Don't just hang up your Christmas stocking this year, knit it first

by Super User
By Jessica Salter Telegraph Newspaper: While I was pregnant, I had this image of myself once the baby had arrived – sitting in my lounge, fire roaring, knitting baby clothes while the baby napped. Needless to say, this didn’t happen. I don’t have a fire, I haven’t knitted since my granny taught me when I was seven, and my baby didn’t nap without me pushing her in her buggy. But now she’s a year old – practically a grown-up – I feel like I suddenly have free time compared with those all-consuming newborn days. And so for Christmas, to have a stab at realising my The Good Life dream, I want to hand-make her a stocking. I just need to relearn to knit…“Don’t worry, it’s like riding a bike,” says Jade Harwood, 32, co-founder and creative director of Wool and the Gang, a ridiculously cool company whose core business is selling knitting kits, including patterns written in plain English, rather than the cryptic language of traditional patterns. She also advocates luxury chunky wool sourced from Peru in bright, Instagram-friendly colours and big, thick needles. Her customers range in age from seven to 70, but the core fan base is 25-35, most of whom hadn’t knitted before when the company launched nearly 10 years ago, but who are now seasoned pros. The model Cara Delevingne was an early fan and supporter of the Gang. They also do collaborations with designers such as Giles Deacon and Christopher Raeburn, and brands including Whistles and & Other Stories. Their latest partnership is with Vivienne Westwood to launch an eco, recycled wool with profits going to Friends of the Earth. Harwood, like me, was taught by her granny when she was seven but, unlike me, kept it up. “I became a real knitting nerd,” she says, “even throughout my teens.” She studied fashion textiles at Central Saint Martins, where she met Aurelie Popper. They went on to do internships at Alexander McQueen and Balmain in Paris, before co-founding, along with Swiss model Lisa Sabrier who was equally enthralled with knitting, Wool and the Gang in 2008, when Harwood was 23. “It started with the yarn,” she explains. “We knew we wanted to source responsibly – sustainable fashion is really important to us – so we went to Peru and found an amazing supplier.” They chose chunky wool – they brand this “crazy sexy wool” – because “it’s easier and faster to knit with”, so that their millennial customers, used to instant results, would have something tangible in about an hour (like a hat). Along with the instructions that come with the kits, there are video tutorials on the website showing how to cast on, do the basic stitches and change a ball of yarn. But I don’t need them as I have Harwood in person, ball of wool in hand, showing me how to tie a slip knot: the first step of my stocking and revitalised knitting career. It takes me a few goes to get the long-tail cast-on technique nailed, but I get it, and then I’m ready to knit. She’s right – it does seem to come back to me quickly, and pretty soon my needles are flying. For this pattern I need to learn stocking stitch – one row knit stitch, one row purl stitch – for the body, and a rib stitch for the cuff of the stocking. When she’s confident I’ve got it, Harwood picks up her own knitting: “I always like to have knitting in my hands,” she says. “I do it on the bus, I do it watching telly. I can’t watch Netflix without knitting.” The kits are fantastically popular: the team are selling around 4,000 a month, with Lil’ Snood, a cosy-looking loop knit scarf, costing £25 as their most popular, although a tunic jumper (which sells for £42) is close behind. Harwood says her customers report that their new-found love of knitting forces them to put down their phones and concentrate on something else in their hands. They like creating something physical in an online world. “I personally find it quite meditative,” she says. “I’m a confident knitter, but what I love doing is simple things like squares – a lot of friends are having babies now, so I’m making a lot of blankets. It means I can totally switch off.” While it’s a great solo activity, knitting also fosters a sense of community. Wool and the Gang have sporadic knitting parties, where their customers meet up, but most of the interaction is done through sharing pictures of their creations on Instagram, where they have more than 160,000 followers. I can well understand the impulse to Insta-brag. I’ve had an expert watching over me – even unravelling row fours of knitting when she spotted that I’d somehow gone the wrong way and created a hole – but there’s something exciting about seeing a ball of wool transform into my present. Harwood shows me how to seam up the edges and – ta-da! – it’s ready to hang on the baby’s cot on Christmas Eve. And I leave with balls of wool – I can’t wait to start my next project.

Leave your comments


  • No comments found