It is the age-old craft enjoying a surge in popularity, with UK diving star Tom Daley among those helping to grow its appeal.
Now the national profile of knitting is set for a further boost after the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall unveiled a giant art installation.
Only weeks after Daley created headlines when he was seen absorbed in the activity during the women’s diving final at the Tokyo Olympics, Charles and Camilla were at Dumfries House in Ayrshire where they unfurled the huge patchwork mosaic from the historic Adam Bridge. It is made up of more than 9,000 handmade squares and weighs 130 kilos.
The heir to the throne personally came up with the idea for the colourful piece, which features squares contributed by individuals and knitting groups from around the world, including Australia and the US.
The concept aims to celebrate knitting as a traditional craft form and highlight the associated mental health benefits that practising the skill can bring. It was organised by Charles’s charity The Prince’s Foundation.
The prince’s most trusted aide, Michael Fawcett, temporarily stepped down as chief executive of the foundation at the weekend after being accused of promising to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for a Saudi billionaire donor. The Mail on Sunday published a letter from 2017 in which Mr Fawcett reportedly wrote that he was willing to make an application to change businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz’s honorary CBE to a KBE, and support his application for citizenship. The letter, written on headed notepaper in Mr Fawcett’s then capacity as chief executive of the Dumfries House Trust, said the applications would be made in response to “the most recent and anticipated support” of the trust.
Clarence House has said Charles has “no knowledge” of the alleged cash-for-honours scandal. The Metropolitan Police has been asked by the pressure group Republic and ex-Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker to probe the claims. The Prince’s Foundation has said it is taking the allegations seriously and is investigating the matter.
Yesterday, to the prompt of a 3-2-1, Charles and Camilla, who are known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, helped heave the display over the bridge. The prince, who was dressed in a kilt and sporran, said: “I do so really want to offer my congratulations. It’s just wonderful.” Admiring the display from beneath the bridge, Camilla remarked afterwards: “It’s brilliant. The colours are fantastic.”
The team at The Prince’s Foundation, whose headquarters are at Dumfries House, received knitted squares from across the globe. Contributors range from nine-year-old Sasha Bolt from Sanquhar to 101-yearold Ethel Carlyle from Troon, who died shortly after contributing her square. The pieces were sewn together by staff from the foundation, participants of the charity’s textiles programmes, and prisoners from Cornton Vale Prison in Stirling as part of a rehabilitation initiative.
The patchwork will eventually be dismantled into smaller blankets and distributed to charities in need.
Ashleigh Douglas, future textiles manager for The Prince’s Foundation, said: “Knitting is known to have multiple benefits for the mind and body including reducing depression and anxiety, relieving stress and helping improve motor functions.” This project forms part of a wider collaboration between the Foundation and The Joseph Ettedgui Charitable Foundation which aims to recreate communities of hand-knitters in the local area with an interest in turning their hobby into a viable business proposition.
Dumfries House has already been in the news this year thanks to its connections with crafting. It was reported in February that schools across the UK were to be given lessons in fashion recycling by Charles’s foundation with free online workshops. The new sessions, based at Dumfries House, were aimed at educating secondary school pupils about sustainability in fashion, textiles, food and farming. The scheme was announced as pupils continued to learn from home amid disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.