Di Burns is a textile artist and felt maker and a lady with a grand passion.
When Di Burns moved to the southeast of England with her three sons, husband of 22 years and dog Romeo, she became fascinated by the wealth of history in the area and in particular the Road of Remembrance “the road in Folkestone which leads down to the harbour. Millions of British and allied troops walked down this road to reach the ships waiting to take them to fight in WW1 and WW2.”
Di says that she loves the poems of Wilfred Owen and was “intrigued to discover that he had stayed in Folkestone before he left for the front and would have walked down the Road of Remembrance to the waiting ships in the harbour.” Her curiosity led her to read more about the area and she says she was staggered to discover that most soldiers sailing to France to fight in WWI left from Folkestone not Dover as most people believe. Di was very moved at the thought of so many millions of men walking this route many of whom would never return and she wanted to do something to honour their memory.
Di runs a company called Purl Queens and in the course of researching urban art she stumbled upon some very interesting yarn installations that originated in the USA by Texan artist Magda Sayeg in which she had had covered a whole bus in wonderful bright crochet and this inspired Di. She loves the idea of putting art outside and making it accessible to all and she had already created two projects for the local Folkestone Arts Triennial, Sea Change, yarn sea creatures and Flower Power. The latter project consisted of hundreds of knitted flowers symbolising women who suffer from domestic violence. The projects had a “tremendously positive response in the community with many people wanting to get involved in more projects”.
Di says that she knew from her research that “keepsakes were often given to soldiers that were made with love, and it was this idea that I wanted to keep alive”. Inspired by the idea of keepsakes and the yarn installation projects, just a few days before the November 11 Armistice Day ceremony she came up with a plan to knit poppies to place on the Road of Remembrance. She says that she and three other people spent a weekend knitting and crocheting poppies and created 180 yarn flowers which were placed along the route. The idea caught the imagination of all who saw it. So much so in fact, that in 2012, 1500 poppies were created by 75 people from all over the world. Di’s Purl Queens Yarn Installations Facebook page bought yarn bombing groups together for the project and even a group of ladies at a retirement home who wanted to get involved and knitted 200 poppies between them. Many people learned to knit or crochet especially for the project. Di received poppies from Normandy, Netherlands, Sweden and all over the UK. Locally she was overwhelmed by the generosity of people wanting to get involved – the youngest person to take part was eight and the oldest was 96!
The poppies were once again placed and they gave the road a “wonderful feeling when you walk or drive down it, it makes it more poignant”.
Di would like to make her idea open to everyone across the world and extend the invite to take part in next year’s events. She is especially keen to put out a call to knitters and those who crochet in France to become involved and to place poppies at the many memorial sites in France. She says that she would “love to see the photographs of beautiful poppies that people have made and placed, please do send them to me and we can make an album on Facebook … It would be wonderful if wherever there is a memorial, people in the community could get together and knit or crochet, teaching those skills to others and sharing, it really does bring the community together.”
You can get involved by knitting or crocheting poppies and placing them at memorial sites where you live or by sending them to Di to place on Folkestone’s Road of Remembrance.
If you would like to send poppies to Di to be included in next year’s installation then you can send them to: Di Burns, 104a Sandgate High St, Sandgate, Folkestone, Kent CT20 3BY.
There are patterns on the Purl Queens Yarn Installations Facebook page and Di says “If you would rather not follow a pattern you can easily crochet a black circle for three rows and then join in red and continue until your circle is about 8cm across. The beauty of the installation on the Road of Remembrance was the difference in patterns, yarns and styles.”