Purl jam: Finland hosts heavy metal knitting championship

The competitors of the first Heavy Metal Knitting world championship react on stage, Thursday, July 11, 2019 in Joensuu, Finland. With stage names such as ‘Woolfumes,’ ‘Bunny Bandit’ and ‘9” Needles,’ the goal was quite simple: to showcase their knitting skills whilst dancing to heavy metal music in the most outlandish way possible. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
The Japanese team Giga Body Metal react with the trophy after being crowned Heavy Metal Knitting world champions with a show featuring crazy sumo wrestlers and team-leader Manabu Kaneko dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono knitting, Thursday, July 11, 2019 in Joensuu, Finland. With stage names such as ‘Woolfumes,’ ‘Bunny Bandit’ and ‘9” Needles,’ the goal was quite simple: to showcase their knitting skills whilst dancing to heavy metal music in the most outlandish way possible. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
The Japanese team Giga Body Metal perform in the Heavy Metal Knitting world champions with a show featuring crazy sumo wrestlers and team leader Manabu Kaneko dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono knitting , Thursday, July 11, 2019 in Joensuu, Finland. With stage names such as ‘Woolfumes,’ ‘Bunny Bandit’ and ‘9” Needles,’ the goal was quite simple: to showcase their knitting skills whilst dancing to heavy metal music in the most outlandish way possible. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
Armed with needles and a yarn of wool, Natalia from Russia competes on stage in the heavy metal knitting world championship, Thursday, Jul. 11, 2019 in Joensuu, Finland. With stage names such as ‘Woolfumes,’ ‘Bunny Bandit’ and ‘9” Needles,’ the goal was quite simple: to showcase their knitting skills whilst dancing to heavy metal music in the most outlandish way possible. (AP Photo/David Keyton)

Armed with needles and a yarn of wool, teams of avid knitters danced Thursday to the deafening sounds of drums beating and guitars slashing at the first-ever Heavy Metal Knitting World Championship in eastern Finland.

With stage names such as Woolfumes, Bunny Bandit and 9” Needles, the participants shared a simple goal: to showcase their knitting skills while dancing to heavy metal music in the most outlandish way possible.

“It’s ridiculous but it’s so much fun,” said Heather McLaren, an engineering PhD student who travelled from Scotland for a shot at the “world title.” ”When I saw there was a combination of heavy metal and knitting, I thought ‘that’s my niche.’”

The competition took place in a packed square in the small town of Joensuu close to the Russian border. An eclectic group of around 200 people watched the performances, from families with young children and elderly to the less conspicuous heavy metal fans donning leather-jackets and swirling their long hair to the fast-paced rhythm of the music.

A niche musical genre in many countries, heavy metal is more mainstream in Finland, with several bands household names frequently played on the radio. Its popularity grew further in 2006 when the Finnish band Lordi won the Eurovision Song Contest dressed as monsters.

ALSO READ: Bolivian women knit themselves to prosperity

Today, Finland has the highest number of heavy metal bands per capita in the world with over 50 bands per 100,000 people. Even former U.S. President Barack Obama commented on this rich tradition while welcoming his Finnish counterpart to the White House in 2016.

“In Finland it’s very dark in the wintertime, so maybe it’s in our roots. We’re a bit melancholic, like the rhythm,” said Mark Pyykkonen, one of three people judging the competition.

While combining heavy metal music with knitting might not seem an obvious match, the organizers say it’s similar to other unusual events in Finland, such as world championships in air guitar, swamp soccer, and wife carrying — Finnish ways of goofing around and making the most of the long summer nights in these northern latitudes.

“We have such dark and long winters,” said Mari Karjalainen, one of the founders of the event. “This really gives us lots of time to plan for our short summers and come up with silly ideas.”

Thursday’s competition saw participants from nine countries, including the United States, Japan, and Russia, put on inspired performances full of theatrics, passion and drama and the jury struggled to agree upon a winner.

Finally, it was a Japanese performance by the five-person Giga Body Metal team that clinched the title with a show featuring crazy sumo wrestlers and a man dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono.

“It’s a great release,” said Elise Schut, a 35-year-old nurse from Michigan who performed with her 71-year-old mother and 64-year-old family friend, Beth Everson, who added that “knitting is such a meditative activity but now it’s energetic and heart pumping.”

After the success and fun of this first championship, the organizers announced they would repeat it next summer, adding Heavy Metal Knitting to the already long list of weird and yet hilarious Finland summer gatherings.

David Keyton, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LSS students lift each other up for Anti Bullying Day

Schools across the nation come together to unite against bullying on Feb. 26

Inked magazine cover hopeful receiving strong local voting support

Chemainus Secondary grad and Ladysmith resident a strong contender for the top prize

LSS improv teams finish second in Vancouver Island competition

GISS from Salt Spring Island will advance to the national competition

Saskia and Darrel deliver high volume of Canadian content

Songs with great storylines to be featured in Chemainus performance

VIDEO: One person treated for minor burns in Crofton fire

Firefighters were called out at 7 a.m. to a blaze at the Twin Gables Motel

VIDEO: Minister says consider coronavirus outbreak when planning for spring break

Foreign Affairs minister points to rash of new cases appearing in places like Italy and Iran

Vancouver Island RCMP officer assaulted during traffic stop

On Feb. 21, a member of the Comox Valley RCMP was assaulted… Continue reading

B.C. man who pulled a gun on off-duty cop gets two years in prison

Encounter also led police to a home where 100 guns and explosives were found

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

COLUMN: Forestry no longer close to top of B.C.’s economy

Our reactions to a forestry downturn reflect the past, not the present

Caught on camera: Police release video of man who allegedly stole seaplane in Vancouver

Police say the man broke into the Harbour Air terminal and then got into one of the seaplanes in the harbour

51 health professionals send letter to Trudeau, Horgan panning northern B.C. pipeline

They point to studies about the health and climate change risks from pipeline

Most Read