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'Even looking at a knitting pattern is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat... Aran is by far the most terrifying'

Roisin Gorman's OPEN LETTER... on Olympic knitting


British Olympian Tom Daley knits at the Games in Tokyo

British Olympian Tom Daley knits at the Games in Tokyo

British Olympian Tom Daley knits at the Games in Tokyo

One famous man gets his knitting out and it’s the pathway to inner peace.

A million women click away for a lifetime and it’s a niche hobby.

When British Olympic diver Tom Daley passed his time poolside at the recent games by knitting away at a doggy jumper, the question from the unenlightened was: why is a man knitting?

The world hadn’t lost its mind over a piece of knitwear so dramatically since Harry Styles went on stage last year in a patchwork cardie by Northern Ireland designer JW Anderson, who promptly released the pattern, and thanked people for copying his work. Knitting has that effect on people.

As mindful activities go, it’s credited with aiding concentration, providing a distraction, slowing the heartbeat, and generally calming the clamour of everyday life.

The internet is full of books about its virtues, including Slow Knitting and my favourite, Knitting for Anarchists, which largely come with Mills & Boon soft-focus covers which scream ‘female market’. Isn’t there a demand for Combat Crocheting for Angry Crafters or Pompom Making for the Mildly Annoyed?

There is yarn bombing, but it’s much gentler than the name suggests, with anonymous crafters adorning public places with beautiful knitting as street art.

When men admit to knitting it’s for health reasons like their mental wellbeing, or Russell Crowe who went full macho and took it up as a form of anger management. It seems counter-intuitive to give a hot-tempered man two big pointy things, but Russell says it works, and who’s going to argue with him?

Meryl Streep fessed up to knitting to get through the humdrum of domestic life, which has more of the embroidery ring of real life.

But it shouldn’t take a Tom Daley moment to recognise that knitting is a form of alchemy, a secret sect of superior beings who can turn a ball of wool into clothes. And crocheting is clearly the work of some supreme deity where one hook can create entire blankets.

Even looking at a knitting pattern is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat or take me back to a physics exam where there were many words and numbers on the page but none of them made any sense, and certainly didn’t turn into any jumpers.

The most terrifying ones are the Aran patterns which require extra knitting needles and degree level deciphering skills which would make a wee boy of Russell Crowe.

Growing up I was in awe of the blurred fingers of knitters around me who could plain and purl without having to look, and probably made the dinner at the same time. I was also traumatised by the hand-knitted jumpers which were so tight I can still feel my head stuck in the neckline, but when you can’t do it yourself, you can’t complain.

My knitting efforts would start with a defined number of stitches and end with a very different number, most of which had disappeared through the big gaping holes. I tried to bluff-knit by using extra big needles and extra thick wool, but it just made extra big holes.

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I marvelled at the knitters who could loop the wool on without having to stop, stick the needle under their armpit and stick their tongue out to aid the utter concentration. Maybe if I’d just had another arm.

Sometimes one person’s mindfulness is another person’s mindboggling, frustrating impossibility.

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