Cake, gossip and knitting in Finsbury

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Knitting may be London’s newest fashion. Ellie Buchdahl picks up the needles.

A small flyer in the window is the only sign that this is more than just another of the nice little semis. Owner Susie Aspland thrusts a mug of strong filter coffee into my hands as I venture into the living room.

 

Ellie tries out her knitting needles

 

Ellie knitting

The Knitting Shop was set up by Susie and her daughter Mercedes in 2010. With the help of a web-designing friend, the shop went from a stockpile of yarn with a website attached to a full-time business that sends wool as far as Australia and the USA.

Despite this, the shop is still very much the Asplands’ house. Knitting club meetings are held in the sitting room where armchairs and coffee tables jostle for space with balls of yarn piled high on wooden shelves.

“I sleep in the box room now because my room has become the wool room. I don’t even have time for a lunch break, I’m so busy,” mourns Susie, balancing her black coffee on one knee. “But we love these evenings. We love a good gossip.”

The other knitters have turned up with their own projects, but once they realise I don’t know the difference between a “knit” and a “purl”, I am loaned a pair of needles and a ball of pink wool for the evening. Mercedes cuts herself a slice of chocolate, then settles down to patiently show me how it’s done. Soon enough, after some fumbling and flicking, I manage to “cast on”.

As the needles begin to click and my speed and confidence increases, I can almost hear my inner Thora Hird whoop for joy.

Still, I do feel a little out of place among my fellow knitters. All have come equipped with projects ranging from scarves to stuffed rodent toys.

But knitting has modernised over the past few years: cool knitters can engage in Ravelry.com, an international social network combined with an online knit shop.

Make-do-and-mend is ultra-fashionable in these cash-strapped times, although the “saving money” tag is a bit of a myth. The cheapest ball of wool from the Knitting Shop is 99p, but if you want different colours and textures, the cost starts to ratchet up. Posh pure wool or mohair is usually around the £10 per-ball mark. Then there are the tempting extras, which include bumblebee-shaped tape measures, bags bearing “keep calm and crochet on”, and umpteen kinds of needle.

Still, insists Susie, it’s not about cost. She describes how knitting lowers your blood pressure, improves your memory, and is used as therapy for people with depression.

On top of that is the sheer pleasure of making your own. “You could buy a jumper from Primark, pay a couple of quid, and have the same jumper as everyone else,” says Susie, “or you can pay a bit more for something that will keep you busy for days, and that will be totally unique.”

Knitting groups meet around Finsbury Park on throughout the week. For more information visit transitionfinsburypark.org.uk/knitting