Jenny Kee, Blinky Di and the sniffles.

Unfortunately this week’s lesson has had to be postponed, foiled by a bad cold (or flu? I can never tell the difference…) on my behalf. After battling through a couple of days at work, today I’ve stayed home to try and conquer this dark child of a failed immune system, once and for all. Armed with a never-ending hot cup of tea and Ginger Nut biscuits (not for a cure, just as a special sick-time treat), I am doing pretty well at sitting around feeling sorry for myself.

I thought I might take this opportunity of infinite boredom to research a name my Grandma had mentioned at our last lesson, when discussing the rise and fall and rise of knitting trends. Grandma had mentioned that after Women’s Lib had rendered knitting ‘uncool’ (inconceivable to consider today), a woman named Jenny Kee had brought it back to a state of it’s former glory, in the 1980’s. Grandma perceived Kee’s designs as being a bit of a saviour for the knitting name, releasing designs that were outrageously colourful and bold and popular.

Jenny Kee

On beginning my research, I was a bit embarrassed to find that I probably should have already been aware of Jenny Kee. She is still very active on the art scene today, designed costumes for the Opening Ceremony at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and (perhaps less glamourously) designed a Homewares range for Target in 2008.

You can read more about her accomplishments here.

Also, on discovering some examples of her designs, I realised where Grandma must have drawn inspiration for a lot of knitted jumpers received by my sister and I in the early nineties. Thanks, Jenny Kee. Thank you.

Cockatoo Jumper Dress

Jenny Kee was born in Sydney in 1947 to a Cantonese father and an Italian/ British mother. She has referred to herself as a Waratah, basing this on the Aboriginal belief in Dreaming totems and her love for the flower and it’s vibrant colour, red, which she often drapes herself in. Her knitted designs of the late 1970’s and 1980’s, made in Australian wool and reflecting Australian flora and fauna, came at a time where nationalism in fashion was somewhat new it seems. So in her designs you might see a Cockatoo, Banksia, Uluru or Sydney Opera House. She used bright, vibrant colours in an innovative and fun way, and they became very popular. It was a big step from mainstream fashion at the time, but it worked.

Hand-knitted wool dress, Jenny Kee & Jan Ayres. On display at the Powerhouse Museum.

Princess Di even donned one of Kee’s pieces after it was given to her by the daughter of the then New South Wales Premier in 1981. It depicted a Koala clinging on to Di’s small frame with, I believe, an expression both of contemplation and remorse. After Di was spotted wearing this, every woman in Australia appears to have wanted one, and Kee released a pattern in Women’s Weekly for the “Blinky Di”.

Where I’m not sure I would like to drape myself in a matching knitted shirt and skirt depicting a tourist coffee mug, I do appreciate the craftsmanship of these hand-knitted garments and vibrancy of the colours.

This is just a very short description of Jenny Kee’s influence (written by a wheezing spluttering mess), so any other bits and pieces of information anyone would like to share are most welcome 🙂

Have a lovely week.

....Too far.