by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

It may sound a bit unlikely, but knitting is something that has a bit of a recurring theme with us.

In our ‘Beryl Cook at Home’ exhibition at the Council House last year we featured a recreation of Cook’s studio complete with some of her sketch books, fan letters, photographs and knitting.

The Vital Sparks scheme we’ve supported in recent years has helped fund a range of creative community-led projects including yarn bomb knitting.

Gertrude Benham, the explorer and mountaineer who travelled the world in the 1920s and early 1930s, sold her embroidery and knitting to help pay for many of the objects she ended up donating to our world cultures collection.

………and this month our Traditional Craft Group celebrates its 10th birthday!

Knitters image

Teddies for the Mercy Ships charity produced by knitters from Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery's traditional craft group
Since starting in 2008, the group has met regularly to practice crochet and knitting. It’s coordinated by our Learning Development Officers and led by artist Helen Round.

Over the last decade it’s produced a wide range of items for charities and organisations – from knitted goods for Trevi House, Derriford Hospital, local cancer charities and shoebox appeals to hats for the soup kitchen and local homeless people, to knitted squares for the mums and babies in neonatal units and twiddle muffs for dementia units, to knitted teddies for children having operations on the world’s largest floating hospital.

As well as this great charity work, the group has become a social space where people can make friends, improve skills and confidence and share ideas. It’s welcomed women from all ages and backgrounds. Anyone can attend, whether they’re experienced knitters or complete novices.

A great deal of research has been conducted in recent years about the physical and mental health benefits of knitting. These include helping to slow the onset of dementia, combatting depression and overcoming isolation. This great article from the Huffington Post shares some of the findings from research conducted by Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute around the same time that our Traditional Craft Group began.

I haven’t done any knitting for years, but I was taught as a child by my grandmother who was an amazing and extremely dedicated knitter. Reading the Huffington Post article brought back memories of her and much of it rang true. Even as she got older and began to lack confidence in social situations due to her deteriorating health she was never phased by a complicated knitting pattern. Even when she developed short term memory loss she never forgot what to do when she picked up her knitting needles.

Image from a Traditional Craft Group session

If you’d like to help our Traditional Craft Group celebrate its 10th anniversary we’re holding a special event in the community hub space at House of Fraser on 17 August. You can find out more about it here and we hope to see as many people as possible on the day.

If you’re interested in joining the group which meets each Friday morning, there are more details here.