Rock & Roll Rebels: 2020 Festive Yarn Box unwrapped

Suzie Blackman
Friday, 1 January 2021

This year’s Festive Yarn Box was an absolute riot! We travelled back through rock & roll history to the 60s, 70s and 80s, meeting the shining stars with other-worldly, flamboyant style, visionary ideas and larger-than-life personalities. We drew inspiration from from the psychedelic era, punk and the New Romantics.

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar logo

Day 1

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar day 1: The Doors of Perception

We begin in the psychedelic era. Day 1’s shade is “The Doors of Perception”, after the 1954 book by Aldous Huxley, in which the author explores the unmapped human consciousness through his experiences with hallucinogenic drugs. The title is a reference to a quote by painter and poet William Blake, and in turn gave its name to the band The Doors.

Day 2

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar 2020: Day 2

Today’s shade is ‘Live at Fillmore’, in reference to the San Francisco music venue, which regularly played host to pretty much every notable band of the mid-late 60s.

The colours are inspired by a poster for The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s performance at the venue in 1967, by two of my favourite graphic artists, Michael English and Nigel Weymouth who worked as ‘Hapsash and the Coloured Coat’. Their posters were as extravagant as over-the-top as the acts they promoted, hand screen-printed with metallic and neon inks and technically challenging colour gradients.

It’s not clear how effective their posters were for promoting gigs as they were often stolen from billboards as soon as they were pasted up. These days they are found in museum collections and change hands at upmarket auction houses.

Day 3

Saw Chocolate mini bars

A mini “American” bar of handmade chocolate from SAW. We commissioned these especially for the box as they’re not normally made in this size because it’s so hard to pack all those goodies in!

Day 4

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar 2020: Day 3

Day 4’s shade ‘I’m going into the desert to find myself’.

Rock n’ roll cliché or right of passage? According to Jim Morrison’s Doors bandmate John Densmore, they did go into the desert and take peyote, although events are disputed and it probably didn’t go down the way it did in the film. Nevertheless, Morrison was known to have a fondness of the Mojave desert and it inspired many of his lyrics and poems.

Day 5

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Jimi's Haze

This shade is ‘Jimi’s Haze’, a reference to the opening track on The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album. There are various theories about the meaning of Purple Haze’s lyrics – whether it was psychedelic experience, religion, dreamscapes, voodoo or Philip Jose Farmer’s sci-fi novel Night of Light – the truth is lost in the mists of time. However, its impact endures and this is the colour that fills my mind whenever we hear it.

Day 6

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Magic mushroom stitch markers

Today’s surprise is a set two psychedelic mushroom stitch markers from KoPo! They are exclusive to our Festive box and it was an absolute pleasure working with the talented Liz to transform my wacky idea into miniature treasures.

Day 7

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Whirligig

Day 7’s shade is a journey of the senses named ‘Whirligig’. The spirit of the psychedelic era lives on! We’ve named this shade in reference to Whirl-Y-Gig, London’s longest running club night, which began in 1981 and events continuing to the present day. The night, which has been described as ‘Ravi Shanknar’s man cave’, transforms venues into a hippy haven draped with parachute silks and bathed in rainbow coloured lights. Far out!

Day 8

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Summer of love

Day 8’s shade is ‘Summer of Love’. The so-called Summer of Love was a psychedelic revolution of 1967, that spread out from California, New York and London, and swept the world. It was a time of youth uprising, individuality, peaceful protest and artistic experimentation. For all its associations with drugs and sexual liberation, it was also a period of innocence and unselfconscious expression that preceded a backlash of moral outrage and civil unrest.

Day 9

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Day 9

Today’s goodies are a gift for your inner flower-child! There’s a rainbow embroidered patch and some custom-woven “Handmade with LOVE” cotton labels as an homage to Robert Indiana’s iconic 1970 sculpture, based on a 1965 printed work.

Day 10

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar day 10
Mixtape sticker and lighting patch

Day 10’s shade is ‘A skinny, ginger-haired guy from Brixton’. Of course, we’re talking about the inimitable interstellar pop legend David Bowie.

Bowie embodied so many different personas during his five decade career, but none more iconic than Ziggy Stardust emblazoned with lightning bolt on the cover of his 1973 Aladdin Sane album. Today’s parcel has some extra goodies: a ziggy embroidered patch and a mixtape sticker.

Day 11

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar 2020: Riders on the Storm

Day 11’s shade is ‘Riders on the Storm’. As thunder rumbles over the melodic bassline of The Doors’ 1971 classic, we picture an ominously clouded big desert sky carved up by jagged lightning.

Day 12

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Saw Chocolate Mint & Strawberry minibar

Today’s treat is a handmade mint and strawberry dark chocolate bar from SAW Chocolate. It’s a rebellious flavour combination, but dee-licious!

Day 13

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: day 13

Day 13’s shade is ‘Rose Tinted’, a tribute to Janis Joplin’s big round sunglasses. Along with her velvet bell bottoms and unruly locks, they’re an instantly recognisable facet of her flower-child image, but also maybe a mask to conceal her inward struggles. She was a person of contradictions; an outcast yet oozing confidence, scattered yet single-minded, studious yet reckless. She rejected norms and expectations and fearlessly followed her own path.

Day 14

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Kozmik Blues

Day 14’s shade is ‘Kozmic Blues’ after Janis Joplin’s first solo album, the only one released before her passing in 1970. A rarity as a female rock star at a time when rock was very much a boys’ club, Joplin was a ‘little girl’ with a big voice. ‘Kozmic Blues’ perfectly sums up her incredible vocal style which brought blues emotion to psychedelic rock. Although her career was short, her influence echoes on.

Day 15

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar day 15
Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar day 15

Today’s parcel contains two sets of treats: A set of paper accordion decorations and a set of bamboo marking pins. These brilliant little tools for knitters are equally useful for marking rows, picking up stitches or holding garment pieces together for seaming. They’re made in Japan from carefully selected wood which is polished using a plant wax.

Day 16

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: London Calling

Day 16’s shade is ‘London Calling’, inspired by the cover of The Clash’s 1979 album. Of course, there’s a story behind this iconic image. The photograph of bassist Paul Simonon by rock photographer Pennie Smith captures what’s reported to be the first time anyone had smashed up an instrument on stage. Smith, having taken the blurred shot almost by accident was not happy with it and took some persuading to agree to it being used on the album cover. It became a defining image of rock n’ roll rebellion.

Design of the sleeve by Ray Lowry was lifted directly from Elvis Presley’s 1956 self-titled album. It’s unclear whether this was an homage to the artist whose sound was groundbreaking and jarring in its era, or a send-up of a former rock & roll rebel who’d had his day (literally, Presley had passed away two years earlier).

Day 17

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Pretty Vacant
Knitting is Punk Rock sticker

We’re sticking it to the man with day 17’s shade ‘Pretty Vacant’.

Lurid, in-your-face and of course inspired by the Sex Pistols’ 1977 album Never Mind the Bollocks. They were one of the most controversial bands of all time, but much of the notoriety in their day stemmed from things that would hardly raise an eyebrow today, like swearing on TV and criticising the monarchy. Never Mind The Bollocks had a difficult birth, with the band having worked their way through 3 recording contracts that year (their A&M deal lasted just 5 days), pressing plant workers refusing to handle the record, and radio and record store bans. Of course, all of this just fuelled demand and when it was finally released it topped the charts.

The Sex Pistols appeared the archetypal punk outfit but effectively they were a manufactured band, with members chosen for their looks and swagger by manager Malcolm McLaren, having been scouted at ‘Sex’, the London boutique he co-owned with Vivienne Westwood. Johnny Rotten joined the band apparently with no previous thought to being a vocalist. Similarly, when original bass player Glen Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious because Matlock didn’t fit the punk image, Viscous had no experience as a bassist. Nevertheless, their unique sound captured the moment and the album went into history as a punk classic.

The sticker is a reminder that you, dear reader, can stick it to the man simply by being empowered to make your own clothes.

Day 18

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Day 18
Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar day 18 glitter buttons

Day 18’s shade is ‘Paisley Park’, after Prince’s lavishly-decorated home/studio complex and record label of the same name.

A virtuoso singer, songwriter, musician and actor, during his four-decade career, Prince appeared to effortlessly master any genre or instrument he turned his hand to. His identity transcended convention and Prince challenged other people’s need to categorise him – “I just can’t believe all the things people say, am I black or white, am I straight or gay?” he sings in 1981 hit Controversy. Prince continually re-invented himself but always through an instantly recognisable flamboyant androgynous style.

There’s an extra gift: a set of glittery buttons to add some exuberant bling to your creations.

Day 19

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: day 19 'Private Life'

Day 19’s shade is ‘Private Life’. Cooler than ice, Grace Jones exclaims “your sex life complications are not my fascinations”. We picture her sipping cocktails by the pool, not giving a f*** about anyone’s private life.

In stark departure from her previous disco releases, for her 1980 album Warm Leatherette, Jones enlisted reggae heavyweights Sly and Robbie for production. The tracklist features covers as diverse as the title track, an early Industrial banger by The Normal and a version of Roxy Music’s Love is The Drug that, dare we say it, with its sparkling synths, packs more punch than the original. But Private Live is the stand out track for me. Originally recorded by The Pretenders, Jones’ Jamaican heritage gives authenticity to the track’s reggae leanings.

Day 20

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Raspberry Beret

Day 20’s shade is ‘Raspberry Beret’, a track from Prince’s 1985 album Around the World in a Day.

His previous LP Purple Rain earned him the ultimate Rock & Roll Rebel accolade by prompting the creation of the Parental Advisory sticker! At a time when Prince was doing his best to cause a stir with his lyrics’ overt sexuality, he surprised everyone by dropping this perfect 3 minute pop song.

Day 21

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Postmodern

Day 21’s shade is ‘Postmodern’.

What does a does an androgynous diva performer wear to her baby shower? A constructionist, Bauhaus influenced, cardboard-paneled creation simply known as the ‘Grace Jones Maternity Dress’.

The unique piece was designed by Jones’ collaborator, lover and father of her baby, art-director Jean-Paul Goude. Goude designed album covers and managed stage shows for Jones. He also created a series of postmodern outfits for her. Using abstract shapes and colour panels, his garments were at first intended to conceal her pregnancy so she could continue to perform (they feared that the baby bump would affect her bookings), but later, they became a celebration of her form. The couple continued to collaborate, and Goude went on to create the iconic covers for Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm and Island Life record sleeves, which turn the star’s striking looks into sculptural form.

Day 22

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar day 23

Day 22’s shade is ‘Power Lipstick’. By the 1980’s, sisters were doing it for themselves and the music scene was (at least outwardly) awash with alpha females taking centre stage. There was a rejection of traditional notions of femininity for a powerful new aesthetic of androgynous style, padded shoulders and oversized shirts. Punctuating the look was a razor sharp application of brick-red lipstick. There was to be no doubt that these divas meant business.

Day 23

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Candle by SJ Scents

Today’s surprise is a scented candle from our local maker SJ Scents Co, because even rebels need to relax.

Day 24

Rock & Roll Rebels yarn advent calendar: Ashes to Ashes

Our final shade is ‘Ashes to Ashes’, inspired by the bizarre solarised visual effects of the music video for this 1980 Bowie hit.

At the time of production it was the most expensive music video ever made and remains iconic of the 80s. The costumes and aesthetic were heavily inspired by the theatrics of the New Romantic movement, with several prominent members of the scene appearing in the video.

Bowie described the track as a dark nursery rhyme, and with its reference to the demise of Major Tom and departure from the guitar-led sounds of the Ziggy era, it’s almost as if Bowie’s burying his previous incarnations (perhaps literally, using the bulldozer in the video) in anticipation of the coming decade. Or maybe it’s best not to read too much into any of it and just enjoy the classic synth pop and gaudy clown.

With ‘Ashes to Ashes’ our journey sadly comes to an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed the colours we created and the stories of icons who inspired them. Which was your favourite?

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.

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