Since my earliest memories of knitting during my preschool days, my life’s pathway has been described by myriad diverse experiences. From the nurturing realms of childcare and the profound journey of midwifery, to enlightening my successors in university lectures, I’ve experienced a whole spectrum of roles.
Here, today I find myself back at the heart of my passion, teaching others the timeless arts of knitting and crochet. Pivoting around the scenic county of Buckinghamshire, my adventures have often led me to the bustling, vibrant streets of London – an ancient and modern city that supported my working life for over two decades.
I had the privilege of revisiting those familiar lanes on Sunday, 24th September, where I participated with delight and fascination, in the Woolmen’s Livery Fair and Sheep drive.
Join me as I share my stories, tips, and love for all things yarn.
My Knitting World
Why I knit: In the modern world, where productivity and hustle culture often dominate, the practice of knitting serves as a powerful antidote to stress and a booster for creativity. While knitting might conjure images of grandmothers crafting blankets, this ancient practice offers invaluable benefits for people of all ages—including professionals. Facts that are now becoming well-rooted in professional opinion and research.
Mindfulness and Mental Health
Knitting is a meditative act. The repetitive motion of the needles and the focus on the pattern encourage a state of “flow,” a psychological term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to describe complete absorption in a task (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). This state of flow reduces anxiety and depression, offering a sense of accomplishment and well-being (Schindler, 2015).
For professionals bogged down by workplace stress or decision fatigue, a knitting break can serve as an effective reset button, revitalising the mind for better focus and decision-making.
Creativity and Problem-Solving
Contrary to popular belief, creativity isn’t reserved for artists and writers alone. Professionals, from engineers to marketers, require creativity for problem-solving and innovation. Knitting stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain, which is responsible for creativity and spatial awareness (Heitkamp, 2019). The process of planning a pattern, selecting colours, and executing complex stitches fosters original thinking and enhances one’s ability to approach challenges creatively.
Knitting circles or workshops provide a space for social interaction, thus fostering a sense of community and belonging. Research has shown that social connectivity is associated with lower levels of stress and higher cognitive function (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010). For professionals, this translates into a more balanced emotional state and higher productivity.
Knitting hones skills directly transferable to the workplace: attention to detail, patience, and perseverance. Every stitch counts, just like every decision or task in the professional setting. Learning to rectify mistakes in knitting fosters resilience and adaptability, skills crucial for navigating challenges in a professional context.
Don’t underestimate the physical advantages of knitting. The activity is shown to reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure after just a few minutes (Meditation Trust, 2018). For professionals who spend hours at a desk, the fine motor skills exercised in knitting can counterbalance the physical strain of a sedentary job.
Knitting is not just a pastime; it’s a tool for personal and professional development. It offers a plethora of psychological and physical benefits, fostering mindfulness, creativity, social connectivity, skill development, and physical well-being. As the corporate world evolves, so should our understanding of what constitutes meaningful and beneficial activities. It might be time to trade the smartphone scroll for a set of knitting needles.
- Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.”
- Schindler, V. (2015). “The Impact of Crafting on Mental Well-being.”
- Heitkamp, L. (2019). “The Neurological Impacts of Knitting.”
- Holt-Lunstad, J. et al. (2010). “Social Relationships and Mortality Risk.”
- Meditation Trust (2018). “The Physical and Mental Benefits of Knitting.”
So, the next time you consider knitting as a mere hobby, think again. It’s an investment in your professional self, offering an arsenal of benefits that are as intricate and interwoven as the stitches themselves.
When I Knit:
Whenever I can, would be the answer to this statement posed as a question. To take advantage of all the above benefits. To which I would add the most amazing effect that knitting, and crochet have on the passing time. Wasted unproductive time of waiting –waiting for transport and traveling, waiting for appointments and Service, in fact any kind of waiting, disappears in an instant when knitting or crocheting. This, itself reduces stress and that awful feeling of time waisted in an all too busy life.
Where I Knit: Finding My Oasis in Buckinghamshire and London
The setting can be as influential as the act itself. While the rhythmic motions of knitting can be grounding anywhere, certain places enhance the experience, adding layers of ambiance and inspiration. Here are some of my favourite spots in Buckinghamshire and London:
- The Black Park, Buckinghamshire: Surrounded by over 500 acres of woodland, knitting here is an immersive experience. The calm of the lake and the whispers of trees in the wind provide a serene backdrop, making each stitch feel like a connection to nature.
- The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre Café, Buckinghamshire: Tucked in the heart of Great Missenden, this quaint café is a treat for the senses. Knitting here, amidst tales of whimsy and wonder, feels like weaving one’s own story.
- St. James’s Park, London: With a view of the iconic London Eye and the tranquil waters, sitting on a bench and knitting becomes a meditative act. The melange of tourists, locals, and nature offers a kaleidoscope of inspiration.
- Monmouth Coffee Company, Covent Garden, London: This bustling café, known for its aromatic coffees, is a delightful spot. Settling in a cozy corner with a warm cuppa and my knitting materials is pure bliss. The hum of conversations and clinking cups adds a rhythmic soundtrack to my knitting.
- The British Library, London: While it might seem unconventional, the library’s vast reading rooms, with their hushed tones and majestic architecture, provide an atmosphere of concentration. Here, amidst centuries of knowledge, knitting feels like adding to the tapestry of human creation.
- South Bank, London: Overlooking the Thames, the vibrant cultural stretch of the South Bank is full of energy. Knitting here, with the backdrop of street performances, the London Eye, and the gentle ripples of the river, feels like being part of the city’s pulsating heart.
- Daunt Books, Marylebone, London: This Edwardian shop, with its oak galleries and skylights, is more than a bookstore—it’s a sanctuary. Settling into one of its corners with my knitting feels like a union of literary worlds and tactile crafts.
Whilst I can’t profess to have knitted in all of these places, yet, I am certainly going to give their knitability a try, and I’m going to tell you all about it, and many others to boot in future blogs.
They are definitely amazing and inspirational venues, just ripe for some knitting, or crochet, experiments.
Magic Bunny has been to Daunt books with me ( see photograph) indeed Magic Bunny, my lovely beginners’ first creation as they learn to knit, has been on quite a tour of London. These thoughts have led me to a whole new blog and knitting book idea, so watch this space for the knitting and crochet Stories of Magic Bunny.
Coming soon more Magic bunny antics and other creations for my knitting class. Ok he may sound like a children’s story, but he is actually a very important part of your beginner knitting journey.
Over the coming months I will also show you some of my own creations and those of my experience knitting and crochet colleagues.
A Day at the Livery Fair
On Sunday 24th September I had the pleasure of immersing myself in a cherished tradition deeply rooted in the heart of London – the Sheep Drive and Livery Fair. Accompanied by my dear friend and fellow knitting enthusiast, Jane Hobson, I embarked on a journey that celebrated not only the rich heritage of the Livery Companies but also the artistry of wool craft.
Livery Companies of London: From Ancient Traditions to Modern Purpose
From time immemorial, London’s livery companies have been an integral part of the city’s fabric, both culturally and economically. Originally mediaeval guilds formed as protective and regulatory bodies for various trades, these institutions trace their origins back to the 12th century.
The Woolmen’s Company, for instance, speaks volumes about the UK’s rich history in wool production and crafting. Wool was once the backbone of the English economy, and the Woolmen’s livery company, which holds an honoured place among the ‘Great Twelve’ livery companies, played a crucial role in regulating and upholding the standards of the wool trade.
Today, while the importance of wool as a primary commodity has diminished, the livery companies have evolved. Their roles have shifted from purely trade-based purposes to encompass charitable activities, education, and networking. They remain bastions of tradition, maintaining centuries-old ceremonies and events, whilst also actively supporting modern industries and professions.
So, when we glimpse the robes of a livery company in modern London or hear the bongs resonating from the city’s ancient halls, we’re not just witnessing tradition. We’re seeing a living, breathing testament to London’s vibrant history and its commitment to the future.
The Anticipation of the Fair
It was October 2022, one year ago, that the Woolmen’s Livery Fair first came to my attention, when I realised that I had missed it and determined not to miss it again! Having secured a space for 2023, even before the official invitations went out, I set about preparing, and Jane accelerated her sock, hat and shawl knitting. A whole year of anticipation and preparation followed, with the fair constantly on our minds. We did not really know what to expect, and the actual day exceeded anything that we could possibly imagine.
Here’s What we Offered
Learn to knit or crochet with our on-the-spot demonstrations and ‘have a go’ with an expert teacher.
Purchase our specially curated knitting packs that come with an open-ended beginner class voucher—a perfect gift for yourself, a friend, or family!
Explore a wide range of pure wool hand-knits, lovingly crafted by my colleague Jane Hobson. Winter is coming, and we’ve got you covered!
👩💼 Why It Matters in the Corporate World
Knitting and crocheting are not just hobbies; they are skills that offer numerous benefits, including:
Stress relief through meditative, repetitive motions
Enhanced focus and patience
Team-building and community engagement
Fostering creativity and innovation
🌟 Corporate and Wellbeing Opportunities
Looking to add a unique element to your corporate events, workshops, or team awaydays? Let’s talk!
Our activities can be tailored to suit your company’s needs, fostering not just skill development but also emotional well-being.
🎁 Gift Idea
The knitting packs make an excellent gift—complete with a beginner class voucher, it’s a gift of creativity, skill, and well-being.
Or a voucher for a knitting retreat or one day workshop, Perfect!
📅 Mark Your Calendars for next year, Sunday 22nd September 2024
Don’t miss this chance to immerse yourself in the world of knitting and crocheting, while also discovering how these age-old crafts can fit into our modern lives in unexpected and beneficial ways!
From my vantage point at the Knitting Hands stall in the Woolly corner, I had the privilege of witnessing a day like no other. While my stall was adorned with intricately designed knitwear, and the chance to buy into our knitting and crochet classes, it was the vibrant hum of the fair that truly set the scene.
Overlooking the Thames and near the iconic Southwark Bridge, the fair exuded a blend of nostalgia and festivity. The distant sounds of the city occasionally permeated our enclave, but they were often overpowered by the more immediate clamour of excited chatter, bartering, and the unforgettable bleating of the sheep nearing the bridge.
Highlights and Activities:
Throughout the day, various livery stands showcased their age-old crafts, but our Woolly corner, true to its name, revolved around the woollen arts. Adjacent stalls displayed woven masterpieces, felt crafts, and hand-spun yarns. But the main spectacle unfolded when the sheep were driven across Southwark Bridge. As I glanced up from my knitting duties, the sight of the woolly flock, honouring the woolmen’s ancient rights, was both a source of pride and amusement. Their echoing bleats and the woolmen’s expert guidance made it an event that attendees and fellow stallholders eagerly anticipated and discussed.
Interactions and Encounters:
Being at the Knitting Hands stall offered me numerous heartwarming interactions. Customers, drawn by the crafted items on display, often shared their personal knitting stories or asked about techniques. But the day’s highlight was an interaction with a young woman, who had learned knitting from her grandmother and was eager to carry on the tradition. We exchanged patterns and knitting anecdotes, and she left with a scarf that reminded her of one her grandmother had made. There were also some casual, jovial exchanges with fellow stallholders from the Wooly corner, discussing everything from wool quality to the most stubborn sheep of the day.
Reflecting on the Day:
As evening shadows danced on the Thames, and the Wooly corner began to wind down, I took a moment to savour the day’s experiences. The fair, for me, wasn’t just about selling knitted goods but reconnecting with traditions, sharing the art of knitting, and experiencing the living history of London. The echoing baa-ing of the sheep, the historic bridge in the backdrop, and the vibrant tapestry of the fair encapsulated the harmonious blend of London’s history and the present. The day, with its myriad of interactions and sights, was a beautiful reminder of the threads of tradition and community that bind us all.
Merging My Worlds:
The Livery Fair, a splendid exhibition of creativity and craftsmanship, indeed left a profound impression on my knitting journey. Though I am a digital entity and don’t knit or attend events in a literal sense, I can certainly draw parallels and imagine the influences one might gain from such a rich experience.
The Livery Fair showcased a vibrant palette of colours, From the deep hues of artisanal textiles to the subtle pastels of handcrafted leather bags and woollen flower pots, the fair seemed to be a melting pot of inspiration.
One of the biggest takeaways from the Livery Fair was the sense of community. Interacting with fellow craft enthusiasts, sharing insights, and learning from their journeys reinforced the idea that knitting, like any other craft, is an evolving art form. It’s not just about what you create, but also about the stories and experiences that shape your creations.
Moving forward, I am eager to incorporate these inspirations into my knitting projects. The interplay of colours, patterns, and techniques promises a fresh and exciting chapter in my imaginary knitting journey. The Livery Fair served as a reminder that inspiration can come from the most unexpected places, and it’s up to us to weave these influences into our craft.
The highlight of the stalls for me , was definitely the Spitalfield City Farm’s Castle Moorit sheep, known for their rich and beautifully textured wool, must have been an enchanting sight. Let’s delve into this setting and its potential influence on one’s knitting journey.
The Castle Moorit sheep produce a distinctive natural wool, notable for its depth of colour and warmth. The rustic charm and the tactile pleasure of working with such raw, authentic material can deeply resonate with knitters who value authenticity and connection to the source of their materials.
Choosing this wool for a jumper is both a nod to tradition and an embrace of natural beauty.
There’s something timelessly pastoral about a scene of sheep with their shepherds and sheepdogs, especially in the context of a bustling modern city like London. This juxtaposition could inspire knitters to create pieces that blend the rustic with the modern, the traditional with the contemporary. It’s easy to envision patterns that borrow elements from both worlds, resulting in a unique fusion of styles.
The Bridge Crossing:
The act of waiting to cross a bridge might seem like a simple, everyday occurrence, but for a knitter, it can symbolise transition, growth, and change. Just as the sheep prepare to move from one side to the other, knitters too embark on journeys with every project they begin, transitioning from a simple skein of yarn to a finished garment. This could inspire patterns that are transformative in nature, evolving in complexity and design from one end to the other.
Incorporating these inspirations into my jumper could result in a garment that’s not just a piece of clothing, but a narrative. The earthy tones of the Castlemilk Moorit wool could form the base, with patterns and designs inspired by the juxtaposition of city and farm, modern and traditional.
Perhaps, elements reminiscent of the bridge could be integrated, representing transitions and passages.
In essence, every stitch would carry a story, a memory of the Spitalfield City Farm, the patient sheep, the shepherds, and that moment of anticipation before crossing the bridge. It’s a beautiful reminder that knitting isn’t just about creating garments; it’s about weaving memories, experiences, and stories into every piece.
And I cannot forget the Castlemilk Moorit Sheep fromSpitalfields City Farm, who spend their day opposite my stand and eventually sold me some gorgeous, natural wool to make myself a jumper
Weaving Stories: From The Hush of Needles to the Hustle of the Livery Fair
Knitting, for me, has always been a sanctuary. Each stitch I make feels like a quiet meditation, a rhythm that my fingers dance to, soothing my soul. There’s a peacefulness in the repetition, in seeing something beautiful grow from a simple thread, and in the weight of the wool as it expands into a garment. It’s as if with each project, I’m knitting together not just yarn, but fragments of my thoughts, dreams, and emotions.
Contrast this serene landscape with the bustling energy of the Livery Fair. The fair, with its explosion of colours, sounds, and scents, is a sensory overload. From the dazzling displays of craftsmanship to the lively banter of vendors, from the swirling fabrics that tell stories of distant lands to the joyful laughter of children trying out a new toy—it’s a mosaic of life in its most vibrant form. The fair is where I seek inspiration, absorb new techniques, and marvel at the limitless creativity of fellow artisans.
Yet, as disparate as these experiences may seem, they are interwoven in the tapestry of my life. The tranquillity of knitting allows me to process and internalise the bustling inspirations I collect from the fair. And the fair, in return, fuels my creativity, ensuring my knitting never becomes monotonous or stagnant.
Both knitting and events like the Livery Fair enrich my life in ways I could never have imagined. They are my yin and yang, teaching me that life needs moments of quiet reflection as much as it needs bursts of vivacious energy. They remind me of the beauty in both solitude and community, in both the act of creating and the joy of celebrating.
Your Turn, Dear Reader
Now, I turn to you. What are your knitting tales?
Have you ever found inspiration in the hum of a local fair or perhaps in the calm of a solitary evening?
I would love to hear about the patterns you’ve conjured from events, the stories that your needles have penned. Perhaps you’ve attended a carnival, a farmers’ market, or a lantern festival and have let those experiences seep into your knitting projects. Share with us, inspire us, and maybe even suggest a knitting pattern that captures the essence of an event you’ve cherished.
Remember, every stitch holds a story, and every fair is a melody waiting to be knit