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Crabtree has them yarning in Londonderry about gentle art of crochet

By Donna Deeney

Catwalk collections from top designers like Prada and Yves Saint Laurent featuring crochet designs favoured by celebrities such as Beyonce and the Kardashians have boosted a recent resurgence in the craft.

One lifelong advocate of crochet and knitting is Margaret Crabtree from Londonderry, who is teaching new skills as well as reawakening forgotten passions to women, and even the occasional man.

Margaret takes knitting and crochet classes all over the city and demand for her knowledge shows no signs of abating.

Thanks to Margaret, the women who enrol in her aptly named Keep Her Knit classes are producing not just traditional jumpers, but a whole range of stylish goods, from dresses to handbags.

Margaret - who learned to knit when she was five and crochet at eight - said knitted and crocheted clothes are very much in vogue again, but added there was another element to her classes.

"As well as learning new skills or rediscovering forgotten ones, many of the women in my classes come for the social aspect as well," she said.

"There is definitely a huge interest in knitting and crocheting again, which has grown steadily over the past couple of years, but seeing crocheted items by the likes of Prada and Henry Holland on the catwalk has made a big difference.

"When I showed some of my classes a crochet tank top made from the most basic stitch by Mui Mui that was selling at £1,100, they were amazed.

"I know that for a long time knitting and crochet was unfashionable but I grew up in a family that never stopped.

"My own daughters have been christened and made their first communion and confirmation in knit and crochet wear. I even made a formal dress for one of my daughters.

"It's a great skill to have and it is so satisfying for me to be able to teach other people what I know. I reckon I must have taught over 1,000 people from all over Derry how to either knit or crochet.

"People are fed up with or can't afford the throwaway economy any more, they want clothes that will last more than one season, and they get that with knitwear.

"As well as learning new skills, the classes are a great way for people to get out for a night and have a laugh and a catch-up."

Bernadette McGivern is typical of the hundreds who have joined the Keep Her Knit classes.

"I knew how to knit from years ago but I had never learned how to crochet until I joined the classes," she said.

"I wouldn't say I am great at it compared to some of the other women here, but I am learning all the time and I really look forward to the class every week.

"We do all kinds of things, from Christmas wreaths and Christmas trees to tops and dresses, and each year we put on an exhibition.

"The thing about the classes is as well as learning, you also have great craic with the rest of the women.

"It gives the change to have a knit and a natter, and it gets you out of the house."

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