Click on the mystery knitting club link to find out more!
Here are some examples of my knitting for charity.
It gives me great pleasure to interview one of the UK's most celebrated hand knit designers Debbie Abrahams here on my Gospel Butterfly website:
1. Why do you knit?I have hand-knitted since the age of six and was taught the basics by my mother, aunt and nan. I remember being fascinated by the whole process - taking a ball of yarn and creating something three-dimensional from it was totally amazing to me. I used to love experimenting with different stitches and stripes using all the multi-coloured oddments from the bags of left over yarns given to me – to me it was like painting with yarn! My fascination with knitted fabrics is as passionate today as it was back then. And now that I am actually making a living from it, it has also become my means to survive and pay the bills each month! However, despite becoming a business, this has not affected the enjoyment and enthusiasm that I feel for the craft of hand-knitting in any way. It just means that I totally love my job as much as I do my leisure time!
2. Recent studies have shown that knitting for some people can improve mental health, what are your thoughts and comments on this?I have read many studies and reports about this which are supported by hard evidence that knitting is an excellent therapy for all sorts of health issues, including mental health. And in my experience I have to agree that it is. I get many emails from members of my Mystery Blanket and Cushion Clubs who tell me how my knitting projects have got them through difficult situations and illnesses from bereavements to cancer. For many of these people knitting provides them with an escape from what is going on in their lives, enabling them to create something which gives them a sense of achievement. The whole process of working on a project and learning new knitting techniques and stitches is a great way to focus the mind and I am sure that it goes a long way to improve the quality of many people’s lives.
3. Why do you think it is important for the skill of hand knitting to be kept alive?Modern life is filled with technology, and with the pace of life seemingly getting ever faster, I think that it is important that we hold on to some of the values that are at risk of being forgotten. I don’t have anything against technology – it’s how the world is moving forward and it does have many plus points! – but we are at risk of becoming totally reliant on our computers, tablets and phones at the expense of neglecting our creativity. I believe that any craft is good for your mind, health and general well-being – whether it’s knitting, sewing or crocheting to name but a few – so it would be detrimental to mankind if such skills were lost. Designers like myself have a responsibility to keep the craft alive by creating exciting projects that people want to knit, and by teaching new techniques that people want to learn, and this is what I hope I offer people through my business.
4. If money was no object how would you spend your time?I would spend it travelling the world with my knitting so that I could be inspired as I experience the many places and countries that I have always wanted to see! My business takes up a lot of my time so taking time off for holidays is always a bit of an issue as there is always so much to do. I don’t think that since starting the business I have ever been away and not looked at my emails – even on my honeymoon! So it would be lovely to be able to go away on holiday and not worry about the business and simply focus on where I am and what I am doing with my family, with my knitting close at hand, of course!
5. Which knitters inspire you?The first hand-knitting designer that inspired me was Kaffe Fassett, and still to this day I find his work hugely inspirational. I was fascinated by his use of colour and pattern and remember collecting postcards, knitting patterns and magazine articles about him – in the same way that I collected memorabilia of my favourite rock and pop bands! I was introduced to him personally through my work with Rowan Yarns and have met him several times over the past twenty years. To me he is a still the great master of colour and pattern and in the early days when my business was young he made me feel that anything was possible. I also have always admired the designer Kim Hargreaves and over the years I have knitted many of her garment patterns. To me she is the queen of shape and style and I know that when I knit up one of her designs it will be beautiful and something that I will treasure forever.
6. What items do you enjoy creating the most?I love designing and creating home accessories, with the biggest focus for me at the moment being on blankets and cushions. I get the most enjoyment out of experimenting with colour, stitch structures and textures all in one project. So accessories are the perfect vehicle for this, allowing me to play to my heart’s content without the worry of having to wear the finished article – twenty colours in a design with cables, lace and beads would be a bit too much for me but could be fabulous in a cushion or blanket! Many of my projects are beaded and this is something which has become my trademark as a designer. My husband runs Debbie Abrahams Beads, so having stock of beads is never an issue. And I love things to be sparkly!!!
7. What makes you happy? My son Seth, my husband Steve, my cat Zach and my knitting.
8. What are your plans for 2019?On a work level my plans are to progress my “Mystery” clubs with the introduction of a Baby Blanket Club. I am already running an annual Mystery Blanket Club and a Mystery Cushion Club. However, there is a huge gap in the market for good quality, well designed baby clothes and accessories, so this is where I would like to direct more of my design time. On a personal level I would like to improve my work/home balance so that I can spend more quality time with my family.
9. Do you believe in God ? – please explain your answer if you can 😊 I was brought up in the Christian faith and I continue to follow that in my life as an adult. It is something that is important to me and I know that I need it in my life. However, I don’t feel the necessity to be part of any establishment or place of worship to practice my faith. To me God is with me every day and I can talk to him whenever I want. You can find out more about Debbie and her work by visiting Debbieabrahams.com
When did you decide to write Knit and Nibble?-Knit and Nibble was never meant to be! It’s a bi-product, and a really colourful one at that, of getting over what was diagnosed as a moderately severe depressive episode. At the age of 35 I was burnt out, I had a big international career as a food writer and as a TV Chef in China. Life was good, lots of travel, huge audiences and lots of demands on my time. I would regularly fly from London to Beijing for work. Quite a few things happened, and then when the final snap came it was too much. I woke up one morning and I could not move my leg down the bed. It’s a state called ‘catatonic’. I was not lazy, I just could not move. Panic, fear, anxiety, black, very black was my reality. Confined to bed for a year and I was a little bit bored of watching TV. For some reason or other, I found 2 chopsticks and piece of string, watched YouTube, learnt to cast on and knitted a ‘something or other’.
The fact that I had created something gave me pleasure and when I showed it to my partner Thomas, who is a Consultant Physician, Thomas said “buy wool”. Slowly as the stitches grew on my needles, I was starting to get better the problem was to get a knitting pattern that I actually wanted to wear. I wanted lots of colours, fitted sweaters and not baggy jumpers, clothes that looked like what was on the high street. I wrote the book as I stated to get well again and opened my own publishing company. Knit and Nibble took 3 years as I wrote and knit as my mood allowed.
What made you work together on this book?- Thomas, my partner who is a Dr was aware I was acutely ill. Thomas is a great believer in mindfulness, he does practise it for about 3 hours every day! That aside, I have always had a fast brain and could never concentrate to ‘be in the present’, my mind jumped all over the place. Thomas suggested I tried ‘mindful movements’, that did not work for me either. But hand knitting did. We learnt that knitting can be a mindfulness practice. Each stitch is a tangible aspect of my feelings, in the present. When I knit my mind was concentrating on the stitch formation, I was acknowledging the feeling of the stitches run through my fingers and the feeling of the knitting needles. I was clam when I was knitting. If I was suffering from an anxiety attack, a few rows of knitting helped me to calm and centre, I was free of the mental pain when I was knitting. With what I was experiencing through hand knitting and Thomas’ understanding of both being a Dr and as someone who practises mindfulness, we put it all together and developed Knititation. A mindful practise that brought joy back to my life.
How is mindfulness important in healing for mental health?- Mindfulness is thought to work by using your brain differently thus avoiding repetitive and unproductive thinking and changing the brain to a more creative form of thinking using different areas of the brain that are accessed by the mindfulness technique through learning and repetition.
What makes you happy? -Colour. I realised through all of this that colour is life and colour is healing. Seeing colour has sparked a new zest for life in me. Wearing colour just emphasis that. The biggest joy in my life now is my new niece, watching her grow warms my heart.
How has your interest in knitting changed you as a person? - Apart from helping me to overcome depression, I find I’m more mindful in my daily life, more self confident and assertive. I find that holding my knitting needles helps me to cope with stress and allows me to calm. I wish I had discovered hand knitting 20 years ago!
Why do some men find it hard to talk about their feelings? - Society is cruel. Stereotypes are always constant. I’ve learnt in life that the individual is kinder than the population. Society can be tough on men, I was very hearted to see the latest Gillette marketing campaign talking about ‘toxic masculinity’. Society has rules for men and if a man does not fit into those parameters, it’s hard, shame is felt and mental pain builds inside so he can not talk.
How can we get more men to open up and talk about their mental health? - Oh that’s easy to answer, but hard to do. Acknowledge that difference is good. That stereotypes are not reality and that the individual and their ways and uniqueness is to be accepted.
What does faith mean to you? - Faith to me is a private thing. Dr Thomas Ernst and I both have a faith, but for me it’s about social action, not words and preaching. It’s all about those quiet moments in your heart, being thankful, looking after and helping others for no reward and looking after the planet that we were given and not being too greedy or wasteful.
What is your favourite film / book? - You have got me thinking… apart from my Knit and Nibble… it would have to be something with hope in it, an easy watch, a laugh with catchy songs. Can I suggest 2? Sound of Music and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
What is your favourite food? - I’ve been lucky enough to film food and write about it all over the world and while I do love an exotic dish or 2, there is nothing that warms my heart like a Great British Sunday roast with friends. The flavour is important for self satisfaction, but the company, sharing and listening is what is important. I used to always say in my work that no matter what culture or creed, when we sit at the table we are all the same. To find out more please visit www.knitnibble.com
The Gospel Butterfly
For me knitting is great therapy and helps with my depression. It also enables me to relax and create new things. For those of you who are new to knitting and would like to learn, please click on the you tube videos below, which will give you a head start.
Knitting can help with depression -Knitting has also helped with some people who suffer from depression, as the rhythmic movement of the needles allows the mind to relax and concentrate on being creative, which in turn can help you focus on something positive and therefore elevate your mood.
Knitting for Charity is another great way to enhance your knitting skills and do something good for others. However, I am more of a beginner process knitter, but hey, at least I have a go - see below :-)