On Sunday, armed with needles and various bits of fabric, crafty Kentishtowners will be gathering at the Grafton for a spot of sociable knitting (and, of course, to sink a pint or two). And the emphasis is firmly on getting the blokes in your life a little bit handy with a needle.
“I like all things craft,” says sewing enthusiast and organiser Stephen Evans, “from a nice local ale at the Southampton Arms to the 1930s Arts and Crafts houses up in Dartmouth Park. But what I love most is making, mending and sewing. There’s no better word than ‘homemade’, whether it’s upcycling a t-shirt to patch up a pair of old cords, knitting a phone cover, or making a scarf from two woolly jumper sleeves.”
Sounds tricky, right? But, as Oxfam estimate that over five thousand garments are thrown into landfills every five mins, there are real planet-helping benefits as well. So, for those of you who have yet to experience the joys of darning, we cornered Stephen to pose a few starter level questions.
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I‘ve never knitted a thing. Talk me through the basics. All you need is a pair of knitting needles and suitable yarn. I get mine from the London Bead Company, (339 Kentish Town Road). To kick off, all you have to do is knot a loop about one centimetre across and put over the left hand needle. You then insert the right hand needle into it, wrap the end of the wool around it, pull through to make a second loop, which you then thread over the left hand needle, and continue. Easy! I love to use wool coloured with natural dyes. For example red cabbage gives a brilliant blue colour. I have some carding tools to card sheep’s fleece, which means drawing out the fibres from wool sourced in Totnes (this then has to be spun, but that’s another story). I’ve also made felt.
When did you first discover the joys of craft? When I was 7, a neighbour introduced me to it. I used to pass the knit on the bus to school. Some kids laughed but most were intrigued.
What are the benefits? I find it just helps me slow right down. Contemplate. It feels good. After a frenetic day of life on the street and bombardment of media images, it’s relaxing to undertake a repetitive and detailed craft activity. I find it creative, and of course it’s useful. I think the craft movement is experiencing a revival. It makes me feel connected to traditional skills and natural materials.
What’s the rest of your life like? I’m a teacher and garden designer. I have a new partner who doesn’t quite get the whole craft thing (apart from craft ale). But no, I don’t feel demasculated by being Mr Stitch-up! A real man is one who is not afraid of exploring original ideas; not afraid to express his nurturing side. I say eccentricity rules. With or without knitting needles.
What are your favourite items you’ve upcycled or knitted? I recently stitched up my best leather belt which would have otherwise been thrown away. My fave item is my wizard’s hat which I felted from naturally dyed wool. I love the way people look at me when I’m out and about wearing it. It makes a statement as all good crafty items should. Why wear high street when you can be original?
What can readers expect at the Grafton? Is it more about the beer or the knitting? Both. This Sunday is open to all: craft in all its manifestations, from ale to darning. So for goodness’ sake, come join us.
Transition Kentish Town hosts Darn it! at The Grafton this Sunday from 2-5pm. Free