Rachael is a political activist, textiles artist, author, entrepreneur and meditator.
She got a lot of press coverage in the 1990s when she was organizing knit-ins on the London Underground and in pubs, clubs and open spaces around the city, promoting knitting as a politically subversive activity
She teaches textile design and knitting at the prestigious Central St Martin’s School of art and design in London.
She is the author of the beautifully written book the Mindfulness in Knitting
I wanted to publish this podcast on International Women’s Day (2020) because I think Racheal so wonderfully exemplifies how activism how can be powerful and yet feminine, humble and humorous at the same time. She shows we can make big changes in the world in a gentle and enjoyable way without anger and division through creative mediums like knitting-Gandhi with a smile!
I recorded this interview in Rachael’s loft studio in her home in East London on a really hot summer’s day in 2019 so we had to have the windows open which meant there is a fair bit of noise especially of planes passing over head
Rachaels’s wbsite: http://www.rachaelmatthews.co.uk/ (contact details on the website)
Shownotes: The times here are not exact
Intro: Rachael talks about growing up in the lake district and getting into knitting
Eight minutes. Knitting as a form of protest
10 mins) Rachel talks about teaching sewing to women from different ethnic groups on problem estates in east London
11 mins) Class and knitting
12 mins) Making the link between fast fashion, sustainability and exploitation. How her textile design students see how long it takes to make clothes and then ask how clothes can then be so cheap in the shops!
13.10) knitting as political protest (‘a creative uprising’)
18 mins) on making willy warmers
21 mins) Mindfulness and knitting. Racheal talks about her journey into meditation and how she practices
26 mins) Colour and meditation, making knitted rocks and how there is no such thing as a bad colour! (‘you can’t argue with any colour!’)
(31.40 mins) if you’re curious, the word is synesthesia)
40 mins) On how many people stop breathing when knitting (or creating anything) and how mindfulness helps them come back to the breath. How we need peace of mind to be creative
47 mins) On the interconnectedness of all things
48 mins) politics and the environment. Here she talks about a story from her book where she visited Uzbekistan and saw the huge and damaging environmental and human impact of cotton farming in the country
50 mins) Rare breed sheep and how wool could be used sustainably by the big fashion houses
51 mins) How knowing where your wool and materials come from and making conscious decisions about what you buy, and where you buy it from is deeply empowering
53 mins) On ritual and sacred spaces. You can make sacred spaces wherever you go.
‘I carry wool with me and I have a sacred space in my handbag which I can pull out and go into when I want’
58 mins) Knitting parties at the Victoria and Albert museum in London with an ‘army of knitters,’ 3000 balls of wool and playing Led Zeppelin at full tilt
59 mins) Being on telly
62 mins) the story of the knitted log
68 mins) Extinction Rebellion and art. The link between art being largely taken off the school curriculum and climate change
70 mins) Knitted rocks, craft and teaching well-being
74 mins) Craftivism: the interface of crafts and activism
77 mins) what advice would you give to your younger self?
88 mins) I want to open a shop that is really hard to get to!