It's one purler of a tradition

22:05, May 31 2013
FAMILY TIES: Knitter Joanne Doherty, right, of Eastbourne, with her granddaughter, Tomisin Doherty, 9, and daughter Alice Doherty-Jones.

Knitting clubs are the new book clubs in Wellington but it's not just the oldies picking up the needles. Chicks with Sticks is a growing phenomena in the capital. Jo Moir goes hunting for the yarn.

On a bitterly cold Friday night in Eastbourne, three generations of women are sharing a laugh over wine and cups of tea and tasting freshly boiled homemade soup, but, more importantly, they are knitting.

Playing host was Anna Wooles in her funky loft fitted with fairy lights and travel photos, and her guests are her mother's friends and their daughters.

CIRCLE OF FRIENDS: Mike Dickison says men of all ages and backgrounds were keen to join the men's knitting club he is running in Petone.

Ms Wooles' mother, Patsy, and her old school friend, Joanne Doherty, taught her and a few friends to knit.

Mrs Doherty's daughter, Alice Doherty-Jones, is a friend of Ms Wooles as a result of their mothers' bond but it wasn't long before other friends from both generations wanted a slice of the fun.

"We just started up one winter and it became something to look forward to each week," she said.


"It gives you a real sense of satisfaction, much like making a salad with vegetables from your own garden."

The group can be as big as 20 some weeks and a few are known to travel from as far afield as Masterton.

One of those visiting from Wairarapa is Tomisin Doherty, 9, the third generation in the Doherty family knitting circle. Tomisin isn't quite at the scarf or hat stage, yet, but puts her skills to good use on pom-poms.

"I'm making them for my barbie dolls. They're going to be pillows for them."

The appeal for the women is the sense of satisfaction of making something yourself, the stress relief it brings and the challenge of trying something new.

Mrs Doherty has been knitting for decades.

"My mother, Tui, was an amazing knitter and she taught me when I was about 7."

Wool shops today are quite different with the aisles full of young people.

"A big part of that is the internet and all the different ideas and patterns you can pick up there."

Mrs Doherty enjoys sharing her passion and knowledge - she once held a Chicks with Sticks session on the African plateau in Malawi and made pikelets for all the women.

"A friend and I went to visit Patsy and took over a whole heap of wool and knitting needles for the women to make clothes for their children for the winter."

Holland Road Yarn Company owner Tash Barneveld said she heard about a new knitting club every week.

"Knitting almost skipped a whole generation because I have a lot of friends whose parents never learnt to knit but now they're picking it up," she said.

"There's a whole new movement of knitting in public and people no longer thinking it's a nana hobby.

"People have even started knitting in the pub."


There's a knitting revolution in Hutt Valley and it's men who are leading the charge.

For the last five weeks Mike Dickison, a traveller at present living in Stokes Valley, has been running a sold-out men's knitting club in Petone.

A dozen men of all ages and backgrounds signed up within days of it being advertised and just as many were turned away.

"I think there's a general revival of interest in handcrafts in a retro sense with men. It's similar to people liking the idea of baking their own bread these days or learning to play the ukulele.

"Men have been labouring under societal pressures that say what they can and can't do and I think they're just getting fed up with it and starting to do their own thing."

The group has progressed from dishcloths to hats and iPhone socks and next week's project is fingerless gloves.

"We've got hipster young guys, married middle-aged men and an elderly gentleman in his 70s here to help with his therapy after suffering a couple of strokes," Mr Dickison said.

"What's interesting about men's groups is we don't all sit there talking about ourselves and I purposely didn't do any sort of introduction game when we started."

Mr Dickison started knitting just over two years ago while living in Christchurch.

"It was just before the quakes and I was talking to a friend about how I didn't have anyone to knit me socks. Her response was, 'you have arms'."

After learning the basics, he joined a women's knitting circle. When he arrived in Wellington in April he contacted the owner of Holland Road Yarn Company, Tash Barneveld, and suggested running a men's knitting club for six weeks.

"She was quite sceptical about the whole thing and thought it would be a real gamble so I said I would do it for free and just see how it went."

Mr Dickison said the group had got to know each other and enjoy the company, and would continue to meet after he left.

The Dominion Post