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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 10:12 GMT
Knitting their way to relaxation
Woman knitting
More and more women are turning to knitting to alleviate stress
Knitting may be the latest celebrity trend, but now women in Northern Ireland are describing the ancient craft as the new yoga.

As the latest must have accessory in any woman's wardrobe, the hand knit scarf has led to a shortage of gypsy wool in the province.

While many women are rediscovering their needle skills to keep up with the fickle world of fashion, others are turning to granny's favourite past time to relieve the stresses of modern life.

Kathleen Collins from south Belfast says she has knit well over 100 scarves since she returned to her childhood hobby last year.

She says it is a craft that most people can do and once you learn, you never forget.

"It is that easy, a child could do it," she said.

"My aunt taught me it with the nursery rhyme, 'in the little bunny hole, around the big tree, out the little bunny hole and off goes she'.

"That is how easy it is and I've always remembered that."

Kathleen says that as well as ensuring she has an ample supply of woolly gifts for friends and family, knitting has another benefit.

By repeating the same action over and over again it becomes almost like a trance like state which creates general relaxation and helps to reduce stress
Paul Handforth

"I think it really relaxes you. I am sort of a nervous person and it relaxes me.

"It is amazing because you are pleased with yourself and if you give what you knit to someone they are delighted with it."

Margaret McComish, who owns a wool shop in north Belfast, says knitting has become a phenomenon.

"This gypsy wool is running out, I cannot keep up with it.

"I have never seen anything like it. This morning we had one person who said she hadn't knitted in 15 years and another woman who said she had never knitted before. It has really taken off. Clubs everywhere are doing it."

Margaret also believes knitting has helped her health.

"I have actually suffered from depression and it is the only thing that picks me up off the ground. "It is actually fantastic just to knit."

Paul Handforth who runs stress management clinics across Northern Ireland says it is the ideal way to wind down.

Celebrity trend

"Knitting is a bit like meditation. Instead of maybe using a sound you are actually using a physical repetition.

"By repeating the same action over and over again it becomes almost like a trance like state which creates general relaxation and helps to reduce stress."

Dorothy McGall, who runs a craft and wool shop in Belfast says women in Northern Ireland are following the latest trend set by the Hollywood jet set.

"Catherine Zeta Jones knitted 15 ponchos and that started the poncho craze so everybody was knitting ponchos before Christmas as presents," she said.

"I find it very relaxing. Women don't just sit and do nothing, they have to have something in their hands. They have realised now that they can knit and they have got something nice at the end of it."



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