hanging by a thread

hanging by a thread

A wise person told me ‘Death is like birth; nothing and no-one can prepare you.  You imagine that it’s not going to be a shock, because particularly with dementia you think you have already lost the person long before, yet still it is; there is this great unbridgeable gulf between being-here-in-the-world, in however reduced and narrowed a way, and then suddenly – it is always suddenly – not being here at all.’ 

Dementia is such a hard subject to write about. And to talk about, given that nearly a million people are living with dementia in the UK which means an awful lot of us are dealing with this horrific disease in some way yet it really isn’t something that crops up in conversation. A few passing words yes, but the reality behind them goes largely unsaid. 

After my mum died I turned to my own creative process to work through my grief. I dyed a fine cashmere thread and designed a jersey pattern which is knitted top down and in the round. At first the yarn is dyed uniformly and the pattern adhered to, but over time the dye becomes blotchy and devoid of colour turning to grey scale. The pattern is lost and worked incorrectly, eventually the fabric is torn and hangs loose. There is no selvedge.

This was a really hard work to complete. It took 8 months and towards the end I was forcing myself to just do 30 minutes each day. Making is a very positive past time for me, but this was the opposite. I was breaking thread, snagging it, using the wrong needles, anything I could think of to disrupt the process, and that was destructive and depressing. 

Hanging by a Thread was short listed for the 2019 Fine Arts Textiles Award.

The photographs were taken by the incredibly talented and generous Kristin Perers


I used an ultra fine cashmere 1 ply thread which, once scoured and dyed, was so delicate that I occasionally broke it while knitting. I wanted to create a fabric that was barely there.

I dyed up 23 different colour shifts from a very pale pink to a dark grey. The closer to dark grey I got, the more I disrupted my process.

Then I designed a top down jersey pattern and knit that as a prototype. When I was happy with the design, I started knitting initially adhering to the design but after a while started disrupting the pattern in different ways: making mistakes in the lace pattern, knitting stitches together, dropping stitches, snagging threads from another part of the jersey, tearing fabric, using the wrong needles and changing the stitch pattern.

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Gosh that’s powerful. I commented on the image on social media when you first put it up but reading the story behind it is even more heart-breaking and so evocative. Thank you for writing and creating xx

Carolina Mountford

It’s truly heartbreaking work Vicky. A brave and emotional response to losing your mum to dementia. Thank for sharing your experience of it and your process. The result is evocative and so touching.

Sharyn Wortman

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