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Features / August 24, 2016

“Monumental Knitting” Circle Comes to Quebec this Weekend

Knitting circles are nothing new. But knitting a huge circle simultaneously, with some 80 people alongside you, together? That's a North American premiere.
Dozens of people knit simultaneously for one hour in the art piece Own Our Own Time by Swedish artist Kerstin Lindstrom. Pictured here in a Faroe Islands event, the piece will have its North American premiere in Quebec on August 27. Photo: La Triennale Internationale des Arts Textiles en Outaouais. Dozens of people knit simultaneously for one hour in the art piece Own Our Own Time by Swedish artist Kerstin Lindstrom. Pictured here in a Faroe Islands event, the piece will have its North American premiere in Quebec on August 27. Photo: La Triennale Internationale des Arts Textiles en Outaouais.

Knitting circles are nothing new.

But knitting a huge, 60-meter-wide circle simultaneously, with some 80 people alongside you, together?

That’s a North American premiere happening this weekend in Val-des-Monts, Quebec. It’s part of the launch for the Triennale Internationale des Arts Textiles en Outaouais, an international textile-art event in the national capital region.

“Knitting is something you usually do with your own two hands. Something private,” explains Swedish artist Kerstin Lindstrom via email, emphasizing how different it feels to engage in the activity together on one big structure. “This big circle of connected people also form a sculpture in the landscape.”

Lindstrom’s art piece, Own Our Own Time, began in 2010, when Lindstrom, as her blog describes, “wanted to examine the possibility to catch sight of time in a physical form. A time linked to the human body in the form of monumental knitting.”

Since then, Own Our Own Time has been performed four times in Europe—in Sweden, France, the Shetland Islands, and the Faroe Islands—with the yarn used in each performance being sourced locally, and with dancers and musicians also finding a space, at times, within the circle.

Lindstrom was inspired by watching knitters at work, and reflecting on the contrasts between craft work and digital work.

“I met a Nordic knitting network called gavstrik” during a lecture series, Lindstrom recalls. “During breaks I watch them sitting together. Talking, laughing, knitting together. Like a power station, ongoing, producing human warmth. In their hands, the moment became present in their knitting.”

“Later, the following fall,” Lindstrom continues, “I found myself working by the computer all the time. I got so frustrated that my time just disappeared out in some invisible space. Where did all my time go?”

“I got to thinking of the happy, powerful women—a nice and strong image. So my question was if it would be possible to see time, to feel and understand time, with the help of knitting.”

Lindstrom needs help to make the Quebec version of Own Our Own Time.

The knitting circle performance on August 27 at Moon Rain Centre in Val-des-Monts needs at least 83 volunteer participants to sign up in order to go ahead.

“You just have to have basic knowledge in knitting plain rows,” Lindstrom says. “And we have to stand for one hour.”

“One beautiful thing is that the one who is the slowest knitter sets the pace,” Lindstrom notes. “That’s unusual today.”

The North American premiere of Kerstin Lindstrom’s Own Our Own Time will take place on August 27 at 5 p.m. at Moon Rain Centre in Val-des-Monts, Quebec, as part of the vernissage for the Triennale Internationale des Arts Textiles en Outaouais. For information on how to sign up as a knitting participant, or catch a shuttle bus from Gatineau, visit the triennial’s website.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor of white settler Canadian (Irish and Ashkenazi) descent. She is also news and special sections editor at Canadian Art and has written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. Sandals welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.