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

Surrey mayor dissolves public safety committee, creates one for police transition

Locke slams the move, saying who McCallum appoints to the committee will be ‘a very large tell’

Surrey lotto winner plans to spoil his kids

Attila Kelemen won $500K in the Daily Grand draw, held on July 8

Uphill battle for Cloverdale cyclist, 64, and her daughters in Cypress Challenge charity ride

Robyn Wells has lost both of her parents and two uncles to pancreatic cancer

South Surrey mom optimistic changes ahead for recovery homes

Maggie Plett met with Min. Judy Darcy Thursday

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

B.C.-wide police efforts identify Vancouver Island robbery suspect

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Mercury tops out on top of the world: Alert in Nunavut warmer than Victoria

It’s the latest anomaly in what’s been a long, hot summer across the Arctic

Most Read