Ex-PM out to stitch up the town

01:00, Jul 12 2011
Burton Shipley, Anne Rush and Jenny Shipley
GUERRILLAS IN THE KNITS: Burton Shipley, Anne Rush and Jenny Shipley have been working on their knitted creations as part of the Dress Nelson campaign.

Former prime minister Dame Jenny Shipley had hardly walked in the door when her sister Anne Rush shoved a pair of knitting needles in her hands.

Dame Jenny and her husband Burton, who were visiting Ms Rush from Auckland, were wool-in-hand when the Nelson Mail visited.

Dame Jenny was knitting a black and white creation, surrounded by baskets of wool, and her husband was working on a colourful panel.

Mr Shipley had already finished an impressive pink "dog blanket" in less than four hours.

He said the key to speed-knitting was having large needles and thick wool.

And as for the colour choice: "It's my pink side coming out. I chose it because it was the thickest wool I could find."


Ms Rush is promoting graffiti knitting as part of the Dress Nelson campaign, which is being backed by the Nelson Mail ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

A group of graffiti knitters from Idea Services, who came up with the idea, have already dressed the Reef Knot sculpture next to the Nelson i-Site.

Mr Shipley said the last time he knitted was in 1987, when his wife was giving her maiden speech in Parliament.

He was given a parcel containing knitting needles and wool, clearly a dig at House standing orders allowing spouses to knit or crochet in the gallery.

Mr Shipley learnt to knit at a tiny rural school in Canterbury, with a roll of nine children, so he put his needles together and starting knitting. "That shut a few people up, I can assure you," he said.

Ms Rush said she was excited about how many people were keen to support the Dress Nelson campaign.

"We just want to spread the word and encourage people to get creative."

Dame Jenny said she thought it was a good idea to "tart the town up" with guerrilla art.

She has her eye on a local monument, which she hopes to dress in winter woollies.

Anyone interested in graffiti knitting should email knitnelson@gmail.com or call Gill Starling at Idea Services on 035480034.

The Nelson Mail is also collecting wool donations in the foyer of its office on Bridge St.

The Nelson Mail