Sunday 24 February 2013

Beware of Crocheters Bearing Gifts…


I attempt to master a double crochet stitch.

There was a great, whispered scandal in my family when Auntie Dolly’s granddaughter rejected the wedding dress she’d crocheted for her as a surprise. It wasn’t a scaled-up version of something which might primly cover up a loo roll, rather a two-ply marvel of gossamer beauty and intricacy. At least it was to my seven-year-old eyes.

All of those Blair girls had good hands. Each one of them could make pretty much anything, but they all had their specialist areas. My grandmother Barbara was the compulsive knitter. Auntie Louie was a marvellous baker. There was always something sweetly delicious in a tin at her house. But Dolly was the crochet queen. She could, with a certain amount of accuracy, have been called Auntie Doily. She once crocheted my mother a highly-unseaworthy bikini in shimmering white and gold, sort of Ursula Andress meets the Women’s Institute.

To be fair, a surprise wedding dress isn’t high on any sane person’s wish list. Nonetheless there was much Cissie-and-Ada-esque bosom heaving and lip pursing over the tea cups when The Ungrateful Granddaughter rejected it in favour of some synthetic lace number bought from a shop. The Blair sisters’ outrage was assuaged only slightly when The Unwanted Wedding Dress won first place in the craft section of the village’s flower and vegetable show.


The tempting, colourful shelves of Knit With Attitude.

I thought of Dolly when Erika Knight’s new book, Crochet Workshop: Learn How to Crochet with 20 Inspiring Projects dropped through my door. Though I’m a keen knitter (thank you, Barbara), I’ve never mastered crochet. Along with the usual blankets, cushions and mittens, Erika’s projects include more unusual things such as bejewelled brooches, a laptop cover, a rag rug and a dog bed. It’s a very pretty book. I would say that. It’s shot by the wonderful Yuki Sugiura, who took the pictures for Gifts from the Garden and is also one of the most elegant people I’ve ever met.

The book has clear, detailed instructions for a novice like me, but I like to learn things in company if I can. My friend May Linn Bang, a fiendish Norwegian knitter, recently opened a gorgeous wool shop in Stoke Newington called Knit With Attitude. On her beautiful shelves you will find yarns of every imaginable shade and substance: lambs’ wool of course, but also alpaca, llama, bamboo, silk, hemp and milk fibre, and all carefully sourced to be eco-friendly and sustainable (this is Stoke Newington, after all).



Every month, Maya hosts Stoke Knittington in the shop, an evening to get together with fellow knitters and crocheters to make things over a glass or two of wine, bowls of crisps and lots of local gossip. I won’t be crocheting a surprise wedding dress anytime soon, but by the end of the evening I’d just about mastered a double crochet stich without bursting into tears or flames. I think Auntie Doily would have approved.


Maya knits.


Stoke Knittington nights.

Stoke Knittington meets on the second Thursday of the month, 6pm. Suggested donation, £3. 10% off yarns bought on the evening. Yarns also available mail order.

Knit With Attitude shares its space with Of Cabbages and Kings, a great source of British arts, crafts and gifts.

127 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 0PH


  1. Like the wedding dress the bikini was a work of art but not anywhere near water. Lovely post. Mum

  2. Mum, Remember the ponchos? You had a cinnamon-coloured one which we used to put around our heads and pretend it was long, red hair on rainy dressing-up box afternoons. And Barbara's green cable-knit coat? I'd love to have those now. X

  3. Such a lovely post! I was raised by a family that didn't sit down without some 'hand work' to do. Knitting, embroidery, tatting, crochet and even weaving on great floor looms and spinning were regular activities for me and my family. I loved every minute of it. I am still happiest when learning something new. I am sure your crochet work is going to be fabulous! It's in your genes!

  4. Sounds wonderful but not something that you would want to be surprised with. I'm a keen knitter and seamstress. I like embroidery and tapestry work and used to spin when my children were young and I lived in the highlands.
    My grandmother was a wow at both crochet and knitting. I showed her a picture of a crocheted coat based on the Horus hawk of ancient Egypt in a craft book. 4 weeks later I got that coat.

  5. Debs, It seems we were both raised in families where there was a firm belilef that the devil makes work for idle hands. Even my macho, rugby-playing brother is a very good embroiderer, though we won't tell any of his friends... I still find it very difficult just to sit, without anything to work on. This is why I hardly ever watch anything on television which requires the reading of subtitles.
    Selkie, I've never tried spinning but would love to. Your grandmother sounds like she was cut from the same (home-woven) cloth as mine.


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