‘Usain Bolt of knitting’ wows audience on TV debut

Jess James wowed the audience with her speed knitting on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
Jess James wowed the audience with her speed knitting on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
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A NIFTY knitter from the Capital has been hailed “the Usain Bolt of knitting” after wowing audiences on her TV debut.

Jess James earned the accolade from presenter Kirstie Allsopp after racing through a challenge on Channel 4 show Kirstie’s Handmade 
Christmas.

The down-to-earth 33-year-old from Carrick Knowe put her skills down to a 20-year dedication to her craft.

“I knit all the time, it’s always with me,” said Jess, who runs yarn shop Ginger Twist on London Road.

Jess was taught to knit by grandma Betty Sander, now 90, in her native Oregon, USA, when she was 12.

She puts her speed down to a “combined continental” technique, honed with a German friend years ago – that, and plenty of practice.

For the TV challenge, Jess took just 30 hours to knit an intricate festive jumper and less than an hour-and-a-half to make a bobble hat.

Despite her acclaimed performance, Jess admits to some pre-show nerves.

“I was totally confident at first. I picked my pattern that was a friend’s design but then everybody else panicked before the speed knit challenge.

“I thought if everybody else was nervous then I wouldn’t finish in time.”

But Jess had no cause to worry, blasting through the challenge leaving enough time to help a fellow competitor knit some pom-poms.

Jess was one of a select group of four UK knitting specialists chosen to feature on the “jumpers” episode of the series.

Judge Jade Harwood, founder of fashion brand Wool And The Gang, praised Jess for the ribbing technique in her cropped jumper.

It comprised yarn hand-dyed in her Meadowbank dye studio, just half a mile from her shop near Easter Road.

For the speed challenge, Jess produced a complex mohair bobble hat – before helping her fellow knitter who was struggling against the clock.

So committed to her craft is Jess, homemade, hand-knitted bunting adorned Portobello Town Hall at her DIY wedding last month to Dave Thomson, 34.

She founded Ginger Twist four years ago, with the business becoming renowned as Edinburgh’s only commercial hand-dyed yarn specialist.

“I was so excited to be part of this year’s show as it was such an interesting experience – the knitting challenge had me shaking in my boots as 90 minutes is not a lot of time,” she said.

“I’ve designed garments for myself in the past but had never written a formal knitting pattern with multiple sizes before.

“Not only did being on the show motivate me to make my ultimate Christmas jumper but I’ve now published my first sweater challenge called 
Vintage Winter. I actually have kits available in Ginger Twist Studios which include the wool, pattern and tote bag for those interested in recreating my Christmas jumper from the show at home.”

And Jess’ success has come as no surprise to friend and fellow knitter Cyria Scott, from Pilrig.

“She’s a determined young woman and what you see is what you get – she’s a talent,” said Cyria, 56.