Sydney Easter Show . . . Part 3

21 March 2008

Well, I got to the Easter Show and saw all the knitting “in the flesh” as it were. . .  and I came away really depressed.

Yes, there was some beautiful workmanship.  No doubt about that.  But if you’re a knitter, a trip to any knitting group in Sydney would excite you more.  There was very little that was original or innovative (and what there was, was largely ignored by the judges),   There were no hats, gloves, socks, bags.  There was little in the way of modern knitting construction.  There were loads of beautifully made Aran-type sweaters but I wouldn’t wear them . . . and I’m no Spring chicken.  My mother, at 87, wouldn’t wear them as she chooses clothes in much more modern styles and colours. 

Shops in the Northern Hemisphere this Winter have stocked an abundance of modern and more unusual knitted garments.  They’re starting to arrive in the Southern Hemisphere for our Winter.  I could count on one hand the number of items at this Show that didn’t have their origins pre-1970.

And where are the fashion students and young designers?  Presumably they don’t feel it worth their while entering this competition, which is a great pity.

Could the Show organisers please completely rethink the categories?  Will they please encourage ORIGINAL design?  Will they include among their judges at least one or two people who are not necessarily knitters but who are capable of recognising fashion innovation and style?  Will they get proper sponsorship from yarn retailers and producers, knitwear manufacturers and knitting publishers?  Companies that can not only give decent prizes, but who can offer the opportunity for a leg-up to the knitters by publishing their patterns, or producing the item for retail sale.    

And while they’re at it, perhaps they could get professional window-dressers who are also not stuck in some 1950’s time warp?  I complained about the displays while I was there.  Some of these items won’t be fit to wear after they’ve been strung up with fishing wire and hooks for 2 weeks. 

In its current form, this competition is doing nothing to stimulate an interest in knitting. Quite the reverse I would imagine, as I think it’s just perpetuating the myth that it’s only for people who are dull AND old.   I can’t imagine that one visitor will be so excited by it that they want to rush home and pick up some needles. 

Having said that, I really don’t wish to knock the competitors.  They obviously know what the current judging panel is looking for and they’ve produced it.  I do feel sorry though for those who didn’t “obey the rules” and tried to do something a little more innovative.  I think Web-Goddess’s sweater was a classic idea with a new twist and looked lovely (great piece of knitting, Kris).  She received a Highly Commended. I agree with Knitabulous that the sleeveless vest with cables knitted on the bias was clever, stylish and modern, but the knitter came away with nothing.  I’m afraid I didn’t make a note of her name – I remember it was a ‘her’ –  but I hope she gets to hear that her work was truly appreciated.   

So how do we intend to change this?   

PS:  (Added later).  I’ve just realised that the wonderful cable vest was made by Quaffy.  I’m so sorry I didn’t know that, as I have met her and she really produces some beautiful work.



  1. Ok, I can’t organise this myself, but I can have ideas… How about an alternate / rebel knitting competition, possibly organised in conjunction with a craft show, with all the things you mentioned, like good prizes, decent categories etc (although I think you may need to separate out originality of design and fine technical skills, not everyone does both but both are praiseworthy). I’m sorta thinking along the lines of art prizes …”The Pom Pom Prize for Fine Knitting”

    I’m thinking that this wouldn’t totally step on existing toes, but would up the ante and provide a verified model of what can be done…

  2. I guess, that there are some ‘traditionalists’ out there who are big fans of aran sweaters etc, but I think that most people who would define themselves as Knitters (as opposed to people who knit for a hobby) defiantly oppose anything dowdy. I think what I am trying to say is that there is a place for some of this stuff, but its a much smaller place than the organisers of the show believe. I know I looked at the categories last year and couldn’t find anything I had or was making at the time that would fit in anywhere – which is possibly where the problem is…

  3. An alternative exhibition like the Bald Archies is to the Archibalds….

    Like Ginger-Nut, I can rarely find categories that fit what I have knitted or am knitting!

  4. I was at the show again today and Veronica and I were looking at Kris’s entry and thought they’d stretched the collar too tight as it looked a little strange on the display bust. Craning over a bit to look at the back we realised that the collar at the back was considerably lower than the collar at the front. Oh wait, the jumper’s symmetrical, they’ve displayed it on the bust back to front.

    Henry now has a ribbon too, I pointed out they’d missed it and they were very quick to go and put one on, so I can’t complain about that I suppose.

  5. I think an alternative knitting show would be a terrific idea! Or what about calling it a radical knitting show? It must be so disheartening to have an apparent forum for your skills but to see the opportunity wasted.

  6. I’m fairly much resigned to the idea that just about anything I’m ever likely to want to enter in the Sydney Easter Show is not going to fit into any of their categories — but then again, having seen the displays for the past few years, this is probably a good thing for me, as I think I would collapse in a sobbing heap if any of my knitting was displayed in the potentially damaging way that many of the knitted items are currently being displayed.

    That said, I do love your idea of broadening the panel of judges by including people with more of an eye for design and innovation, and an awareness of current trends in both fashion and knitting. Judging items purely on the technical merits of the knitting and finishing is not the way to encourage vibrant and dynamic competition, but instead has a tendency to result in a competition which becomes stagnant and ultimately irrelevant — which I guess is pretty much the point we are at now. I find the possibility of attracting entries from design students particularly exciting, as having the next generation of designers interested in knitting and knitwear, and actively competing with one another and experimenting with new ideas, would have to both raise the public perception of knitting and provide us all with a greater pool of knitwear designers for the future.

  7. Late comment: I looked on the Knitabulous website at the photos taken at the show. What the **** does a knitted gonk wearing y-fronts and a scarf have to do with great craft skills???? I made something very similar for occupational therapy when lying flat on my back in traction. And one prize-winning garment was very obviously knitted by someone whose knit and purl rows are totally different tensions. (I can say that even as a completely amateur knitter, not in any way an expert like all of you).

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