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The wheel has turned full circle to arrive here. The Mathghans project was still going on in schools across the country and one day a large parcel of navy and bright yellow yarn arrived at our door. It had been wrongly addressed and was destined for a school wanting to make an afghan in their school colours. When I contacted Mark to tell him what had happened he told me to keep it and that he would send another lot to the school. This was a thicker yarn than I would normally use so I decided to use it for a very simple project.

We realised that, although we had many small items showing our methods, we only had one afghan arrangement of half-and-half squares so this was to be another, more dramatic variation. The chunky yarn was the ideal way to get this done quickly.  The squares were arranged to look like dark spirals on a yellow background. It was called About Turn.

There are thousands of ways that these squares could be put together. We have many of these in our heads and  now we have one in reality. The ladies of Cheshire, between them, have many more.  

Earlier that year we had become involved with the ladies of Cheshire Women’s Institute. As a direct result of the MCFC event in MathsYear2000 they decided to have a new non-competitive section at their annual show. The brief was to produce an afghan based on the same booklet that was being sent out to schools.


Cheshire WI happened to have a member who we had met a few times before and who had been to workshops with us and knew exactly how we introduced the project. She volunteered to start the ball rolling and in early January set up workshops for representatives of groups from all over the county. The first of these took place one evening. Another two took place, on the next day, at the WI’s Chester headquarters. As it happened I was not working that day so, on the morning of the event, I set off to Chester to see what was happening. (I had warned them in advance that I might be there, if circumstances allowed) It was an appalling foggy, icy morning but I eventually managed to reach the Park-and-Ride car park and took a bus into the city centre. It took a little while to find the WI, who were housed in a beautiful old historic building.

There was a very large room full of ladies surrounded by balls of wool, examples that had been prepared for them and endless pieces of paper, full of geometric patterns. They were all very involved and had to assimilate the necessary information to take back to their individual groups. At lunch-time the first group of ladies left, another took their place and the process was repeated.

The rules for the ‘non-competitive competition’ were established. Each entry was to be a small afghan, or wall-hanging, no larger than one metre square, based on the idea of using squares divided diagonally into two colours. More than two colours could be used but there could be no more than two in each square. The groups were also told that they could take away their entries, after the event, to add more squares to make a full-size afghan, if they so wished. The afghans were to be displayed, in the summer, at the annual Cheshire Show so they had about four or five months to complete the project.

At that time nobody could have predicted that there would be no Cheshire Show that year but as the summer arrived many such events were cancelled due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic. The competitions had to be reorganised and it was decided that they should take place at Chester Guildhall in September. By one of those strange coincidences that seem to happen to us so often, the date fell at a time when we were on holiday from school. Unlike other parts of the country, at that time, schools here were open for the second half of August and closed for two weeks in September. This traditional holiday pattern was a relic of the cotton-weaving which had been the dominant industry of the area.  

We went to the Guildhall, which was a far better setting for the exhibition than any marquee could ever have been. We were met by the Town Crier and a lot of very excited ladies. It was the first time anyone had seen the full-scale of what had been achieved. There were over 60 afghans on display, in every pattern and colour imaginable. They made a spectacular array. We were very glad there was to be no judging. It would have been a very difficult task. To my mind there was one that stood out from the rest. It was something I would have liked to have created myself. After that there were so many that had their individual merits it would have been impossible to rate one higher than the others. Some showed a great deal of imagination, others stuck very closely to our original suggestions. Each was a triumph for the group that had created it and the ladies vied for our attention to comment on their entries. They were proud of what they had achieved and we were amazed by the outcome of a small input that had been passed on by word of mouth to a large number of ladies, many of whom would have claimed that they did not understand Geometry or any other kind of Maths. For these ladies MathsYear2000 lasted almost until the end of 2001.

Download the booklet used by the WI