Knitting on the net in Lancashire

Making your own clothes isn't just economical - it can also help you to keep your brain active. Barbara Waite reports

AS the credit crunch begins to bite, a new generation is discovering that knitting is no longer just for grannies. A growing number of fashion lovers are picking up their knitting needles and discovering for themselves that affordable and stylish clothes can be created at home. More and more are cottoning on to the joy of creating something lasting, affordable and unique.

Celebs have been getting in on the act with Sarah Jessica Parker and Uma Thurman spotted casting on between takes on the film set, and that's prompted the formation of Lancashire knitting clubs meeting in pubs and cafes for a convivial session of stitching and chat.

But the emphasis was on trendy accessories and not the wardrobe staples worn by older generations for whom hand knitting was a necessity. To help pass on the knowledge, an inspiring knitter's bible has been updated for the 21st Century featuring beautiful fitted jumpers, woollen tea dresses and even draught-excluding undies.

The driving force behind the reissue is former fashion and textiles lecturer Susan Crawford , from Southport, whose knitting know-how website has recently been averaging 90,000 hits a day. She used the original book, put together by Jane Waller from a vast archive of cuttings from magazines like Women's Weekly and Woman and Home, when she was studying for her City and Guilds qualification and was thrilled to meet Jane and got her to sign her copy.

'Jane told me she would love to see the book republished, but no one would take it on as all the original artwork had gone up in flames,' said Susan.

'It's been a labour of love to take 60 of the original patterns and update them to fit modern women who have much bigger proportions that those of 60 or more years ago.'

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The book has included the original pattern and an updated version using modern wools. and has fashion notes written by Jane.

It's a real family affair for Susan whose husband Gavin is the mastermind behind the website, and his speed-knitting mother Dorothy who helped make up the garments for the photographs shot by Susan. 'It was hard work getting all the clothes ready, but very satisfying having control over every aspect of the book. The patterns can be tackled by beginners and experienced knitters and some go up to size 60" chest,' said Susan.

While the investment in time is high, Susan is adamant that it is an economical way to dress yourself. 'In this period garments were made from finer yarns. A 50g ball of 4-ply wool goes a long, long way and you only need six or seven to make up a sweater. At the end you have something beautiful which will last for years. There is a lot of uncertainty around and people want to learn life skills to look after themselves and not have to rely on others,' she added.

Susan is so passionate about knitting she has even taught herself to knit in the dark. 'I spend many hours travelling to exhibitions, so why waste the time? It's a constructive way to pass a long journey at night. And medical research shows that knitting helps keep you mentally active.'

So far from making us all woolly-minded, knitting actually exercises your brain!

A Stitch in Time is available from Susan's website on

or from price �27.99.

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