Knitty Gritty

Why do some social fashions, design trends or leisure activities sink forever without a trace, whilst others return in a powerful revival which catches everyone by surprise?

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About a decade ago social commentators declared a renaissance of knitting was at hand, but at the time it seemed a fairly dubious prediction. Would hundreds of young women take up the click clack of knitting needles, crochet themselves a travel rug or carry bundles of wool so they can pearl one-plain one-pearl one on a bus or train trip – just as their grandmothers did? The answer, to fairly universal surprise, was ‘yes’. The pundits, so it turned out, were right. When Jade Jagger, daughter of rock royalty and high-end jewellery designer, admitted in 2009 that she was a home knitter herself then the deal was sealed. Knitting was back, but this time with 21st century edginess.

Social media has taken up knitting with a vengeance with dedicated channels, tutorials and communities on YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.

Google revealed that in the past couple of years ‘knitting for beginners’ had been one of their most popular search terms.

Knitting still has its timeless raison d’être: to create quality woollen goods and connect people (largely women) together via this creative medium, but it now has a new dimension, decorating urban spaces. In doing so it has become a new kind of public art, often described as ‘yarn bombing’ and its proponents ‘guerrilla knitters’.

Knitting enthusiasts are testing the waters in the West End with the launch last week of a Woolly Riot meeting organised by Newcastle Now’s West End Advisory Group (WEAG). Keen to encourage more people to be out on the streets in the West End at night the knitters took over The Social, our delicious Cuban café, for an evening of communal knitting and creative connection.

The group aims to share skills, create ongoing knitting projects and build friendships in this knitting circle inspired by a love of colour, crochet and all things yarny. Everyone is welcome from raw beginners to dedicated practitioners. At this first meeting a group of happy wool artists were happily clicking away, including textile artisan Katrina Kellett whose delightful business card describes her as a ‘soul knitter’ who is ‘beautifying the world one ball of wool at a time’.

Whether you want to keep your knitting strictly personal, such as whipping up a pair of woollen bed socks for a chilly night, or go public by creating a piece of yarn bombing, the West End’s knitting community has a place for you.

There are three golden rules of public knitting:

  • use natural fibres wherever possible
  • all installations need to be finite, they have to come down before they unravel, so that they don’t block drains or end up in our waterways
  • cover only non-living structures

Woolly rioters, urban knitters and yarn bombers – changing the world one stitch at a time.

Newcastle Now’s West End Advisory Group (WEAG) can give directions on what to knit and where it is possible to do a public installation. Contact them for details:, Phone: 4929 6444 or 4929 4611. As well as all the mainstream wool outlets, these Australian online knitting stores are worth checking out: www.yayforyarn and


Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me:; 0413 250 155.




2 responses to “Knitty Gritty

  1. A revival, a renaissance – I got a glimpse into how things were when I was researching what Gow’s Drapery – the DJs of Hamilton in the 1940s – was like inside. I asked some women who worked there as teenagers what was the first thing we’d have seen, walking through the main entrance. ‘A wall of wool’, they told me. I thought of the sea of cosmetics one sees now, walking into Myers or DJs, and thought – how things have changed. After reading your post – maybe not that much after all. The story is in my blog Hidden Hamilton at

  2. Thanks Ruth for that great story and for putting into my mind the image of a department store with a wall of wool. Delightful!

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