Knit wit

Don’t know cable needles from crochet? Here’s a primer for holiday knitting joy.

Knitting’s not just for grandmas anymore. But you already know that if you live in Halifax.

For the last few years---if not more---knitting has been gaining popularity with a new generation. Let’s say you’re secretly envious of friends who knit and always wanted a knitting project to keep in your purse (or knapsack)...well, there’s no better time to start. It’s December, and nothing oozes more holiday love than a hand-knitted Christmas gift.First thing's first---you gotta learn the craft.

Getting the skillz

Some learn through friends who are knitters, others through books or knitting groups. Another option now is through knitting DVDs.

Lucy Neatby is a local knitting superstar with 13 DVDs on knitting. She’s been running a knitting business for 14 years, and has a thing or two to teach anyone about showing the yarn who’s boss. “You just need an outlook that it’s wool and you can outwit it,” she says. You can find her movies at local yarn shops for around $30, or, if that doesn’t fit your budget, you can rent them at the library and check out her designs at

If socializing is more your style, you can take a knitting class. The Loop (1547 Barrington, 429-5667) offers a class called “Knitting for Absolute Beginners.” It’s a three-hour class offered usually once a month for $35. And the Loop Group is open to all knitters every Thursday night from 6-9pm. But we'll talk more about knitting groups later.

L.K. Yarns (Hydrostone Market, 5545 Young, 431-9633) keeps a running list of those interested in classes and when they have enough people, a class is formed. A recently opened store in Tantallon called Basket of Yarn (75 Hubley Mill Lake Road, 826-8080) offers $10 drop-in help sessions Tuesday afternoons, as well as beginner classes when there’s interest.

Online must-surfs

Patterns, blogs, articles and YouTube vids---all on knitting---are plentiful on the web., a Facebook-like site where you can add your knitting friends and network with them, provides tons of resources. is another site, providing free patterns and articles, plus forums for discussing knitting questions. Leah McKeen, a local grad student who’s been knitting for three years, recommends It’s a free site with endless indexed patterns, including bizarre categories such as knitted foods (check out the knitted pizza slice).

Getting a stash together

Once you’ve taken a class, watched a DVD or studied a book, knitted Christmas gifts will come easily. Now you need supplies to make them.

L.K. Yarns sells local products, such as yarn by Fleece Artist, a Nova Scotia business that’s been selling hand-dyed yarn all over the world for years. McKeen says she loves that every space in L.K. Yarns is covered in yarn. “It’s like a knitting wonderland!”

In Dartmouth, there’s a store called Tangled Skeins (158C Portland Street, 464-0387). You can find supplies at Basket of Yarn, and The Loop specializes in natural fibre wools and local products. Any number of small, general craft stores in the HRM have at least a small selection of yarn and knitting supplies.

Another great way to get (free!) supplies is to tell all of your friends that you’re taking up knitting. McKeen says once people know you’re a knitter, they tend to give you their stash if they once tried it themselves and gave up. Score!

Cash-saving hints

Before you start feeling like this whole knitting gig might get a little too pricey after the lessons are taken and the supplies are bought---fear not! Here are more tips to save you money:

Make your own needles. You can buy dowel from a craft store and just sharpen the end with a pencil sharpener. Or, better yet, try pencils or chopsticks. Scope out Value Village (209 Chain Lake 450-5134) every so often for cheap bags of mixed wool that were gutted from a basement somewhere. These bags usually cost a dollar, and can have fancy yarn in them!

It’s important to shop around for the best prices, and if you’re a student, look for discounts at local retailers. The library can loan you not just knitting DVDs, but also knitting books for reference.

Things to knit before old St. Nick gets here:

Feeling like you might just want to give it a whirl, but don’t know what to make? It’s easy to knit small bags or cases of any kind, whether it’s for a cell phone, iPod or digital camera. Also popular are scarves and hats. Remember here that the bigger the wool you use, the faster you’ll finish! Fingerless gloves or wrist-warmers are also fun.

Keeping It Up

In the event that you fall in love with knitting over the holidays, you may want to join a local knitting group. There’s the Loop Group, mentioned earlier. Knit Co. has been around for ages and meets in Scott Manor House on Fort Sackville Road in Bedford, on the first Wednesday of the month at 7pm (call Susan Hannah at 835-6235). Local Jo Café and Market (2959 Oxford, 455-6225) has a knitting group that meets the last Wednesday of each month. Knitting Out Loud meets Tuesday nights at 7:30ish until around 10pm at Just Us! (5896 Spring Garden, 423-0856).

That should be all you need to call yourself a knitter, and if you’re still scared, Lucy Neatby reminds us: “There’s nothing dangerous about knitting---it’s not like making a mistake hang-gliding. You can take chances, and nothing terribly bad is going to happen.”

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