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Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Tuesday, 8 June 2010 17:03 UK
There's nothing woolly about marathon knitter Alison
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Alison Murray at work
"I like to make and create things" - Alison Murray

When Alison Murray created the world's largest knitted Christmas tree in 2005, she was not so much sowing the seeds as sewing the seeds for what was to follow.

Alison, from Bideford, now has a worldwide following for her creations.

Her current project, Above and Below the Waves, is a woolly underwater world which was made by some 2,000 knitters.

"I never thought back in 2005 that all this would happen," Alison told BBC Devon.

"The difference since then has been tremendous, it has snowballed."

Around 700 knitters contributed towards her 25ft Christmas tree, and 1,000 took part in the gingerbread house she made in 2007.

If you tot up all of the people who have visited her three creations on tour to date, then the figure is in excess of half a million.

Alison in the gingerbread house
Alison inside the gingerbread house she made in 2007

That number is set to grow, as the Above and Below the Waves project goes on a tour of the UK and beyond from 2010 to 2012.

And Alison even has Olympic ambitions: "My aim is to get all three pieces in an exhibition in London for the 2012 Olympics.

"I don't know where yet - it will have to be somewhere big - but it's just something I want to do.

"I mean, knitting is an Olympic sport for me and the pieces are of an Olympic size - and they are unique, there is only one of them."

For Alison, knitting is in the blood: "It comes from both the English side of my family and my Irish ancestors," she said. "My great aunt, my aunts, and my mother all knitted."

"I've never followed a knitting pattern in my life - it's all like double dutch to me."
Alison Murray

When Alison was living in London, she studied art and design with a view to working in ceramics - but it was at this point that her career took a woolly turn.

"I had to make something which was three dimensional and I knitted bacon, eggs and sausages. I was 17 or 18. I love making and creating things and the knitting element took off."

Instead of going to university, Alison went straight into her family business - a wool shop in Primrose Hill, London.

"I was knitting jumpers, dresses, and even ketchup bottles and we were exporting some of the stuff."

Alison, 48, moved to north Devon 25 years ago, and in recent years has been at the forefront of making knitting 'cool'.

Some 2,000 people helped to knit Above and Below

"I think people are going back to crafts and making things for themselves," she said.

"Not just with knitting but with food as well. People are fed up with mass produced stuff that doesn't last.

"With the pieces I've done, people of all ages have contributed - it is all generations, which is really exciting. Going into schools, the children are getting more involved.

"What we have started has blossomed everywhere - it has spread around the world."

Her contributors are also multinational. From the initial 700 - found through organisations - they have grown and grown. Alison tells them about the theme for her creations and asks them what to make towards it.

But she is also happy for them to do their own thing: "That's fine. With the gingerbread house, someone knitted a Home Sweet Home sign, which was lovely and I hadn't thought of.

"And with Above and Below, a lady diver from Plymouth sent me a beautifully knitted diver.

"It's really exciting opening all the packages that are sent to me and finding out what's inside."

It took her and her team five months to knit and sew all the elements of Above and Below the Waves together.

Woolly RNLI boat
An RNLI lifeboat in the Above and Below project

Although Alison sends patterns out to her knitters, she doesn't use them herself: "I've never followed a knitting pattern in my life - it's all like double dutch to me."

Alison is keen to emphasise she is "not just a knitter" but a textile artist with the emphasis on the word "art".

"It really annoys me when people say it's just knitting.

"It's not, it is an art form and it is beautiful. When people came to see Above and Below at Appledore, they couldn't believe it - it is like an underwater world."

The day before this interview, Alison had spent four hours dismantling the 9m x 6m Above and Below the Waves exhibit at Appledore Festival.

The piece - like her previous works - is raising money for charity, in this case the RNLI. She has received Arts Council funding for the exhibit, which you can next see at Kingsley Junior School in Bideford on 3-4 July 2010.

The Creative Stitches and Hobbycrafts national tour starts at Westpoint in Exeter on 23-26 September 2010 - for all the dates and venues, visit the International Craft and Hobby Fair website.

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