Society Spotlight: Meet Hookers, Knitters and Stitchers society
So often we think about habits that we would like to give up – unhealthy eating, smoking etc, but how often do we consider taking up something such as a new hobby? Now deadlines are over for most of you, why not go along to a Hookers, Knitters and Stitchers society event. Here’s what happened when we caught up with Sally Amberton, President of the society…
Describe your society and what it is you do
We teach knitting, sewing, and crochet to people who are interested in learning and provide a social space for those who already know how to enjoy what are often solitary activities. We put on activity-based social occasions where staff and students alike can sit and chat if they wish, or not if they don’t. Anyone can drop in at any point and join us.
Consideration of sustainability and minimising waste is a part of the group which means some clever utilisation of scrap pieces of fabric, yarn and such. We try to not let anything go to waste.
When did the society start?
The group initially started over a drink in one of Winchester’s local pubs (of which we have plenty!) We decided that we wanted a group that would be inclusive to all year groups, providing somewhere for people with common interests across all courses to work and natter. We launched the idea of the group over the summer and in October we were recognised officially as a society. Charlotte Mace in the WSA Library very kindly donated us a bag of needles and a big bag of scrap yarn which she picked up from Freecycle and that enabled us to start the group!
What is the best part about being involved in your society?
Textile art and craft can be learned and discussed, we can make handmade items for good causes or engage in our own projects for Uni work.
My favourite part of the group is the diversity, which is something that was very important to us from the beginning. The best moment so far was probably seeing one of our group with his denim ‘battle jacket’ sewing on patches from Download Festival and other rock and metal gigs, whilst sitting next to another one of our group working on an immaculate embroidered sampler. Whilst all of this was happening, we had another guy learning how to knit for the first time and all the while first year students were able to ask advice of other older students whom they might not otherwise encounter at all. It was a really heart lifting experience, that amongst all of the chaos of art school we are able to provide a hub with craft and communication at its core.
Why should students join your Society?
We are a friendly community who are open to all. We love passing on our knowledge to others, as well as learning from each other. We teach hand knitting, patchwork, sewing, and other techniques for free, and provide a chance to mix across courses and pathways. We chat, we laugh, we make things, and sometimes eat the occasional biscuit.
Do you have to be a student studying or have previous experience of the subject to join?
Absolutely no prior knowledge is required. We share the skills that we have amongst ourselves, and if there’s something we don’t know, we have the facilities to be able to find out the answer. We do have some experts amongst our group and they are happy to teach beginners or improvers what they know. One of the big successes of our group however is seeing those who were beginners taught to knit at the start of the year now sharing what they have learned with new starters.
What could those who aren’t studying or have had previous experience of the subject gain from being a member?
Most of the regular attendees enjoy being guaranteed to find a friendly group and a diverting and relaxing activity with us. You can learn a new skill and we are able to loan materials to our members which would often be quite expensive if you’re just starting out. Tools such as knitting needles and crochet hooks are returned to the group once members have purchased their own, which means that new members can take up the baton, or the needle in this case! Being able to make knitted things for a loved one or just yourself whilst enjoying a near meditative activity is a win-win.
How much knowledge of the subject would you need to take part?
None. Zero. Nada. You need never to have held a needle of any kind.
A fun fact about your society/If you could teach us one thing about your subject or the society:
We were all beginners once.
Does your society require anything to take part e.g. clothing, equipment, knowledge?
We don’t require clothing but it would be awkward if people turned up not wearing any. Seriously though nothing is required to join our group. We lend needles and yarn, or thread and fabric to new members to allow for them to try knitting, patchwork, embroidery etc. and then we ask that if they really take to it that they return the needles etc. for other beginners to get the benefit of. We find that fairly early on people like to get their own kit suitable for specific projects that they have in mind.
What is the best way for students to contact you?
Sign up to our mailing list to hear about our events via firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course there is also the Facebook page here.
Or just drop by when we have a meet-up and say hi. We usually meet on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm-4pm. Several of our members started by just sitting next to us to eat their lunch and curiosity piqued – they ended up learning to knit!
What’s the best piece you have made?
Three of us created a stitched banner for the launch of the group at the Mini-Bunfight. As a new group we had no funding or materials so relied entirely on donated bits and bobs that allowed us to embroider the 24 individual letters onto pieces of bunting, it was a lot of work but definitely worth it!
Have you ever collectively made a piece as a group?
Some of us joined in helping one of our committee members Kezia in making a banner for Hampshire Pride this January.
We will be making twiddlemuffs together as a collective and will then donate all of them.
Do you have socials aside from the weekly meet-ups?
Our meet-ups take place in the WSA Café so are very social anyway. We deliberately chose to hold our meet-ups in the cafe to make sure that anyone from any course felt that they could join in with us. I wanted to make sure that we were open in this way so that introvert or extrovert, wary or confident, beginner or expert, fresher or Masters student anybody could see us and join for a minute or hours.
What’s the hardest piece you have ever made and why?
Me personally… I am still slowly plodding through making a scarf in a woven cable stitch. It requires too much of my concentration so I only knit 8 rows at a time and then bench it. I am also part of the way through making a hexagon English Paper Pieced patchwork quilt suitable for a king sized bed which is now so big as to be unwieldy. I learned Tambour Beading and Goldwork embroidery this summer so I need to practise those techniques and have a project for each on the go. Everything is hard when you are just learning… but before you know it you’re actually able to teach others and realise that taking on those challenges gave you expert status!
If you could give a beginner sewer/knitter/embroider etc. a tip, what would it be?
Just give it a go.
Everyone starts somewhere.
It won’t be perfect first try.
Don’t measure yourself by anyone else’s work.
Explore Textile Art.
Stitch doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’. The ‘mistakes’ are often the most interesting bits!
(Look at Tracy Emin/ Louise Borgeouis for inspiration.)
Try out new techniques whenever the opportunity arises.
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(Blog photo credit: Sally Amberton, President of Hookers, Knitters and Stitchers society)