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Knitted churches - it's a good old yarn

Knitted churches - it's a good old yarn

Date Published: 10 August 2017

Six of Lincolnshire most iconic churches – all fabricated from the wool of the county’s iconic sheep – have for the first time been brought together at the county’s iconic Lincoln Cathedral.    

The display of knitted churches marks the culmination of Woolly Spires, a Lincolnshire-wide project managed by North Kesteven District Council’s arts outreach artsNK.

Featuring the main churches of Louth, Boston, Spalding, Sleaford and Grantham as well as Stow Minster in West Lindsey, each of Lincolnshire’s rural districts are represented, giving universal appeal to the show.

The project takes its inspiration from the fact that many of Lincolnshire’s Medieval churches were funded by wealthy landowners whose fortunes were made through the thriving wool trade – built quite literally on the backs of Lincoln Longwool Sheep whose fleeces have been used exclusively in the crafting of these churches.

Over the last seven years, teams of knitters in each district area have been clicking, purling, slipping, felting, crocheting and having a good old yarn as they build up woollen walls, windows, spires and steeples to slip over a scale wooden model of each church.

The churches featured in astonishing detail are:

  • St James, Louth – sporting the tallest and finest of Medieval church spires, and rightly towering over all the other knitted churches; 
  • St Denys, Sleaford – first off the block, this church celebrates the notable local Carre family, wool merchants extraordinaire;
  • St Botolph, Boston – the Stump of the port town through which a phenomenal 98% of al England’s cloth passed to the powerful Hanseatic merchants of the Netherlands;
  • St Mary and St Nicolas, Spalding – where the striking stained glass is represented in the only splashes of colour within the six knits;
  • St Wulfram, Grantham – Second only in height to Louth’s spire, St Wulfram’s benefited enormously from the wool trade;
  • St Mary’s, Stow, Stow Minster which, although one of the country’s most ancient of churches, was the last of the knits to be completed.

Cllr Lindsey Cawrey, who launched the Cathedral show in her capacity as North Kesteven’s Executive Board Member with special interest in the arts and culture, said there could be ‘no more fitting rendering of some of our most beautiful churches’. 

“Woolly Spires is a wonderful example of the kind of long term project artsNK excels at, touching and benefitting so many communities; only possible through the dedicated, continuous support of so many partners, volunteers, and .. sheep.”

As the collection has progressively grown, they knitted churches have toured churches across the county, been on display at Sleaford’s National Centre for Craft and Design and been into Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Holland. 

But this is the first time they have been together in one pace; from where they are available to tour again subject to demand and funding.

They can be seen in the South Transept of the Cathedral, subject to usual admission charges.

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