INTERVIEW: Cast Off's Rachael Matthews: Gay cowboys, knitted sunglasses and dreams come true

rachael-matthews-teatime.jpgWhen she founded the Cast Off knitting club back in 2000, Rachael Matthews was a major catalyst in the crafty revolution that was to capture the imaginations of countless hip young things. She now co-owns the East London art space and haberdashery Prick your Finger, where I caught up with her to ask her how it's all going.

CC Where did the idea for Prick your Finger begin?

RM We opened in June 2007. Louise Harries and I went to college together and we have been friends ever since. I was running Cast Off Knitting Club and writing books on knitting, and Louise was a designer at Hoxton Boutique. We were both country girls living in the inner city, and we were concerned about the materials we were forced to use in our knitting - they never seemed to come from UK based sources.

Read on over the jump for the rest of the interview

yarn window.jpgWe were also concerned with the nation loosing it's hand knitting skills and it's fashion manufacturing and spinning industry. A couple of years ago we started meeting for tea every wednesday, to discuss having a shop to reflect our vision, and allow us to work more freely as artists and designers.

CC How does the reality of running your own shop and art space contrast with the dreams you initially had for it?

RM We built the shop from scratch from wood we found in skips, and started spinning our own yarns, and creating events with artists. We have let the shop develop in the way it wants to. We did all the usual business plans, but quite honestly, the dream we had was to create a space and business that allowed us and our friends the freedom to be good artists. Our dreams come true every day.

What do most people come into your shop for?

RM Every customer is different, but the extraordinary thing is, that every day has a theme. We will have a day where everyone buys orange yarn, and then there might be a rush of men loosing jacket buttons, and the elastic box might not come out for months and then suddenly everyone needs it. Haberdashery sometimes falls from the stars!

CC The shop has some pretty amazing items in it -- what is your favourite fixture in the shop?

Our shop changes every week, but the best fixtures are Louise and Rosemary! This week we are loving Rosemary's knitted sunglasses. She can work blindfolded, and still do a good job.

CC What are your best-selling craft products?

RM Our handspun yarns sell really well because they are unique and they have such wonderful names. 'Gay Cowboy' is a very popular vegan yarn, 'Peppermint kisses' is the softest floppiest angora bunny yarn and 'Dan's Mum' is named after our friend Dan's mother, who only wears purple.

CC What craft projects are you currently working on yourself?

RM I am knitting 'The Relics of a Love Being Awesome" for a show Love is Awesome on Valentines Day in Reading. I am knitting a scull and crossbones, and hour glass, a big glove, a crown and lots of roses, all in grey Herdwick.

CC Any new skills you'd like to pick up in 2009?

RM I am learning flax spinning. It seems harder than wool, but that's because I'm not used to it. You have to spin it wet and then it turns to gold. It smells lovely and it used to be a common crop in this country and now the industry has disappeared.

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