Archive for January 2009
Cardiff knitters are gathering across the city in coffee shops and pubs in growing numbers. I went to knitting groups Yarn and Yarn and Stitch ‘N’ Bitch to find out why the grandma of all hobbies is seeing a revival.
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You may have seen them dangling from trees, wrapped around lampposts and draped over bollards across the city.
Not your usual graffiti or lost-cat posters. Cardiff streets were overtaken by a bout of knitting during the night. As part of guerrilla project Knitta, little woollen covers, socks and quilts decorated the city last November in a bid to reclaim the streets in the name of craft. The local anonymous knitting group, currently preparing for the next take-over this January, were inspired by sites like knittaplease and wearewhatwedo. A spokesman said:
We want to make people think. It diverts your attention from your regular route, and makes you think about art and craft.
It’s just something fun really. Anyone can do it – if you can knit then you can do art. It encourages people to do some craft and maybe think about learning to knit.
The group’s enthusiasm for knitting reflects the hobby’s recent growth nationwide. John Lewis reported a 14 per cent increase in sales of haberdashery in the two weeks building up to Christmas 2008 – with six percent for wool in particular. Some put its newfound popularity down to the credit crunch. Others believe the way we think about clothes has taken full circle from the 1950s, when making your own garments was the norm and buying a luxury, to today when stores like Primark selling cheap gear are making young people cherish the idea of handmade and fair-trade clothing.
Sarah Edmonds, 22, of Monmouth, helps run Yarn and Yarn, a craft collaborative who meet fortnightly at Thé Pot, on Crwys Road and Chapter Arts Centre to share skills and knit together. “I think people maybe want to track back to traditions they feel have been lost through mass production of stuff,” she said. “It’s also being able to be a bit individual – to make something yourself and totally unique to you.”
The group, made up mainly of twenty-something’s and students, has seen a surge in newcomers each week. Miss Edmonds thinks interest is due to an increased awareness of how clothes are sourced, as well as the current financial climate. “It’s about being able to recycle and have sustainable clothing,” she said. “Knitting is something that’s sustainable because you can make things from scratch – a bit like growing your own vegetables.”
Further down City Road, in Milgi, another knitting group meets on the third Thursday of each month.
Inspired by American founder and knitting guru Debbie Stoller, Stitch ‘N’ Bitch has become a global phenomenon. The Cardiff group got together five years ago to knit and, well, have a good natter.
Sue Doragh, 25 of Roath, started coming to Stitch ‘N’ Bitch with her housemate Alice East, 24, a few weeks ago. She uses acrylic wool because it is cheaper, and as a vegan she believes using wool exploits animals. She said:
I used to knit when I was younger. Now I knit when I’m watching TV and it feels like you’re not wasting your time. I don’t like shopping on the High Street as much and I want to make my own clothes – it’s a sense of achievement and you know where it’s come from.
Jaxon Dee, 43 of Cardiff Bay, started knitting three months ago to make Christmas presents for his friends and family. He found it difficult to find modern patterns for men and so turned to the web. He joined the blog Men Who Knit to discuss new patterns and support fellow male knitters. Mr Dee said:
Some sites allow you to blog and say ‘here’s what I have done’ and put photos up. We are a worldwide-based community. Because of the advent of the Internet, a lot of unheard of knitting techniques have become known about.
The Internet has changed the way knitters work today, and is partly to thank for its rocketing popularity. Hundreds of knitting sites have appeared in cyberspace from across the globe, forming a knitting community online who share projects and ideas (check out my list of top knitting websites here).
“Online is a big advantage for knitters,” Miss Edmonds said. “You can look something up if you’re unsure of how to do it. If you forget how to cast off you can just search for it – there are hundreds of tutorials online, especially on YouTube.”
Stitch ‘N’ Bitch regulars also meet on the first Thursday of the month at Chapter and go along to Borders on the second and fourth Thursday of each month for Knit Cardiff. Joanne Terrar, who runs the group, said: “I get a lot of pleasure out of making things. I quite like the problem solving aspect of working out the patterns.”
Psychologist Betson Corkhill has been conducting research at Cardiff University on whether knitting can help beat depression. She said:
Many stories tell of the repetitive rhythmic movements enabling a meditative like state. Then there’s the reward aspect – the end product makes people feel better and raises self-esteem.
Perhaps our grandmas’ knew knitting was about more than just making Christmas jumpers. Whether for art or to relieve stress – knitting is back.
Heidi Bleach from Stitch ‘N’ Bitch talks about the therapeutic affect of knitting and newbies Pete Spinner and Becky Davies talk about how they got started.
Find your nearest knitting group:
Tips for new knitters from Joanne Terrar:
- Get yourself a pair of 4mm needles
- Get some wool – try Shawls on Crwys Road. You can use standard wool or acrylic.
- Try to get wool which is either just one strand or lots tightly wound together.
- No more than £2.50 worth can make you a good scarf.
Top two photos courtesy of knittaplease.com.
After trying to avoid making the mistake of committing to a new years resolution, I found something which I do actually want to do, a resolution of a slightly different ilk to the usual diets exercise and self gratifying lifestyle changes. I’ve decided to help my parents become more digitally literate.
Despite their rudimentary knowledge of the internet and various bits of software, they both could do with a bit of an introduction to social media to provide them with a great way of keeping up with people. This time last year I probably would shudder at the idea of my mum being on facebook, and 5, 189 other facebookers have joined the group ‘for the love of god – don’t let parents join Facebook’. But I am now putting ‘Get Mum on Facebook’ as step one of my bid to make her less scared of technology so that she too can enjoy its benefits in life.
Don Tapscott, author of Grown Up Digital, is all in favour of young people being less scorned by society as a bunch of stupid ADHD lazy morons who don’t know how to socialise face-to-face. He did a global survey to actually find out what the digital generation are like and whether they reflect this stereotype. He believes young people should engage in ‘reverse mentoring’ with their parents and elders (he has three mentors, two of which are his sons) to teach them how they can use the internet in ways that will help them and bring about more pleasure in life. Listen to an interview with him here.
Tapscott’s ideas are future looking and positive – fighting the common prejudice that youngsters glued to their computers are on a slippery road to doomsville.
It may seem odd to think of young people teaching their elders skills which may help them get a better job, keep in better touch with their friends, and keep more up to date with what’s going on in the world, but this is intrinsic to the idea of a ‘digital native’. I consider myself part of the generation who understands technology and the internet easily – purely because from a young age I learnt how to play with software and surf the internet to see the many different things it could do for me. When a gadget is put in front of me, I rarely read the instruction manual and generally will be able to find my way around it very quickly. Skip one generation above me and you’ll find the response to gadgets and gismos very different – more timid and adamant on sticking to rules and instructions. Look at the generation below, and you find children who are learning technology just as they learn a language whilst they grow – and they can teach the older generation the ins and outs of the digital language as the language itself grows and develops.
This part of the digital revolution is translated into newsrooms. The younger journalists teaching those with a wealth of experience in traditional core journalism skills but little knowledge of the opportunities for journalism online.
Jeff Jarvis thinks some online tech-savvy journalists need to engage more with others to transfer their skills. He writes:
I’ve argued for a few years now that news organizations should be training everyone – absolutely everyone – in the simple tools and gizmos of new media, for that would show journalists the possibilities and demystify technology (I used to complain that old-media journalists acted like a priesthood but the sad truth is that new media folks became their own priesthood in newsrooms, holding onto their knowledge).
It is true that social networking and media sites like Twitter can seem a bit exclusive. You get the same top media and online journalists and bloggers talking exclusively about new technology and blogging about things only the online clique would understand. This is inevitable when a group of people who are passionate about a particular topic come together. But they, more than anyone, need to make sure they are teaching others about how to use the tools they are so passionate about. The digital divide is something that scares me for when my parents are very old. One friend even recently told me she is closer to one grandmother because they email each other – where as the other grandparent writes traditional letters.
Putting Mum on Facebook will be step one. She had the same Nokia phone for years, and when she recently upgraded to a camera phone she was delighted to start to share picture messages with her friends. This year should be about getting more and more people digitally literate, while continuing to explore the possibilities for the future of the web.