Robyn knitting pretty

  • It’s a stitch-up: Robyn Bardgett, owner of Old Cellar Lane yarn shop The Black Purl, thinks interest in traditional skills has increased during the pandemic (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    It’s a stitch-up: Robyn Bardgett, owner of Old Cellar Lane yarn shop The Black Purl, thinks interest in traditional skills has increased during the pandemic (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Robyn Bardgett, owner of Old Cellar Lane yarn shop The Black Purl (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Robyn Bardgett, owner of Old Cellar Lane yarn shop The Black Purl (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Robyn Bardgett, owner of Old Cellar Lane yarn shop The Black Purl (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Robyn Bardgett, owner of Old Cellar Lane yarn shop The Black Purl (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)


Robyn Bardgett thought knitting would be a breeze. She already knew how to crochet and she figured a book would teach her the rest. She soon found herself in a tangle.

“This was in 2004 or 2005 before YouTube was really a thing,” she said.

“Trying to figure it out all on my own with a few drawings and instructions to guide me made it challenging. I had to put it down for a while.”

She did not try again until 2015 when she wanted to knit an outfit for her newborn daughter, Louisa. This time she got the knack and fell in love with the craft.

“I love the process of knitting,” she said.

“It is very much about sitting there and picking out the yarn, and finding your tools and putting it all together.”

Earlier this year, she bought The Black Purl on Old Cellar Lane in Hamilton. The store sells yarn and accessories related to knitting, crocheting and other stitch crafts. She opened her doors on July 3.

“People kept saying to me, do you actually knit?” Ms Bardgett said. “I am in my thirties. There is still that image that knitting is just for older people.”

In fact, knitting, and crocheting are on the rise among millennials, with celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Diaz and Demi Lovato helping make it popular. Even Kate Middleton tried her hand at it while she was pregnant.

“A lot of people now are getting into making stuff — whether it is to create something, to have something that is handmade, or just because it is something that is a nice way to fill your time,” Ms Bardgett said.

“The industry has been able to market itself to younger people because you have things like the hand-dyed yarn. You won’t find something with this sort of colour which has the sparkle in it. You can make something that is trendy and fashionable out of something that in the past might not have looked that way. So people are definitely taking it to an art form.

“Then you have designers who are creating patterns that are fitting with the trends and what people want to wear. Even the way the products are being made is more modern. It is a multimillion-dollar industry right now.”

She thinks interest in traditional skills has only increased since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“We had a lady who is a committed Black Purl fan come in,” she said.

“She showed us the 30-odd projects she completed during lockdown. Crafting in general, or any art form, is a really great way to focus your mind.”

Several people have come in for advice or simply to chat.

“Sometimes there are a lot of people who come in who have never done it before who really want to learn,” she said.

“A lady came in and wanted her 15-year-old daughter to have a one-on-one class.”

Her mother and grandmother were not particularly crafty and did not knit.

“But we had a very special woman in our family called Lillian Levon, who was constantly knitting when I was younger,” Ms Bardgett said.

“She tried to teach my cousin and I, but I think we were too young and it didn’t stick at the time. But I always think there has to have been some of her influence on my love of creating my own knit and crochet items.”

The beauty of the hobby is that it is possible to take it wherever you go, she added.

She describes herself as a “chaotic knitter”.

She said: “I have ten or 15 projects going on at the same time which makes it difficult to finish things.”

But she finds it calming.

“You are literally just tying knots constantly with a needle or crochet hook. Once you have learnt how to knit and purl, it is two stitches and you can learn how to do all kinds of things.”

Knitting does have its frustrations, she added. Dropped stitches and tangled yarn particularly, can cause “major headaches”.

“I have been about four inches into a pattern that involved beautiful lace and I had twisted my stitches and there was no salvaging it unless I ‘frogged’ it, which is literally ripping the stitches out and starting all over again.

“But as someone who loves the process of the craft, I don’t mind redoing projects if it means that the end product will be perfect.”

For more information, visit @blackpurlbda on Facebook, call 536-4945 or e-mail blackpurlbda@gmail.com

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Published Aug 3, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 3, 2020 at 7:35 am)

Robyn knitting pretty

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