Kensal Library’s weekly Crochet/Knit group

Kensal Library’s weekly Crochet/Knit group were delighted to be interviewed for our blog and very eager to show off their beautiful handiwork.

So amongst all the thread, needles, fabrics and the odd packet of biscuits we settled down to have a chat and examine the knitting and crochet work.

They all agreed that the best thing about the group was the friendships they had made and the social aspect, of meeting together and having a general chat, almost like receiving therapy! The entire group look forward to Mondays.

You can join the group at any level so you don’t need to be a pro or a beginner just come along and try it out and Tuula Petitlo the tutor will guide and assist you.

As one member Elizabeth said –“I learned how to cross stitch here and Tuula has been very good, teaching me how to progress”.

Tuula also took part in a successful family workshop at North Kensington Library in January; Harry Potter Hogwarts Scarf Knitting where Tuula taught some basic knitting stitches to some very excited children.

Faith Ndirangu who works with ‘Healthier life 4 you’ who help and administer the crochet and knit group explains that the sessions often include health visits from professionals e.g. Stop Smoking and Healthy Eating.

The group have also showcased their work at events like the Golborne Festival, the Portobello Christmas Fete, at St Charles Hospital and the Age UK Health Fair at Kensington Town Hall.

So if you want to join a fun friendly group and learn something new then this could be the one for you!

  • Crochet/Knit – Mondays 1pm to 3pm,  Kensal Library

We have lots of books at Kensal Library and in our catalogue, to help you learn or improve your crocheting and knitting techniques.


By Natasha Chaoui
Senior Customer Services Assistant, Kensal Library


Knitting – The Beautiful Game?

OK, so knitting is not strictly a game more of a hobby. Saying that it is something that is done in your spare time, a skill that can be improved on and with lots of perseverance and imagination great things can be achieved.

I myself am an avid knitter and have been knitting on and off for many years…I won’t say how many, but more than four and less than 100.

Previously I wrote a piece on knitting, this time round I hope to elaborate more on the history of the craft. Hopefully it will inspire someone, who may have a glimmer of interest, to take it up.

Interesting facts about knitting

When I started writing this section, I thought it would be difficult to create this list, actually it was quite easy. I thought back to when I first started knitting and my hobby turned from an interest into an obsession. I collected hundreds of magazines for patterns from all decades. Along the way I learnt a lot about knitting and the people who knit, I thought I would share some of this with you.

Books of hand and traditional knitting
Books of hand and traditional knitting from our Costume collection

Below I have just touched on five things I found interesting about knitting, more indepth research can be done if I you find this interesting. At Chelsea Library we have many books in our Costume Collection, dating back many decades on the fashion, techniques and history of knitting.

1- It’s older than you think

One of the earliest known examples of knitting occurred in ancient Egypt around 400AD. Where members of the Christian sect known as Copts knitted sandal socks, bags and dolls.

Romano-Egyptian socks, made by nalbinding (Fifth century)
Romano-Egyptian socks, made by nalbinding (Fifth century)

Older examples of nalbinding which has often been confused with knitting, have been found including the famous Dura-Europos fragments, which is considered by many to be the oldest example of knitting in existence. Found in the Indus River Valley and dating back several thousand years, it is listed in many books and the original dig report as knitting.

Nalbinding fragment from Dura-Europos, Syria, dated to AD 256
Nalbinding fragment from Dura-Europos, Syria, dated to AD 256

2 – Do you know your knit from your purl?

All knitting consists of just two stitches?
Yes that’s right, all knitted garments, whether they are cabled, lace, or contain blocks of colour are all created using just the knit and purl stitch. Therefore if you can knit (and purl) you can create anything.

There are hundreds of knitting stitch patterns, which many may find daunting, but once the basics are mastered, the world as they say is your woollen oyster.

Knitted oyster, complete with pearl
Knitted oyster, complete with pearl, from the Captain Cook Memorial Museum

Knitting stitch patterns, or combinations of knitting stitches, are a wonderful way to expand your knitting skills. There are hundreds of ways to combine just knits and purls to form different designs. They have been in use since people first began to knit. All knitting uses stitch patterns…even garter stitch (only knitting) is considered to be a stitch pattern.

We have many books on knitting and stitch patterns in our library catalogue.

Books on knitting techniques and stitch patterns
Books on knitting techniques and stitch patterns

3 – Men are doing it too

Contrary to popular prejudice, men knitting used to be commonplace and was not exclusively a female occupation. Originally a male-only occupation, the first knitting trade guild was started in Paris in 1527. With the invention of the knitting machine, however, knitting “by hand” became a useful but non-essential craft. Similar to quilting, spinning, and needlepoint, knitting became a leisure activity.

In the Yorkshire Dales until the nineteenth century men and women alike knitted stockings as they walked about, which then sold for £2 a pair.

Edward Llwyd of Bala, photgraphed around 1875, believed to be on eof the last of the local stocking-knitters
Edward Llwyd of Bala, photgraphed around 1875, believed to be one of the last of the local stocking-knitters

Knitting for the troops
In a piece about the Knitting for Britain, knitting project written by Clinton W Trowbridge for the Christian Science Monitor in 1997. He tells a wonderful story of American schoolboys knitting squares to sew into blankets for British troops during World War Two.It highlights the normality of men knitting.

“…at boarding schools during World War II, however, everyone knitted – including the headmaster, the teachers, and the whole football team. We knitted 9-inch squares, which somebody else sewed together to make blankets and scarves for British soldiers…”

And once the boys had learned how to knit…

“…good many of us took up knitting seriously and made socks, sweaters, and woollen hats. We would knit in bed after lights out and, some of us, even more surreptitiously, in chapel.”

The project was seen by the boys as something of an escape from more serious work, but…

“… no one ever thought it odd that a school of 200 boys should be busily whiling away the hours in such an activity”.

4 – Tribal Markings

The guernsey or gansey came into being as a garment for fishermen who required a warm, hard wearing, yet comfortable item of clothing that would resist the sea spray. The hard twist given to the tightly packed wool fibres in the spinning process and the tightly knitted stitches, produced a finish that would “turn water” and is capable of repelling rain and spray.

Knitting on the quayside, Great Yarmouth
Knitting on the quayside, Great Yarmouth

It has also been said that the guernsey or gansey jumper patterns were for regional or local identification. It is said that the county, parish, or township of a sailor or a fisherman could be identified by his jumper pattern. Additionally, the wearer’s initials were traditionally knitted into the bottom of the garment, which would have been a far better indication of identity than the stitching pattern and also aid its return if a gansey was lost or stolen.

Inverness Guernsey, knitted in aran wool. A thick guernsey with an all over pattern on back and front, including flag and bar patterns on the body with chevron, diamond and double moss stitch panels on the yoke.
Inverness Guernsey, knitted in aran wool. A thick guernsey with an all over pattern on back and front, including flag and bar patterns on the body with chevron, diamond and double moss stitch panels on the yoke.

Each part of the design had a specific meaning. The rib at the top of the sleeve is said to represent a sailing ship’s rope ladder in the rigging, the raised seam across the shoulder a rope, and the garter stitch panel waves breaking upon the beach. Twenty-four principal patterns have been identified in Cornwall alone, each one again drawing inspiration from ropes, chains, waves, nets and sand-prints.

Pike fishing crew wearing plain working ganseys
Pike fishing crew wearing plain working ganseys

Worn as a source of pride and often knitted by prospective wives “to show the industrious nature of the woman he was about to marry”, the “finer” guernsey was more elaborately patterned than its working cousin. With the advent of the machine-knitted guernsey and the decline in the knitting industry, this type of elaborately knitted guernsey is a much rarer sight.

5 – Famous knitters

The original one, not the singer. Yes that’s true, The Virgin Mary knitted as we can see below.

Our Lady knitting, c 1325-75?
Our Lady knitting, c 1325-75

When you give this some thought it is not that surprising, what mother would not want to knit for her newborn? Below we can see Mary presenting Jesus with the finished garment.

Madonna and child, painted before 1400
Madonna and child, painted before 1400

Lord Kitchener

Your country needs you to sew up a sock.

Lord Kitchener, Your Country Needs You
Lord Kitchener, Your Country Needs You

The kitchener stitch, also called grafting or weaving, is the favourite knitting method for creating an invisible seam. It’s most used for closing the toes of socks, but can be used on other seams as long as the garment is not too bulky.

During the First World War the Red Cross held a campaign to encourage British, American and Canadian women to knit various ‘comforts’ for British troops, such as hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and socks.

Hand knitted socks with the seam running around the toes
Hand knitted socks with the seam running around the toes

Lord Kitchener, the British secretary of state for war, is said to have contributed his own sock design to the campaign. The design included an invisible grafted toe seam which made the socks more comfortable to wear, as the knitted sock patterns of the day used a seam up the toe, which could rub uncomfortably.

This finishing technique later became known as the Kitchener stitch.

Sex and the Knitty

Over the years many actors and actresses have picked up the needles, from Doris Day, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and more recently serveral members of the cast of Sex and The City. While on the set Sarah Jessica Parker was heard to have said : “On the set of a movie. I could not think of a better way to pass the time between scenes…”

Sarah Jessica Parker knitting
Sarah Jessica Parker knitting
Kirsten Davis, on the set of Sex and the City knitting
Kirsten Davis, on the set of Sex and the City knitting

World record holder

The current holder of the Guinness World Record for Knitting with the Largest Knitting Needles is Julia Hopson of Penzance in Cornwall.

Guiness World Record kntting
Guiness World Record kntting

Julia knitted a square of ten stitches and ten rows in stockinette stitch using knitting needles that were 6.5 centimeters in diameter and 3.5 meters long.


If I have piqued your interest and you would love to learn more, why not join the groups that are hosted at our sister libraries of Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries:

If you think you know something that is more interesting than I’ve listed, please feel free to post a comment and let us know. I may use it in my next blog.

Charmaigne Powell
Charmaigne Powell

Charmaigne Powell