You would have to be a real knitwit (get it?) to have missed the incredible demand for all things craft-related at the moment – and knitting is no exception. Once the exclusive domain of our beloved Grannys, the hallowed art of knitting is now a prime past time for every age and generation, with knitting courses and clubs popping up all over the country. Perhaps it is down to the homespun nature of the handknitted garment or simply that today's 'make do and mend' ethos fits in perfectly with the cheap and cheerful knitting culture. Celebrities, supermodels and Hollywood A-listers such as Kate Moss, Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet are all said to have the knitting bug too, so if it's good enough for them, it's definitely time to get enrolled on one of the many knitting courses on offer today!
Where to start?
Grab your knitting needles and wool as there really isn't anything more satisfying than wearing your very own creation - even if it's just a simple woolly scarf for the winter, everyone has to start somewhere. If you've never picked up a knitting needle in your life, now is the time to enrol on one of the many online or college-based knitting classes around the country and have loads of fun while you're learning. You'll find 175 different courses on our website to suit all skill levels and experience. Beginners can choose from an introductory one-day workshop where a trained knitwear designer will teach you the basics from cast on to cast off – the perfect taster to the world of knitting. A two-day weekend course is another good option for newbies where you will kick off with the basic knit and purl combinations (garter stitch, stocking stitch, moss stitch and rib) and learn how to follow knitting instructions, create a book of swatches and move on to more complicated patterns including cable and lace. You can also experiment with different colours, felt, embroidery and decorative trimmings for a truly all-round knitting experience. Then there are the intriguingly-named Extreme Knitting classes which, for the avant-garde among us, will love the idea of experimental hand knitting using giant needles and unconventional materials such as rope, wire and plastic!
Moving to the machine
If you'd like your newfound love of knitting to be more than just a hobby, perhaps a course on machine knitting might be the next step. A beginner's level course will introduce you to the whys and wherefores of the single-bed domestic knitting machine allowing you to create a range of basic technical samples for fashion and home projects. In some cases, an intensive beginner's course on machine knitting is the perfect springboard if you are considering applying for a knitwear or textile-related degree programme (for example a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design with Knitwear or Fashion Knitwear Design and Knitted Textiles). It is also great for existing students who would like a more in-depth knowledge of knitting. Do check out our handy guide on dressmaking careers for more help and information.
But machine knitting courses are really for anyone who has a keen interest in textiles and crafts. If you're already a confident user of the domestic knitting machine, a follow-on course will develop your skills even further and teach you machine knitting techniques for hems, pockets and buttonholes as well as garment details including V-neck, round neck and a shawl collar. Before you start, check if your chosen knitting course requires any pre-knitting homework, such as collecting any special yarns you'd like to work with (usually only standard yarns are provided) or dreaming up ideas you would like to develop (this might be collating magazine and internet images for an ideas sketchbook).
Before you know it, you'll be knocking up an entire bespoke winter wardrobe for you and your friends!
Knitting for the catwalk
The knitted garment isn't just about keeping your head and hands warm. Indeed, these top four fashion knitwear designers have taken the basic art of knit one, purl one to another level altogether by creating beautiful, showstopping designs that are coveted by A-listers around the globe:
SONIA RYKIEL aka the Queen of Knits is a French fashion designer best known for her signature stripes, inventing inside-out stitching, leaving out hems and linings and cute, forties style knitted dresses. Rykiel's style is bold and glamorous and she has recently brought her Gallic chic to the high street with a knitwear collaboration with H&M.
MISSONI is a famous Italian fashion house with international status and an ever-growing celebrity fan base. Its unique colourful, knitwear designs started life in the 1940s and today its bold, geometric patterns in zig-zags, stripes and abstract florals remain as popular as ever.
MARK FAST's grungy handmade knitted dresses are made from a blend of Lycra and luxury wool sculpting the body with contrasting areas of tension and volume. Kate Nash and Kelly Brooks are said to be big fans of his sexy, body-hugging woolly dresses.
LOUISE GOLDIN has transformed the frumpy knitted garment into a vision of futuristic beauty with her bright hues, unusual weaves and use of Lurex and metallic yarns. Her layered and textured body-conscious knit dresses, tunics and, even swimwear, have been a hit ever since the day she graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2005.
By Lara Sargent