Why Bletchley?

Hi,

As promised, I’m back to fill you in with a little more detail about the inspiration behind the collection I launched on Wednesday.

So why Bletchley?

Back in May, Victoria and I began to talk about the possibility of collaborating to create a small collection for the Milburn range. We wanted to include patterns for knitting and crochet to show off the versatility of this beautiful yarn. We wanted an emphasis on wearable, everyday, wardrobe staples as we are both passionate about knitting for a purpose. Milburn is just too nice to knit it and pop it in a drawer, its a yarn that cries out to be worn (and with the silk blend and relatively high twist it is soft enough to wear next to the skin but strong enough to withstand washing and wearing well)

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After receiving a bag with all the colours that currently existed (two more have been developed since) I was struck by the beautiful vintage palette and decided that the collection would at least tip its hat to the first half of the twentieth century.

A year or so before I had visited Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, the former home of the code breakers – Alan Turing and his team who cracked the enemy ciphers and enabled the Allies to understand the intercepted messages. I blogged about it here. I found the colours, shapes and imagery of the museum very inspiring and had made copious notes and sketches of ideas based on things I’d seen that day. Coming from a software engineering background, I loved the idea of including themes of early computing into my design work.

Yarn, colour and inspiration tied up and I put together a proposal to Victoria who was also excited by the idea.

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Over the six pieces in the collection I explored the early computing and encoding machines and the codes or ciphers loaded into them. I wanted to connect these ideas into items of clothing typically worn by off duty WRENs who manned the machines but in a modern wearable way, the shapes and styles tip a nod to the 1940s rather than trying to recreate them.

I thought a lot about wartime themes of rationing and shortage while I was creating the designs. Colourwork was very popular in the war as it enabled small scraps of yarn to be used up. All of the designs have a frugal use of this beautiful yarn in their fit and style.

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Victoria is very interested in the crochet I produce and was keen that there be some crochet pieces in the collection. Its quite rare for independent yarn producers to support crochet and I was delighted to be able to include both crafts.

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When we began planning the shoot we hardly dared hope that Bletchley would let us photograph the collection on site. There is a  no cameras rule on the park now. But in the spirit of “you don’t ask you don’t get” I emailed the site team and they couldn’t have been lovelier. They were very interested in the collection and supporting us, we were given free access for the day and allowed to shoot wherever we wanted. We drew a few strange looks and comments from the other visitors!

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I also got a little chance to see how the museum has developed since I last visited. The new displays are wonderful and really bring the era to life with amazing use of interactive technology. I spotted lovely touches like vintage typewriters on each desk and a hand-knitted cardigan thrown over the back of the secretary’s chair. The make do and mend display of knitwear was still out too (in the room behind the post office.) I recommend a trip if you haven’t been recently.

The site was absolutely perfect for a shoot (even if it hadn’t been the subject matter) as it has such a wonderful array of colours and textures and beautiful vistas. We were very lucky with the light too. It was mid September and overcast which gave several hours of diffused natural light in which to get the shots we needed.

Over the next week I will be introducing each design and showing you how it went from inspiration to sketch to finished object. I do hope you’ll pop back to see.

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