to members of the local community in the school community room in the afternoon: mothers, aunts, friends and local residents irrespective of age or background. It has been a particular pleasure to help a few ladies who have been affected by strokes reconnect with former skills and to help those for whom English is a second language develop their confidence in conversation.

How can people get involved in the knitting groups you mention?

Those interested in finding out more about knitting can get in touch by emailing me at penny.ryan@btinternet.com

So, this Sunday, as you walk up Tooting High Street, keep an eye out for the wonderful banner. Walk through and enjoy the fun! Thanks to Penny, Wandsworth U3A and Earlsfield Townswomen’s Guild for all your efforts. We can't wait to see it and meet you on the day!

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