The summer months may not be traditionally the time when you think about sitting down to do some knitting but a group of crafters in Derry are busy clicking their needles as they create a woollen walled city to mark the historic local landmark’s 400th anniversary of completion.
As part of the Walls 400 summer programme, visitors to the Walled City are being invited to take time out of their tourist schedule to sew, knit, crochet and craft a section of the masterpiece which will eventually go on display in the Tower Museum.
Aine Clarke, of Hansel and Gretel Knits, who has been giving classes in crochet for the last 16 years, is co-ordinating the colourful creation and, so far, they have welcomed many different visitors to their weekly crafting sessions in the Holywell Trust, including 12-year-old twins from Scotland.
She said: “I always like to have a project on the go – I previously did the City of Culture blanket and the woollen squares in the Holywell Trust garden – so when the call went out for crafters, I knew this was the perfect Walls 400 celebration.
“Our aim is to do as much of the walled city as possible – we will include the four main streets and all the important buildings such as the Cathedral and the Tower Museum, as well as other buildings that are no longer there but once stood within the walls.
“We’ll do the Gates at the end of each street, but we may not be able to do all of the walls themselves because it would be too big, we wouldn’t get them all in!
“I didn’t realise when I took the project on just how hard it would be. Everything has to be in proportion and built to scale so I have so much polystyrene to cut out to form the shapes of the buildings. We then attach the crocheted pieces over the top.”
The fun will then be in trying to identify each property. Although to begin with you may think most of the old buildings are plain grey, a closer inspection by Aine and her fellow crafters revealed a whole hue of colours from pinks to blues.
Aine said: “We went on Google Street View and couldn’t believe how many different colours there were in the buildings, no two were the same.
“We meet in the Holywell Trust every Wednesday morning and evening over the summer months, working away at getting the project completed and anyone is welcome to drop in and devote an hour or two of their time to stitching or sewing a section.
“Everyone who comes loves it, the craic’s always good and sometimes there can even be a bit of singing. It’s a social thing and you also get to do something enjoyable, while the final piece can bring a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.
“With this project, it will be great for all who have contributed to it to be able to show their families and friends what they have been working on all summer.”
The final piece will be launched on Culture Night on September 20, and then be on display at the Tower Museum for the next three weeks. Other craft workshops are taking place over the summer months including print making, basket making, wood turning, wood burning (pyrography) and felting.
A toolmaking and clay workshop taking inspiration from Cave Art will connect with the walls when it takes place in St Augustine’s Schoolhouse while Granny Pat will pass on the knitting skills of her own old granny in special workshops in The Cottage in the Craft Village.
Jennifer O’Donnell, Tourism Manager with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “Crafting is a unique way to mark the Walls 400 anniversary. As well as creating something beautiful that will last for many years to come, it’s also a great way for visitors to the city over the summer months to be able to take part in some activity while they’re taking in Derry’s Walls.
“Not only do they get to be creative, but it’s a wonderful way to meet local people, hear local stories, learn local history in beautiful locations which makes their visit to Derry all the more memorable.” Visit www.walledcity400.com for the full programme of summer events to celebrate Walls 400.