MPs' hidden talents: Metiria Turei knits her way to a peaceful mind in Parliament

ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei reveals her hidden talent of knitting and crochet.

When MPs want to seek respite from the cacophony of Parliament, most turn to their phones.

Metiria Turei's method of coping is a little different - her weapon of choice is a pair of knitting needles.

"That whole digital distraction is really bad for the way you think...so being able to do something with your hands, rather than look at your phone, I think is much better for paying attention."

Turei picked up the knitting habit a few years ago after receiving an unusual gift from a friend.
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Turei picked up the knitting habit a few years ago after receiving an unusual gift from a friend.

The Green Party co-leader is an avid knitter, cross-stitcher and crocheter - a habit she picked up after receiving a somewhat unusual gift from a friend.

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"It says 'Don't let the bastards get you down', and it's a beautiful piece of cross-stitch, and I was very jealous of her for learning how to do it."

Turei says much of her knitting ends up being baby clothes or giant blankets.
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Turei says much of her knitting ends up being baby clothes or giant blankets.

Armed with YouTube tutorials, Turei has been honing her craft for about four years, and says the physical work provides a welcome respite from the taxing nature of her job.

"Cross-stitch at least really slows you down - in a life like ours where everything is so fast paced, that's quite nice sometimes…

"You get to make a thing, spend time thinking and do creative stuff, which in this job is pretty rare."

Baby clothes and giant blankets are among her areas of expertise, with much of her work donated to the Green Party, schools or charities for auction.

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One of her most meaningful pieces was the Dalek coffeepot cosy which she knitted during the marriage equality debate.  It fetched a whopping $500 at auction.

"It's really cool that someone would make such a big donation, but also the fact that it was pink and purple and it was all done during the marriage equality debate, I really like that one."

Turei's hobby is well within parliamentary rules; there is in fact a specific speaker's ruling on the topic, which says: "Knitting is permitted in the chamber except by a minister in charge of a bill in committee."

However, the insults hurled back and forth across the debating chamber are not always conducive to good work, she says.

"If you're listening to something and getting a bit furious, your tension gets a bit tight, so I have had to undo things that I've done in the chamber then redo them later  because they haven't fitted properly."

Turei always travels with something she can work on, and often catches the eye of passengers on airplanes as she knits away.

"There's a whole way of talking to people who love doing the same thing... it makes me more accessible to them, there's somebody they know that shares a common interest."

With one eye on the 2017 campaign trail, you'd be forgiven for thinking Turei's cross-stitch may have to go on the backburner, but she says that's when it's most important.

"Things get so crazy that taking just a little bit of downtime to do something with a different part of your brain, do something that's kind of physical and creative and give yourself a bit of a breather for thinking, it's going to be really essential."

 - Stuff

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