Meet Jean Keown
Hello, I’m Jean. and I’m a Wonky helper.
Hello Jean! Can you tell us how you know Yuri, the founder of Wonky?
Well, believe it or not, I got to know Yuri 2 years ago now coming at Christmas. Yuri came to Northern Ireland as my son Thomas’s girlfriend and that was a very exciting time. During the time Yuri was with us over Christmas I really got to like her very much. Over the course of her visit I took her to see my late mum, who at that time was probably in her 95th/96th year. She was very, very interested in knitting, she knitted a lot for charities, for third world countries – mostly for children and premature babies. I think that was Yuri’s first connection with knitting, she seemed very interested in the work my Mum did and I think really it carried on from there. She visited me again a few months after that and over the course of the last two years she now has become my daughter-in-law, at the end of August when she married my son.
Very good! Well I’m going to ask you a very tricky question, you have this lovely new daughter-in-law and have you taught her any traditional Irish recipes?
Well yes, I have tried! Mmmmm I’ll not say in vain, I think she is getting there. Ehhh she tried to make apple tart, she also likes Irish stew which is a very popular Irish dinner. She loves to do buns – she has a very, very sweet tooth! She loves buns I make with mars bars and rice krispies.
A whole new recipe book for then her no doubt!
Well Jean I have seen you around the Wonky workspace. Can you tell me what you be doing when you are in there?
Well I wouldn’t really call myself a Wonky knitter, I do a wee bit of knitting, yes, but not on a big scale. I’ve got involved really by winding wool. Yuri receives her wool like this (shows a ream of wool) in kind of reams and she likes to get it put into this (holds up a nice neat ball of yarn) so the knitters have an easy time knitting. It gets tangled otherwise.
So we have this little ‘machine’ here which I use to wind the wool. I turn this handle here and feed the wool in which I have wrapped around the legs of a chair.
Yes, so this wool around the chair it comes in what?
It comes in these reams.
Then we have to try and put it in this little winder and by turning the handle like this we pull the wool round the legs of the chair and up inside the winder then it converts into the finished ball like this. We then give this to our knitters to knit the hats and the scarves. I don’t do it all as my grand daughter does a lot of this work.
What age is she?
She is 14 and she enjoys winding the wool for Yuri so she helps a lot with it.
So you’re all involved?
We’re all involved! I also help try and keep record of the hats and scarves that the ladies knit, and keep them supplied with wool.
Can you tell me why you enjoy working with Wonky?
Well firstly I enjoy it as it is going to help woman in Bolivia and Guatemala to produce some items as well. I have a love for charity as my son also worked in that field for the past 10 years and I would of helped a lot with fundraising and I think I just have a love to help people. I think that’s my main aim for it.
Jean, just before we go if people are looking at our little videos on the website they are going to think that your twin is also involved. Can you tell us what other member of your family is a great Wonky knitter?
Well my sister Elizabeth Watterson as I think maybe you’ve heard from on the website. Elizabeth is a very good knitter – probably a lot better knitter than I am! She loves knitting and she is really enjoying helping Yuri as well.