Swedish Artist Who Hooked The British on Her Crochet
On December 11, 1968, Eric Clapton stepped onto a low stage inside Intertel (V.T.R. Services) Studio north of London to play a few tunes with John Lennon and Keith Richards; the occasion was the taping of “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” for the BBC. At the time, Clapton was the most revered electric guitarist in rock, even amid the incendiary ascendancy of Jimi Hendrix. A few weeks earlier, Clapton had performed his last two shows as a member of Cream at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall, and by the summer of 1969, he would team up with Steve Winwood of Traffic to form a “supergroup” called Blind Faith.
Normally, none of this would have anything to do with crochet, but on that particular December day, Clapton was wearing a brightly colored, predominantly orange crocheted jacket, in which grids of traditional granny squares on the garment’s front, back, and cuffs were paired with bold stripes of alternating colors circling up the sleeves; Clapton’s red tennis shoes and cherry-red Gibson ES-335 completed his ensemble.
Handmade for him by a 27-year-old Stockholm native named Birgitta Bjerke—who had arrived in London from New York via Athens, and sold her fashions under the label “100% Birgitta”—Clapton’s jacket reflected the anything-goes fashion ethos of London’s trendy King’s Road. That’s where Bjerke worked, hung out, and was introduced to the city’s music and fashion scenes by another Swede, Ulla Larsson, who dressed some of the biggest names in British rock from a vintage-clothing stall she managed in the Chelsea Antique Market, across the street from Carlyle Square.
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