The Knitted Walking Stick Cosy Competition Round #1 - The Results!

The entries for The Knitted Walking Stick Cosy Competition!

Announcing the Winners!

Who won the competition and why?

The designs were all stunning and the conversations which resulted were exactly what I had hoped to generate when I first envisaged this competition. Discussions constantly blurred the lines between practical considerations and cultural issues to do with fashion, style and self-image.

People entering the competition had obviously really thought about the brief and comments provided in the submission forms were thoughtful and considered, as were the designs. It was very difficult to choose the winning entries because everything was of such a high standard, but in the end, Sarah Ward won the Real Life Category of entry with her immensely practical executive/office cosy, while Manu Davies won the Fantastical Designs Category of entry with her very fantastical sunflower-oriented cosy.

Sarah Ward's very practical cosy winning in the Real Life category of entry

Manu Davies' very fantastical cosy winning in the Fantastical Designs category of entry

What we really loved about Sarah Ward's cosy were the tangible benefits it offered a person with an impairment. From my own experience I know that using public transport can be really difficult with a mobility impairment, especially because one hand is always busy holding the stick. Anything that makes it easier to reach an oyster card or travel pass is definitely useful for everyday purposes, as are the keychain and mobile phone pocket. It was however, the businesslike/executive aspect of this cosy that caused it to win in the end. We loved the possibility to power-dress afforded by the design with its pinstripes and neat finishing. Well done and congratulations to Sarah Ward!!

Sarah Ward's practical design with mobile phone pocket, keychain and oyster card compartment affixed to the cosy and neat, pinstriped, business suit design

Manu Davies' cosy won the Fantastical Designs Category with its incredibly detailed construction, original design and ageless appeal. We could imagine anyone from any age group using a stick with this cosy on it and we felt it would be the ultimate conversation-starter, mood-improver and walking-stick-of-joy. It is incredibly flamboyant and fun and we just thought it was superbly fantastical. Well done and congratulations to Manu Davies!

Manu Davies' beautiful walking stick cosy with sunflowers growing up the side and blue skies with clouds at the top

Read about the other cosies here!

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An Account of the judging process

The Missability Radio Show walking stick cosy competition was a truly original idea, brilliantly executed down to the fine detail. One of the most intriguing elements was the worlds that I was immersed in - the environments were alien to me but fascinating and the edges between reality and fantasy were blurred - whether this was a real knitting group, that the participants on the radio show were really members of the public, the 1950s woman's hour style presentation. But it became clear that the basis of the project was almost all grounded in real and genuine contact with the community, from Felix's volunteering at Dial-a-bility to the walking stick cosy knitters around the country who had sent in entries, to the interviewees on the radio show, to the contributors to the website talking about the project, which made it all the more powerful as a piece. The local knitting group threw themselves into it completely, with a whole world of chat and banter in their own knitting language, with their own knitting concerns. It was both absorbing and fascinating at the same time - the reality of the competition judging making it both entertaining and slightly voyeuristic at times in a strange "reality TV", meets "craft demonstration" way. It was a fantastically inventive and compelling project - a perfect blend of media, real life, art, practical solutions to everyday problems, social interaction, craft and cakes! The things I loved most about it, though, was the way that the piece was as much about Felix's life and friends and relationships with people - as member of the knitting group, DJ of the radio show, volunteer at the mobility aids shop, host of the website - as it was about the event itself. It reminded me a little both of the work of Bobby Baker and of Jyll Bradley but also has its own distinct approach.

-Jo Ross, Oxford Contemporary Music.

When the Oxford Bluestockings gather to knit at our weekly Stitch'n'Bitch meetings, I've noticed how when we talk, we veer constantly between our personal lives and the technicalities of our projects. Every pattern presents unique problems; you run out of yarn at a crucial moment, you drop a stitch, the way the pattern knits up doesn't suit your body shape, the glove-pattern has been designed with a smaller hand in mind and so on. In between tales of loved-ones, stories from our work lives, offloading from stressful days and sharing joyful news, we offer each other practical advice and consider such things as whether or not a round of knitting needs to be ripped back and re-knit in a different stitch, or whether cotton or silk would be more appropriate for a particular project. This mixture of personal and practical concerns is shared intimately around a table in the pub, and the work we make for ourselves or people we love grows in our hands while we talk. At such a local level, it is possible to put a level of care and attention into what is being made that simply can't be applied on a larger, more industrial production scale. Patterns are customised to perfectly fit individual styles and tastes, affirming the unique whims of whoever the knitting is for. This contrasts starkly with the way mobility equipment in particular is constructed. Louise talks in the first episode of The Missability Radio Show about her pulpit frame and observes that this vital piece of equipment on which she has relied for over twenty years simply doesn't come in a size that is appropriate for her. 'One size does not fit all,' she states pragmatically, whilst also listing other problems with the frame such as the way its hard wheels often bang on the carpet runners between doors, causing cups of tea that she has balanced on the top to fly off the frame and onto the floor. And the problem of the leatherette covering which splits along the seams and creates harsh, cutting surfaces against which elbows rub and get sore.

The conscientious handknitters that I know simply wouldn't make something so ill-suited to an end user, because of the local and careful level at which things are made.

This is similar in a way to the way that good Occupational Therapist works. My experience of volunteering at Dialability, a local Independent Living Centre, has taught me a lot about the design of living aids, and about the careful observation of problems and solutions that can make something helpful and enabling. Many situations exist for which no equipment has been designed, but through practical thinking and problem-solving, solutions are found. My own experience of living with a disability taught me huge amounts of problem-solving skills, and yet images of disabled people as incredible problem-solvers are far rarer than depictions of helplessness or tragedy.

I was hoping that with the judging of The Knitted Walking Stick Cosy Competition the different realms of Occupational Therapy, Knitting, Practicality, Sense and Style would collide. I'm glad to read Jo Ross' testimony, as it gives me a sense that this is how people experienced this event.

I hope to continue working with this kind of dialogue and though I have no formal plans as of yet for how Round 2 of the competition will be judged in May 2008, I hope it will build on the successes of Round 1 and continue to be fun, empowering, creative, positive and affirmative for everyone involved.

My sincere thanks once again to The Oxford Bluestockings for their input.

I will put some of the best entries up here with a commentary to try and capture the essence of The Knitted Walking Stick Cosy Competition.

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A Celebration of the entries!

The level of creativity was really high in all the entries, but we all especially liked the clouds on this design, from Phillipa.

knitted walking stick cosy with clouds and a kite!

whole cosy featuring clouds and kite!

This cosy hugged the stick nicely around the top, so wouldn't slip down on the stick. But the plain stockinette stitches were slightly looser, meaning that if there was any wind, the cosy would slightly shift on the stick like drifting clouds! We thought this was a really creative and original design... and a lot of fun!

Also on a blue, outdoors theme was this beautiful cosy made from handspun yarn and Mohair and representing the River Cherwell.

River Cherwell design, knitted in mohair and handspun yarn

It was so brilliant to have a site-specific cosy, actually based on aspects of Oxford, that Will kindly cycled off to the actual River Cherwell and photographed it next to its source! Thanks Will!

The River Cherwell Cosy on the banks of the River Cherwell

The River Cherwell cosy with The River Cherwell flowing in the background

While we are on the whole Mohair thing, let's look at Mootthing's cosy, done in Mohair and Rowan leftovers, with beads added at the centre of the flower details. I'm told the leaves are knitted and the flowers are crocheted!

knitted walking stick cosy in green with vine and flowers weaving up around it and matching brooch

The brooch that matches the cosy is an especially nice touch, tying the whole outift together!

Rowan yarn and kidsilk haze cosy in shades of green with pinkish-red flowers and matching crocheted flower brooch

Crocheted walking stick cosy featuring flowers and vines

Laughingmouse's entry to the competition also featured beautiful crocheted flowers and a gorgeous vine growing up the side. We especially loved the soft ruffle/drawstring at the top of her cosy!

Drawstring ruffle on the crocheted walking stick cosy

Another cosy which featured tying of some kind was Gershamabob's corset. While clearly not knitted, this addition to the collection (not an entry as Gershamabob is one of the Oxford Bluestockings...) this gorgeous corset does employ ribbon yarn beautifully for its purposes.

walking stick corset featuring ribbon yarn ties

the walking stick corset in its full glory

If you've listened to The Missability Radio Show, then you will have heard about some of these cosies already; the corset is featured in the third episode of the show, while Katie of Oxford Kitchen Yarns talks about her cosy in the second episode of the show. Her cosy has a beautiful, autumnal sense about it and we enjoyed the way the fruits bunched up - like rolled up sleeves when you're working! - if you pushed the cosy up or down on the stick. This photo features the 'sleeves rolled up' version of the cosy!

Oxford Kitchen Yarns walking stick cosy, knit in natural, hand-dyed yarn and featuring fruit-like spheres

Another cosy made by an Oxford Bluestocking comes from Thomasinaknits and is knit in Natural Dye Studio yarn in spiral lace pattern with ribbing and ruffle at top and bottom. You can see a full photo of it on the flickr pool.

Walking stick cosy knit in delicate pinks and greens in a spiral lace pattern with rib ruffle at top and bottom

...and I couldn't resist messing around with the polka-dot walking stick cosy that I knit for myself; placing it on the tablecloth we pretended it was a magical disappearing trick for camouflaging one's walking stick at Missability Radio events that are likely to feature a lot of red and white polka dot surfaces!

polka dot walking stick cosy on stick on polka-dot tablecloth. Together this forms a kind of disappearing act.

Another dotty cosy we loved, was this great mother and son team effort from Ali and her boy. He made the pom-poms, she did the knitting! I love how fun this design is.

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Video of the judging process

Round #2 of the Competition!

The Competition has been such a roaring success that we decided to launch Round #2. Details will be posted here within the next few days so do check back if you're regretting not entering this time around!

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