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It’s Knit Just for Grannies

Susannah Redford explores the return of the knitting-needles.

Could 2011 be the year of the older woman? Miriam O’Reilly challenged our attitudes towards ageism when she won her employment tribunal against the BBC after being dropped from the TV show Countryfile. Latterly coinciding with this landmark case, round-neck blouses, tweed skirts that hover at a sensible mid-length and low-heeled shoes are making a comeback. Labelled “granny chic”, could it be that it is time to acknowledge that Mum does know best and that Granny got it right too?

Illustration by Jen Collins

As attitudes towards age change, it is no surprise that what was once deemed old-fashioned is now seen as retro. Knitting, once firmly in Granny’s domain, is currently being enjoyed by women (and a few men) in their 20s and 30s. As a result of this knitting renaissance, and heralded by a string of A–list stars from Cameron Diaz to Sarah Jessica Parker, knitting groups have been popping up in the UK and here in Scotland. It is so popular, it is like the new yoga. Nowadays knitting is a social affair that gives knitters a chance to be creative and express their individuality.

For Claire Knowles, craft group enthusiast, it was a chance to “meet up with friends and be inspired by what others are making”. For Clare Sherwin, a member of a knitting group, it means having access to knitting expertise “It’s a really nice feeling to be part of a group with a shared interest too. My knitting group have kept me motivated, not to mention taught me a lot about knitting.”

Budgetary constraints are not necessarily the reason people are returning to crafting. Knitting is not a cheap hobby, so perhaps this current trend is more of a backlash against mass production as well as a pride in making your own.  “I think knitwear is fashionable again—after a long period of it not being so,” says Sherwin “It’s part of the whole return to the vintage movement as well—everything old (but with a modern twist) is ‘in’ these days and I think knitting and making your own clothes is part of that.” Knowles agrees “I think people want to make their own items and to be more individual.”

It is something that wool shops have picked up on. Denise Deutsch, marketing manager for Mandors Fabric Store (which offers knitting materials in its Glasgow branch) echoes the sentiments that knitting has become popular again “It definitely has. I think it became quite cool because a lot of celebrities were doing it. People are trying to make personalised gifts.”

The scope for this creativity has increased as the technology improves. “Technology has made a lot of difference as they can now make the most amazing yarns,” says Lucy Bailey, managing director of the Edinburgh wool shop McAree Brothers. “We have one that knits up automatically into a Fair Isle pattern. Also the designs are much more trendy these days. A lot of the top brands issue patterns that imitate the catwalks. Rowan recently issued a book of pattern designs by students at the Royal College of Art in London.”

Community Knitting

For those who want to take the community spirit further how about knitting for the CoolWool project? Part of the Leith Festival taking place in Edinburgh from 10 – 19 June 2011, CoolWool is a guerrilla knitting project that aims to get people knitting woolly jumpers for the trees in Leith Links. Guerrilla knitting is a form of graffiti, decorating the urban environment with wool. CoolWool is asking those who want to get involved to knit 6” x 6” squares that will be sewed together to decorate the trees of Leith. At the end of the festival the “jumpers” will be recycled into blankets and clothing.

If you are interested in joining the CoolWool project, please contact Adele Conn on adele.conn@leithfestival.com to give her your contact information—name, address and contact number.

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