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.

Just Posted

B.C. First Nation Chief Ed John faces historic sex charges

John served as minister for children and families under then-premier Ujjah Dosanjh

Cullen gets $89,000 in post-MP severance

At 55, the former MP will also be eligible for an $82,000 per annum pension

Carol Young, an artist who fought for timely cancer treatment in Abbotsford, dies before first solo show

B.C. Haida artist’s exhibit to open Saturday at downtown Seattle gallery

PHOTOS: Masset Remembers

Veterans, the Legion, the RCMP and the town came out to honour all those who have bravely served

Freezing rain warning issued for central Interior Remembrance Day

Highway alerts in place for Begbie Summitt and Pine Pass

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference draws fire over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

‘It’s been 12 years’: Father of murdered B.C. real estate agent pleads for mayor’s help

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008 in Saanich. Her case is unsolved.

Most Read