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Prick Your Finger knitting talk at Howies

The knitting revival

Written by Satu Fox


Howies in Carnaby Street hosted a very cosy and exclusive “lecture” this week on the joys of knitting. The event was part of the Do lectures project – or a “Wee Do”, a free event held in the shop where the audience were free to contribute their own thoughts and anecdotes about the topic.


The crowd gathered on wooden stools to drink Eco Warrior beer and have a go at knitting a few mangled rows while Rachael Matthews and Louise Harries discussed their knitting vision, a blend of keeping the “make do and mend” spirit alive whilst finding new ways to source wool ethically and use it to make everything possible, from socks and gloves to building insulation. As it says in their newly-printed manifesto: “we believe in making old skills and new technologies work together in harmony”.


As well as running Prick Your Finger, a haberdashery and knitting shop in Bethnal Green, Matthews and Harries are dedicated to helping people start, continue and finish their knitting, with classes and tuition available to help people finish projects they have begun but feel unable to complete. Common problems include endeavours which ended abruptly when the intended recipient died, or a relationship broke up.

Matthews mentioned something that rang very true: that knitting and crafts in general have a lot to do with love. After all, we no longer need to knit or sew clothes to wear, we can buy them ready-made from shops for sometimes ridiculously small amounts of money. When someone makes something for you, you know it’s because they care about you and they want to give you a gift that takes time and effort. If you’re making something for yourself, you know how much work went into it and you will never, ever throw it away! Handmade clothes are “slow fashion”; they take time to form and they end up being much better value because of how long they’ll last and how attached you’ll feel to them.


According to the pair, knitting clubs have popped up all over the place since they first began their public knitting crusade in the 90s, gaining publicity by knitting in nightclubs and on the Circle Line. The craft has become popular again after a bleak few years and the audience for the lecture was a good mix of ages and genders. The lecture eventually turned into a general conversation and it emerged that everyone had a story to tell about knitting from within their family: which relative had taught them to knit, or made them something from scratch.


Sadly, the years that have passed since my last knitting effort have not magically improved my abilities but I was very impressed with others’ attempts. I also thought about the many members of my family who knit, some of them to quite amazingly high standards, and how much they would like the wares of Prick Your Finger, which include painstakingly sourced wool including cashmere and the super-tough fibre used to make their shop sign.

Currently on show at the shop is a knitting venture that has travelled the world: a bench with a knitted cover, which was begun after a bench where older women congregated was replaced with bins by a local council.

There will be more in the Howies Wee Do series, so check their Brainfood feed for further events.


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