Knitting: Hobby’s revival is a gripping yarn

Rosy Erib� of Eribe Knitwear. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Rosy Erib� of Eribe Knitwear. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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All over the country, a pattern has been forming. A hobby has cast a spell and can be seen on buses, in libraries – and even at Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

Once seen as the preserve of frugal grannies, people of all ages are rediscovering the joy of knitting.

It has become a trend, attracting the attention of Winona Ryder, Madonna and even Hollywood hardman Russell Crowe.

Now the craft is to be the subject of a two-day event at the National Museum of Scotland.

Wool-tastic! will spin the tale of wool and see the museum’s Hawthornden Court transformed into a woolly wonderland. Knitted board games, a woolly tree and a Fairisle chair will be among the more unusual sights at the event, which will celebrate knitting’s place in the history of British 
craftsmanship.

The two-day knitting extravaganza, part of the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival, has been set up by Eribe Knitwear in Galashiels, at which a luxury design can take as long as 90 hours to create.

“Knitting is a tradition which is still very much alive,” says the owner of Eribe Knitwear, Rosy Eribe (pictured), who hails from the Capital. “People want to get back to their roots. We aren’t being taught these skills at school any more.”

Rosy says: “In Scotland, the popular Arran style came from the island and the west coast. The Guernsey style would be found down the east coast, in places like Portobello and Pittenweem. All the men used to wear Guernsey pullovers.

“But sea and tragedy were closely linked, and pullovers were used to identify sons and husbands who had died.

“The patterns were never written down. One lady refused to give the pattern used to knit her son’s pullovers to her daughter-in-law and the pattern died with her.

“In more recent years, there was a dip in the appreciation of the hand-knit with the arrival of cheaper knitwear from China, but its popularity has started to pick up once again.

“In Italy, Germany and even Japan – where people said it would never catch on – people are learning more about the skills involved.”

As well as exploring the story of the natural yarns and the origins of the fibres used to knit, Wool-tastic! will offer people the chance to pick up a pair of knitting needles for themselves, even if it is their first time.

“We’re hoping to get young people and families interested through this event,” says Rosy. “Anyone can drop in and find out why knitting is such as great hobby.

“It’s such a social activity and it can also have health benefits – it’s even good for things like depression.

“With crochet and knitting you can travel anywhere. I was at the theatre recently and a man in front of me was knitting his socks!”

There lies one of knitting’s endearing qualities – something that caused some controversy on the social networks earlier this year during a tense Wimbledon encounter between Andy Murray and Marcos Baghdatis. While most were on the edge of their seats, one woman was caught on camera with her knitting needles – sparking a Twitter debate in which some condemned the mystery knitter for wasting her highly sought-after ticket, while others leapt to her defence.

Being able to socialise while knitting has led to a huge rise in the popularity of groups at which dyed-in-the-wool knitters and close-knit friends can get together for a chat.

Carolyn Spence, 51, who runs the Knit and Natter group at Sighthill Library, said: “We’ve had people in their 20s through to their 80s coming along to our group.

“Lately we have been knitting Olympic figures – Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Mark Spitz has proved very popular with his little Speedos.

“It’s definitely becoming more popular, you can have a catch-up and a laugh.”

It is hoped the Wool-tastic! event will showcase the versatility of knitting as craft.

Anna Freemantle, director of the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival, said: “Knitting is something that Scotland is celebrated for, but it is perhaps not something that is always seen.

“This is going to take it out of the traditional sense and look at it in a different way.”

n Wooltastic! takes place from 11am to 4pm on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19 at Hawthornden Court in the National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street.