I can’t believe I’ve been writing this blog for over a year without mentioning what has become a cornerstone of my life. I joined my first knitting group about 4 years ago during the winter months. Seemed like a good way to keep these gardening fingers busy while the garden was snoozing. Little did I know how much I’d benefit from the therapeutic click-clacking of needles in the warm and supportive bosom of fellow knitters.
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like drama, although god knows it seems to follow me wherever I go, so believe me when I say that the last 4 years of my life have been the worst I have ever had. My family has been hit by 3 devastating experiences during this time, each worse than the last and each changing our sense of ‘normal’ forever. We now talk about life pre- and post-disaster, like we’re in some apocalyptic screen play that has permanent billing.
There have been rainbows after the storms though, and I feel very lucky to have two amazingly supportive knitting groups to lean on. That’s not to say my non-knitting friends haven’t been equally great, I’ve just found the regularity and ‘loose connectedness’ of my knitting groups to be particularly comforting when everything else seems at sea. We meet weekly and vent, confide, advise, support and most importantly laugh, or we just sit and knit, in silence. I love the way knitting removes all the pressure to talk. It fills the pauses in conversations that most Irish people struggle with.
Most of my knitwit friends are older than me and if I’m honest I absolutely adore being one of the youngest in the group. It’s not often I can accommodate such a position so I relish it when I can. I’ve always been a ‘sensible’ person, a rule-follower if you will and there is something very liberating about employing the role of a ditzy youngster! It’s only taken me 43 years to be afforded the opportunity to do so.
Did I mention how intelligent my knitwit friends are? No? How remiss of me! I’m not one for idle chit-chat and have often struggled in groups for this reason. Our knitting conversations range from light-hearted chats about weather and holidays to contemplations on how to end homelessness in Ireland. Maybe my knitting groups are uniquely amazing, or maybe the rhythmic crafting of natural materials in this centuries-old manner is fated to heal the human spirit. If you’re interested in finding out for yourself here’s my top tips for getting started;
- The online mecca for knitters is Ravelry. It’s a great place to ask advice and find free patterns, local knitting groups and that last ball of wool you need to finish a garment! Very helpfully can search the database of patterns book by price, difficulty, colour, needles size, amount of wool, type of wool, type, rating, etc. Another good spot for advice is the Knitting and Crochet Ireland group on Facebook.
- Invest in nice fibre to knit with. If you’re going to invest time in creating something then you’ve got to enjoy it and believe me there is a world of difference in the experience of knitting with ‘bad’ wool and ‘good’ wool. If you’re starting out the Drops range is excellent value and very nice to knit with. It’s available in a lot of wool shops and it’s on sale twice a year if you want to save yourself even more money. I get mine in the only Drops Superstore in Ireland Winnies Wool Wagon in Blackrock. Here’s a link to some free patterns you can knit with Drops Yarn. There are pros and cons to all fibres, cotton garments can be heavy and cotton and bamboo can stretch in time. Cotton and bamboo wool can be prone to separating as you knit, which can frustrating and makes crochet tricky at times. Wool can be itchy on the skin and soft wool can pill really badly. Another great source of beautiful wool is The Constant Knitter on Francis Street in Dublin 8.
- Choose a fibre that suits your ethics. Personally I opt for natural fibres that are biodegradable, such as wool, cotton and bamboo. I steer clear of wool with silk in it because the silk worm is killed during the harvesting process and others like to steer clear of animal derived wool and use plant derived wool or acrylic. I’ve managed to source organic cotton in Sostrene Green stores, and Cushendale Mills – who source from Irish sheep farmers – sells 100% wool yarn, as does Yarn Vibes. In the UK Garthenor sell organic wool and Adam Curtis sell British raised and spun yarns. There’s very little in the way of recycled yarn on the market but recently the brand Wool and the Gang released an acrylic yarn made from recycled plastic bottles. You can educate yourself on the options at the ethical knitting company Knit With Attitude or check out my post on Sustainable Ethical Fibres. The podcaster and blogger Knit British is also a useful resource if you want to learn more about British wool.
- YouTube is a fantastic resource when it comes to learning the various knitting techniques, like yarn-overs, long-cast-on method etc.
- Don’t buy a load of needles until you know what you like to knit. A lot of knitters use circular needles now and I like the ones with the interchangeable tips from Knitpro, which I buy from the extremely polite staff in This is Knit in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Dublin 2. I started with the wooden ones and like using them but friends have told me that the metal ones have a finer point which is better for lighter yarn weights.
Happy knitting my friends