Monday, 27 August 2012

Monday 27th August - "Just 2 kinds of stitches" part 1

Anita laid the knitting on the table and carefully measured its length. Just about one metre - perfect, time to cast off the stitches. The completed scarf lay in a loose coil on the table, the autumnal colours glowing gently. She ran her fingers over the fabric, enjoying the soft, springy texture, before taking a sewing needle and her personalised label to add the finishing touch; "hand knitted for NewCreations by Anita".

She folded the scarf and added it to the collection that was growing in the hamper in the corner of the workshop.

"How many is that now?" asked Lizzy,
"Ten, I think," replied Anita. Lizzy pulled out a ledger from the shelf nearby, and turned up Anita's page.
"No, that brings it up to a dozen," said Lizzy. "Do you want to do another the same, or try the new style?"
"Let's go for it," suggested Anita, looking as though she was preparing to do battle. "I'm sure I'll be able to get the hand of those cable patterns now."

The NewCreations workshop was an inspiring haven of warmth, colour and activity in a corner of the shopping mall. In one corner there was a row of hampers containing different hand knitted items; scarves, shawls, even whole blankets. There were shelves with baskets of yarns and tubs of knitting needles. Around the edges, a random variety of chairs were arranged informally in conversational groups, leaving space for a worktable in the centre. A few toddlers were playing with toys om the floor.

NewCreations had only been open for a month, and already it was getting a name as the new place to be. It was the brainchild of Lizzy, who had roped in some friends to get it going. The plan was to set up a group to help find work and employment for local people. Lizzie had settled on knitting as the basic medium as the raw materials - knitting needles and yarn - were easy to source. Her friends had been press-ganged into the enterprise because they they really knew how to knit. Lizzie was under no illusions about her own skills in that area.

Ideally there should have been months, or even years, of research and discussion before NewCreations opened, but that just wasn't Lizzie's way of working. She had gone round the shopping centre, eyeing up all the empty shop units, and then plunged into the management offices to cajole them into letting her have one on a temporary basis "after all, isn't it better to have something going on in an empty unit, if only to attract people to the shops either side and help them to keep going?"

A structure for the group was needed. There had to be some kind of way of agreeing a basic level of acceptable quality, and maintaining standards. A range of goods for NewCreations had to be agreed. Sue, one of Lizzie's friends, put up her hand for that, and put together a small portfolio of patterns, suitable for different skill levels. Lizzie wanted members to be able to start contributing as soon as possible after joining. Using the test swatches to create blankets and throws was a simple way to achieve this. The personalised labels was another of Sue's ideas. It made sense to give the knitters a personal connection with the group rather than turning them into anonymous workers.

The other local charity shops were a source for acquiring knitting needles, so the main investment had been the yarn. Newcomers to the group were given yarn and needles to either demonstrate their skills, or learn how to knit. Once the quality of their work was suitable, they started working for real, using the beautiful yarns piled enticingly on the shelves at the back. This was where Lizzie, Sue, and the other founder members had to put their hands into their pockets, and start committing their own money as well as their time to the project. Suddenly, it all became frighteningly real, frighteningly immanent.

to be continued

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