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Click go the needles

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Columnist for The Canberra Times

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Gang-gang

Two of the many Goulburn women knitting a scarf for Rambo, Lynne Mortimer and Susan McDonnell.

Two of the many Goulburn women knitting a scarf for Rambo, Lynne Mortimer and Susan McDonnell. Photo: Darryl Fernance of the Goulburn Post.

Those of us in Canberra who have always been green with envy at Goulburn with its Big Merino (somehow our city's Good Taste Police have always denied us our own Big Thing) are turned an even brighter shade by fresh news from the close-knit city.

It emerges that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Goulburners are having enormous, community-building fun helping to knit their Big Merino a very, very big scarf. If only we had a Big Thing, or better still a Big Someone (perhaps a Big Walter Burley Griffin roughly the same size as Cairns' tasteful 10-metre Big Captain Cook), to knit something for.

But putting envy aside for the moment we spoke to Goulburn knittingtrix Fiona Oliver about the feat of knitting under way in her little city.

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''I'm the originator!'' she reports.

She explains that one day at a meeting of the Goulburn group of the Knitters Guild of NSW conversation turned to what the guild could do to mark this year's 150th anniversary of the founding of Goulburn.

''Just for fun I said, 'Why don't we knit a scarf for Rambo?' I only said it in a half-joking way.''

A MOMENT IN CANBERRA'S HISTORY: The opening of Lake Burley Griffin in 1964.

A MOMENT IN CANBERRA'S HISTORY: The opening of Lake Burley Griffin in 1964. Photo: National Archives

But lo and behold, at the next meeting of the guild she was able to attend she found her brainwave had been adopted and that she was to be one of the drivers of the project.

Now she thinks that, consciously or subconsciously, one of the things behind her idea was an admiration for the ''yarnbombing'', the ''yarn graffiti'', the ''guerrilla knitting'' movements under way, especially overseas.

What happens, she explains, is that people, sometimes calling themselves ''stealth knitters'', knit things to decorate public places and monuments and then, perhaps by stealth and at night, adorn or ''yarnbomb'' their targets. Now although words like ''bomb'' and ''guerilla'' have ugly connotations, in fact what these knitting brigands do is usually done affectionately. Oliver was especially delighted by the work of the so-called Phantom Knitter who decorated an English seaside pier during last year's London Olympics. (Yes, it is gobsmackingly brilliant. Go online to a YouTube of it, Googling ''Olympics 2012 Phantom Knitting on Saltburn Pier.'')

Not that the Goulburn knitters, however much they admire knittings' phantoms and guerillas, are doing anything by stealth, this time. Oliver says they've got the permission of the owners of Rambo to impart all this gaiety to him.

The project has been wonderful for Goulburn, Oliver rejoices.

She says she and her colleagues spread the word that ''anyone who can do two rows of gaiter stitch'' can make a worthwhile contribution to the scarf and that a blizzard of contributed squares has been coming from everywhere, including from two aged-care facilities where the guests have been knitting up storms.

The ambition was to knit Rambo a 30 x 1½ metre scarf. At the time of writing the scarf is wending its way energetically towards that target. However, there's still plenty to do and anyone who wants to join in can contact either Lynne Mortimer on (02) 4821 4686 or Susan McDonnell on (02) 4821 3418.

The hitherto rather beige Rambo (long since removed from his original location to nearer an interchange of the city's bypass) will be adorned with this technicolour dreamscarf on the morning of Friday, March 8.

One irony, Oliver points out, is that while of course the Big Merino was first dreamed of and then erected to mark the fact that Goulburn and its region are famous for wool, the scarf for Rambo has had to be knitted from acrylic yarns. That's because rain would cause the colours in woollen yarns to run, leaving the mammoth merino's concrete flanks forever brightly dyed, and looking somehow even more bizarre than he already does.

Lucky Goulburn, with its Big Thing for the community to knit for. Unlucky, oppressively tasteful Canberra with nothing aesthetically incorrect, not even a Big Sir Robert Menzies, to doll up with a community-knitted beanie.

 

Searching for the costumes of yesteryear

Attention all ye hoarders! There are three large, very empty glass cases at the National Capital Exhibition at Regatta Point yearning to display some items you may well have, mothball-protected, at home.

The exhibition's Roslyn Hull advises that in this busy centenary year there will be four short (six weeks each) exhibitions of fashion and memorabilia.

''The idea is to celebrate 1913's commencement stone ceremony and naming of Canberra, 1927's opening of Parliament House, 1964's inauguration [with Sir Robert Menzies presiding] of Lake Burley Griffin and 1988's opening of the new Parliament House,'' she said. ''We would do this on a human scale, with three costumes similar to the ones worn on these occasions. For instance, for 1913 we are looking to display a grand lady's ensemble, a dress military uniform and the items a local lady would have worn. And in each instance we will try to use items from smaller, regional and private collections. We would just love items from Canberrans. And we intend to display these with interpretation on what the weather on the day was like, notes on the program of events, etc. and even some quirky stories. To accompany this we also hope to exhibit original programs and invitation cards - if we can source them from local collections or individuals.

''My dream is that someone will call and tell me, 'I was there on that day and I've still got what I wore!' ''

So, were you there on that day, October 17, 1964, when Sir Robert Menzies declared the lake filled and accomplished? Do you still have what you wore? It looks from the photograph used here to have been a great day. You can tell it was a cold day because everyone is rugged up. Do you still have what you were rugged up in?

If, after a fossick in your mothball-perfumed closets, you think you can help, please call the exhibition on 6272 2902.

 

2 comments

  • Ian, the dyes used in woollen yarns do not run when wet. I suspect the real reason for acrylic yarn being favoured is that acrylic is cheaper. Wool is rather expensive, and no knitter, myself included, would waste good wool for such a flippant project. When I have wool yarn to spare I knit a blanket for a homeless person in the local park.

    Commenter
    KateJ
    Location
    Queanbeyan
    Date and time
    January 24, 2013, 12:07PM
    • We do have Big Things here - there is the Big Mushroom at Belconnen Markets, the Big Weird Owl, the native grass sculpture next to Gungahlin Drive (Rhizome, which I prefer to call the Helicopter Accident), and the time lapse flying orange Bogong Moth at Tuggers.

      Commenter
      Kath
      Date and time
      January 24, 2013, 1:10PM
      Comments are now closed
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