A knitted book launch

I love an ingenious book launch – something that engages and intrigues attendees (and passerbys!), firing up imaginations along the way.

Knitted cab cr Ian Thomas

© Ian Thomas

This is easier said than done. For one thing, you need to have produced a book that offers up relevant ideas that will garner these kinds of results. Secondly, you need to have the kind of lateral thinking that comes up with those ideas in the first place.

Safia Shah achieved this on both counts, in reams, for her rambunctious children’s book, Carnaby Street’s Great Uninvited: Around the World in 80 Years, which celebrates, endangered words, eccentricity and, um, knitting.

CarnabyStreet cr Paul Knivett

Photo © Paul Knivett

The book features a young girl called Carnaby Street who lives in Morocco with her brother Oxford, her pet aardvark Alice, ten tiny tortoises, Martin the cat, her father (who is writing a sequel to the film Casablanca) and her sun-worshipping mother. Into this world a stream of peculiar relatives begins to arrive, including knitting-mad Great Aunt Amelia.

“The stories were easy for me to write as the colourful characters are based on relatives of mine and the mad romps played out in the pages of the book are generally scenarios that actually happened in my childhood,” admits Safia. “ To give you an example of how the stories reflect real life, I live in Morocco, my twin brother has by complete coincidence written a sequel to Casablanca, I have tiny tortoises living wild in the garden and my mother is a compulsive knitter.”

CarnabyStreet-3 cr Paul Knivett

Photo © Paul Knivett

For Safia the idea for creating a car cosy, or in Safia’s case a car cosy, for the book launch made perfect sense, as that’s exactly what Great Aunt Amelia does in the book. “Once I had the idea for the car cover, I needed knitters.”

Help came in the form of Sue McBride and the Materialistics, a South Shields based knitting group known for their fearless knitting escapades.

“By collection day, they were so focused that they were still knitting flowers and ladybirds and attaching them as the taxi was driving away!”

Creations for the car cosy include incredible knitted representations for characters ranging from picnic-munching tortoises to Alice the aardvark.

“My very favourite panels must be those showing the endangered words (knitted of course). These are great words like ‘snarky’ and ‘plodging’, ‘flizzy’ and ‘brouhaha.’”

When news spread about the knitted cab, Safia was invited to take the knitted masterpiece to the Knitting and Stitching Show at the Alexandra Palace, and drove through the vibrant vehicle streets of London. “Suffice to say,” Safia comments, “this is not an easy vehicle in which to ride incognito.”

Safia Shah knitted cab cr Ian Thomas

© Ian Thomas

When the taxi arrived, it created a buzz of curiosity at the entrance to the Knitting and Stitching show, and resulted in Safia being offered masses more opportunities to publicise her writing.

“It turns out that many teachers are keen crafters, so I’ve had endless requests for taxi visits to schools, which I am more than happy to fulfil!”

Find out more about Carnaby Street’s Great Uninvited and all those endangered words at  www.carnabysuninvited.com.