The Backbone of Britain

The Backbone of Britain is made from a collection of twenty cardigans which my dad found stashed in a chest of drawers when he was clearing out my great aunt's house - hand knitted, seemingly unworn, all acrylic. Within the collection, there is a range of styles - although there are multiple versions of several patterns, knitted in different colours and sizes. We think my nana, Gladys (Auntie Alice's sister), knitted them - but can't be sure, as she died a few years before they were found. My nana was a prolific knitter, and taught me to knit when I was little, so this pile of cardigans felt emotionally significant, as well as representing a staggering amount of effort.

For obvious reasons, I ended up with this collection of cardigans. I didn't feel a desire to wear any of them - despite my cardigan fetish, I don't 'do' acrylic - but didn't feel I could get rid of them either. So, for years they were stashed away in a cupboard, and each time I saw them, I felt guilty. In 2013, aided by Celia Pym and Rachael Matthews, I helped the cardigans to organise themselves into a new form. 

Nana, or whoever knitted these cardigans originally, made most of this work. I have just arranged it a little.

You can read more about the development of this piece in this blog post, and see it in interactive mode while being exhibited at Prick Your Finger in August 2014 here.

Many thanks to Deadly Knitshade for this great video (click on the image to pause):


  • Made in 2013.

  • Available for exhibition. Previously shown at my solo show at Prick Your Finger, 2014.