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Zeta has pressies all wrapped up

Nov 17 2004

Gareth Morgan, Western Mail


SHE may be one of the world's most glamorous and richest women but Catherine Zeta-Jones is not afraid to indulge in a bit of handmade present-making in the run-up to Christmas.

Shooting a movie with the Swansea-born actress isn't quite as action-packed as we would think, as she is spending her downtime indulging in her favourite new hobby.

Like many good old fashioned Welsh mams, the wife of Hollywood star Michael Douglas and proud mother of Dylan has become a dab-hand at knitting - and is creating handmade ponchos.

According to the New York Post, 35-year-old Zeta Jones, has become a knitting enthusiast devoted to balls of wool.

And when she is back home in Swansea, she passes the time with a visit to her local specialist craft shop to pick up supplies.

Sources close to the actress said, "She has been knitting ponchos to give to friends as Christmas presents. So far she's made 15 with another 20 still to go."

Each poncho even comes with a label saying "personally made by CZJ".

Friends might be groaning when they unwrap gifts from the actress and find they have all got the same thing - especially as ponchos have been available in the nation's markets for months now.

But like all top fashionistas, CZJ may be onto a good thing, according to the Knitting and Crochet Guild.

Knit-ins, and specialist knitting events at bars and cinemas are forming an underground culture devoted to needles and wool.

"Knitting is enjoying a worldwide resurgence and is a wonderful way of relieving the stress of modern life," said a guild spokeswoman.

"Groups around the globe meet for regular 'stitch and bitch' sessions, a name first coined in the 1950s for craft-mad housewives."

Since then, knitting plummeted in popularity as people became more cash-rich and time-poor. But now it is making a comeback as a therapeutic pastime, with stars like Zeta-Jones leading the way.

Philip Bowden, managing director of Knitters and Sewers World in Swansea, said, "I just mentioned the story to the girls in the shop and they said they have served Catherine a few times. She comes in here to pick up knitting supplies when she is back in Wales."

He said the past 10 years has been a quiet period - but recently the industry has boomed by 40%.

"Everyone is knitting ponchos, they are quite easy to start off with and people can move on from there," he said. "It is difficult to get knitting supplies in fast enough."

The shop, founded in 1972, has felt the ups and downs of the hobby's changing fortunes, but Mr Bowden thinks the current boom is here to stay.

"It seems to be that even the young people are knitting their own clothes now," he said. "People like to do it themselves, they get a big sense of achievement. Whereas before we only saw the older generation, now we have youngsters coming in."

He said that the ponchos available at Saturday markets around the country for a fiver were nothing compared to a handmade version.

"You can get really good quality garments from the patterns these days and make it to your own specifications," he added.

Groups like Stitch 'n' Bitch Cardiff chat on the internet and meet in cafes.

Zeta-Jones is set to grace the cover of next month's Harper's Bazaar - perhaps even wearing one of her woolly creations.


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