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Watch out, needles about
Stash Yarns entrepreneurs Michelle Lieberson  and Nathalie Giauque stock wools from the likes of South America.
  • Stash Yarns entrepreneurs Michelle Lieberson and Nathalie Giauque stock wools from the likes of South America.
  • ALISON HEPWORTH reaches for her knitting needles and embraces an age-old pastime that has undergone such a resurgence, it's even got the A-listers swapping patterns.

    What was once considered a respectable and resourceful hobby has returned to the high street with a celebrity following and tagged as the new yoga.

    Knitting was in danger of being extinct as wool shops closed, maintained only by grannies knitting baby hats and booties.

    But thanks to a renaissance in the US and endorsements from actors Catherine Zeta Jones and Russell Crowe, knitting is cool again.

    Two women who are confident that knitting is back for good have opened a shop selling wool in Putney.

    Importantly, it is not just a shop but a meeting point for knitting groups and socials and a venue for classes what they call a knitting community'.

    "We were getting a bit frustrated with the lack of knitting shops," says Nathalie.

    Giauque, co-owner of Stash Yarns in Upper Richmond Road.

    "We wanted to see the colours and feel the textures. When you are trying to match colours, that's very hard to do on the internet."

    Business partner Michelle Lieberson, 39, originally from Connecticut and now living in Putney, set up a knitting group which has drawn a hardcore membership of 12 and gradually the two friends embarked on their unusual journey that resulted in the shop, called Stash Yarns, finally opening last week.

    Both women have strong links to the US, drawing on the boom the hobby has undergone there since 2000.

    Indeed, a knitting blog during the Winter Olympics last February challenged knitters to take part in the Knitting Olympics, to cast on a project during the opening ceremonies and finish before the Olympic flame goes out a period of 16 days.

    Thousands of knitters in the US joined the challenge, with the main TV news channels covering what they described as a phenomenon'.

    Although UK knitting is not yet on the same scale, Michelle and Nathalie are confident there is enough interest to maintain their business, particularly as it has social and educational elements.

    "A lot of people would like to learn to knit and don't know where they can turn to," said Nathalie, 34, from Wimbledon. "The idea is that this will be a hang-out place.

    "Knitting is extremely relaxing, it allows you to sit down quietly without feeling guilty about it.

    "You can think about other things, but your hands are doing something."

    Stash Yarns sources wool from as far away as Uruguay and offers classes for learners and more experienced knitters taught by Nic Wyborn, also known as Nickerjac in her online blog.

    2:30pm Thursday 22nd June 2006

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