She’s got a new spell (one for Billy Bragg fans there) … and it’s – da-daaah! – knitting!
Yes, I have taken up knitting and I love it (Stephanie here, btw). It’s a revelation and my new nightly passion. I almost wish I still smoked, so I could give up with the help of knitting. Not really, but it is very diverting and fun and it seems to be helping to cut my wine consumption (a little). True, I am missing TV plot points and pretty pictures from home shows (I like that one with Caroline Quentin), because I’m not yet accomplished enough to look up from my stitches, but maybe that will come in time.
So, how it all began … Last week, in the midst of all the snow, I attended my very first knitting class at The Knitter’s Yarn in Harrogate. I’d already met and written a feature about mum-and-daughter team Sue Rutherford and Alice Bywater as part of my day job, and then Sue invited me and my friend Jenni to come and spend the day with her, at her lovely studio, learning to knit.
The Knitter’s Yarn is a relatively new online website selling knitting yarns, patterns, needles and knitting accessories and tools. The website itself is brilliant, with lots of insight and tips, and Sue and Alice also run knitting and crochet workshops from their studio, which is at Burn Bridge, on the Leeds side of Harrogate.
Sue is currently studying with the Institute of Therapeutic Craft and Creativity and is a great promoter of the therapeutic benefits of knitting as a way to create new neural pathways and regenerate the brain. Knitting, in case you didn’t know, is a bilateral rhythmic psycho-social intervention, so great for calming, distracting and helping cope with anxiety, addictions and depression. It makes your brain work hard to co-ordinate your hands knit, and helps lift mood and induce serotonin.
Then there’s the social side of it, with the opportunity to join “knit and natter” and “stitch and bitch” groups – and to take part in classes and workshops like the ones The Knitter’s Yarn runs, often with the help of an esteemed knitting teacher from Rowan Yarns at Holmfirth.
So what happened? Well, Jenni and I arrived at 10am on a Friday, shrugged off the snow and sat down at the work table in The Knitter’s Yarn’s beautiful studio and had tea and some of Sue’s gorgeous chocolate brownies. Then we got down to business.
Sue is an amazing teacher, highly experienced, and first showed us how to cast on, and then knit a variety of stitches, first as a practice and then more seriously, using some beautiful grey soft wool to make a pair of fingerless glove/mitts.
I thought I was doing well, but actually, I was being careless, going too quickly and managing to add in extra stitches, turning the oblong that was to become my glove into a semi-circular arc shape. Hmmm. Had to be abandoned, for the present.
Jenni turned out to be a complete natural, certainly more measured and patient.
Sue and Alice provided a lovely lunch of soup (vegan) and ciabatta and sandwiches. And lots of tea.
Later, we learned how to cast off – I love how you make a sort of chain edge; it’s so clever.
I didn’t do brilliantly (not like Jenni!), but Sue was so encouraging, so I didn’t feel disheartened. In fact, I continued knitting that night, and made loads of mistakes and unpicked and started again, but I kept going. And I have now knitted almost one whole side of the cushion kit I bought. The Knitter’s Yarn makes up lovely kits, with needles, yarn, pattern etc, and under its own label, sells the beautiful lambswool that renowned knitwear designer Patricia Roberts used to supply. It also stocks Erika Knight, Mrs Moon, Rowan and many others. Next year, they plan to introduce cashmere, and more yarns under their own label.
Anyway, see what I did! I love knitting, and I wish I had discovered it sooner. I’m quite happy just doing a simple garter stitch and sticking to simple patterns at the moment, but we will see.
I’m not alone in my new passion. Knitting is becoming increasingly popular, along with all crafty stuff, due to Instagram and Pinterest, where you can show off your work. It’s fast becoming a must-do among celebrities, with Cara Delevigne, Ryan Gosling, Sarah Jessica-Parker, Cameron Dias, Amanda Seyfried and Julia Roberts, all clicking away merrily.
If you go to The Knitter’s Yarn website, you can find out all about the knitting courses. Here’s what it says about the Learn to Knit course:
This is the workshop for anyone wishing to learn knitting or even for those who want to refresh previous knowledge. The aim of the day is to get you started and give you the basic knitting skills to be able to continue at your own pace after the workshop.
Learn how to cast on stitches, how to knit and purl, decrease and how to cast off. In the limited time available we hope to make a good start on a pair of cosy, fingerless mitts.
The cost of the workshop is just £55 which includes tuition, tea, coffee, light lunch (choice of sandwiches) together with materials to complete the project. However, if you can get together a group of 4 or more then the price is reduced to £50 per person – so why not learn to knit with a group of friends?
Maximum number of attendees is 8. Course runs 10.00am – 4.00pm. Visit https://theknittersyarn.com/