I thought a lot about what we should do during our final Craft Club class. How best to wrap up this strange pandemic experiment, where people from around the country – and world! – gathered online with me to learn and create things together?
During the run of Craft Club, we’ve taken on many of the crafts I’ve always wanted to try, but the list of potential projects was still very long.
Then I saw pictures of British Olympic diver Tom Daley knitting a sweater in Tokyo, and I had my answer. Daley – who shares his knitting and crochet projects on Instagram and later knitted a pouch for his Olympic gold medal – has said he took up the hobby during the pandemic, and that it became his “secret weapon,” and “a way of escaping from everything for a while.”
Of course, Daley isn’t the first high-profile knitter, nor the first to note that its effects far surpass the creation of a tuque or a pair of mittens.
Harry Styles reportedly knits to relax, and Russell Crowe to help with his anger. MMA fighter Maurice Greene “The Crochet Boss” uses crochet to calm his nerves before fights. Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling’s love of knitting has been well-documented – and inspired reams of memes. “Hey girl, I printed us each 40% off Michaels coupons,” one reads. “You can buy the bamboo knitting needles and I’ll buy the organic yarn.”
Famous knitters include Kate Middleton and Michelle Obama, who it took up while in pandemic quarantine, and has been creating clothes for Barack and their daughters.
Knitting combines two things I really love about crafting and making. One is how the effect of a creative act can be far more profound than it appears on the surface, as we’ve seen time and time again during the weeks of Craft Club.
And the second thing, which has also been a big part of this series, is how the skills and knowledge of crafting can connect us deeply to other people, and even to our own ancestors and history.
I still remember the flimsy yellow knitting needles my grandmother gave me when she attempted to teach me to knit. I was about 7 or 8, and, unfortunately, not naturally disposed to the patience and care knitting required. I made one small, wonky Barbie scarf that was so ugly I didn’t ever make my doll wear it. I tried knitting again a few years later, but the result was equally pathetic. Now, decades later, I don’t remember how to knit at all.
And so, when I thought about a good project for our final class in this series, I knew it had to be knitting. And – after Gosling’s press team repeatedly turned down my requests for him to be a guest and made it clear I shouldn’t e-mail them about it any more – I knew exactly who I wanted to teach us.
My cousin, Tarra McCannell, has had a very different experience with knitting than me. She absorbed our grandmother’s lessons and has been knitting for the past 30 years, making hundreds – likely thousands – of pieces.
She has multiple projects on her needles at any given time, and is never without her knitting. She makes things for herself, her kids, friends and family.
“It’s such a useful, very therapeutic skill to have,” she told me when we chatted on the phone the other day. We also talked about difficult times in her life, and how knitting has always helped her through.
I’ve long admired Tarra’s knitting, and I cherish the gifts she’s made for me. I’m also glad she has maintained this practice passed down by our grandmother, who died 10 years ago, almost to the exact date of our final Craft Club class.
On Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. ET, Tarra will teach us how to knit a basic striped scarf, and I’ll see if I can get anywhere with this skill that has, in past, only frustrated and eluded me.
If you are already a knitter, be sure to join us anyhow, as we talk knitting, say goodbye to The Globe and Mail Craft Club and get projects going for the weeks and months to come.
- 150-200 grams of yarn total There are several different yarn weights and types, but Tarra recommends light (3) or medium (4). Look on the label to determine the weight. All skeins you buy should be the same weight. For a striped scarf, buy two colours.
- One pair of knitting needles appropriate for your yarn’s weight On the label you will see what needle size is recommended. For example, for Cascade 220 yarn, there are 220 yards per 100 grams, and the recommended needle size is 4 to 4.5 millimetres. Buy the needle size indicated. If two sizes are given, choose one.
- One large eye needle, for weaving in the ends when you are done. Any needle will work, it just needs to have a large enough eye to fit your yarn through.