Con­fes­sions of a ‘kni­ta­holic’

A woolly ob­ses­sion is sweep­ing the land. Har­riot Lane Fox is hooked

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Free Time -

My name is Har­riot and I’m a kni­ta­holic. There’s an em­bry­onic scarf in my kitchen. To­day I wasted hours mak­ing sur­plus mugs of Bovril in or­der to sneak in a few rows while the ket­tle boiled. Oh, that soft hand-dyed Welsh wool, the swishy glide of nee­dle over nee­dle.

Knit­ting lessons should carry a health warn­ing. This granny-ish pas­time is all the rage again, in case you didn’t know. Film stars click­ety-clack away be­tween takes, while young trendies are knit­ting in pubs and on the Lon­don Un­der­ground. But what no­body men­tions is how ad­dic­tive it is. Once you’ve got nee­dles and wool, and know how to use them, you’ll have an itch that’s got to be scratched.

I blame Aneeta Pa­tel. Un­til we met, I was a knit­ting in­génue with good genes – my mother makes Madame De­farge look like a slouch. I knit­ted one un­wear­able scarf un­der her tute­lage, aged 14, and lost in­ter­est. Last win­ter, I tried again.

Af­ter sev­eral dull evenings go­ing over the ba­sics, I had a mu­tant prac­tice square in acrylic, use­less even as a potholder – hardly the pre­lude to a wardrobe full of glam­orous knitwear.

In just two hours, Aneeta works mir­a­cles. Knit­ting nous pours from her. Drop­ping the right nee­dle while wind­ing the wool round the other one is not wrong, af­ter all, but fright­fully mod­ern, she says. How­ever I should be hold­ing the loose nee­dle with the fin­ger tips of my left hand rather than rest­ing it on my em­bon­point. “Every­one can knit,” says Anita. “If you’ve never done it be­fore but I see you two or three times ev­ery month, and you knit in be­tween, I see no rea­son why I couldn’t start you with socks in four months – the sort you’ll want every­one to see.”

Aneeta is the Mozart of knit­ting. She learned when she was five and now writes pat­terns and holds classes at her flat in Step­ney, east Lon­don. Pupils in­clude City lawyers, school teach­ers from Aus­tralia and young moth­ers in burkas. “You can never tell who’s go­ing to turn up,” she says.

Rather than book­ing a course, you join a class when you need one. Each les­son fo­cuses on new skills – cast­ing on, knit­ting and start­ing a new ball of wool in the first ses­sion – with a proper project, like my scarf, to prac­tise them on at home. Af­ter three lessons, you tell Aneeta what you want to achieve (Brora-es­que cash­mere cardies, of course). Tonight in her sit­ting room, with No­rah Jones play­ing in the back­ground, the at­mos­phere is part How to Make an Amer­i­can Quilt (re­mem­ber Wi­nona Ry­der at her grand­mother’s quilt­ing bee?), part se­cret meet­ing of knit­ting fun­da­men­tal­ist con­verts.

“I’m ob­sessed; I can’t stop looking at nee­dles,” says Sam, a prop­erty en­tre­pre­neur, bran­dish­ing a new pair with toad­stools on the ends. She’s only had one les­son but delves into a car­rier bag to pro­duce two beau­ti­ful scarves and a pair of baby bootees she taught her­self how to make with Aneeta’s new book for ab­so­lute be­gin­ners, Knitty Gritty, the must-have ac­ces­sory this win­ter. Sam is al­most as big an in­spi­ra­tion as Aneeta. I’m go­ing to teach my­self to cast off and make a hip­pie fringe for my scarf, and then bootees for a new nephew, a wispy shawl for Christ­mas par­ties, and those wrist warm­ers. How many mugs of Bovril is that?

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