Kilkenny Knitting Classes are taught by Máire Hanley, our talented and effervescent Knitting For All teacher! Find out more about what make her tick in our interview below.
Who taught you to knit?
I started to learn knitting in primary school when I was 4 ½ in Cobh, Co. Cork but it was really my mother who taught me. She was an excellent knitter but mainly knitted practical stuff like sweaters and cardigans. She learned to knit in the Loreto Convent in Nairobi but I don’t think she did much knitting till she came to Ireland as it was too hot to wear woollies in Kenya and also very hard to get yarn there. She took to it in Ireland where the need for warm stuff was ever-present. She never taught me to do Aran knitting so I learned that myself when I was in my 30s. Mainly, she taught me to have confidence in my ability so I’ve never shied away from trying something new.
What do you love most about knitting?
I love both knitting and crochet. For a few reasons: I love the rhythm of knitting and crochet and seeing the progress you are making; it’s very satisfying. I love working out how a pattern works. I’m not afraid to rip things out and start again if it’s not working for me. My sister thinks I’m crazy but, for me, the end product isn’t always the most important part. It’s the actual making I love. I like to use good yarns made from natural fibres and nice knitting needles, preferably bamboo or the like. I love the seemingly endless ideas and patterns out there in the world and that I am always, always learning something new. If I’m travelling I almost always have a project with me and find crochet is great for this. I have always tended to stick to patterns but teaching has also shown me how great it is to just knit and not worry too much about the instructions. I think having the structure of understand how it works is important but I love seeing people be free with their ideas and techniques too.
What is your favourite type of yarn?
I love soft yarns like merino, alpaca, cashmere, bamboo. I like yarn that doesn’t split and is easy to work with. I don’t have a preference for fine or chunky yarns, I like mainly the feel of the yarn in my hands and how it works up when it’s knitted or crocheted. I am really getting into hand dyed and handspun yarns and, though they are expensive, it’s often worth it to make something really special. I’d love to dye my own yarn!
Why do you like teaching knitting so much?
It’s so satisfying seeing people ‘get it’ when they’re learning. I love hearing back from them how things I said make them think. Like the preference for using natural materials and why that matters. Or being able to use unusual materials like fabrics to make things. I love to see people become happy because they’re learning. I had a lovely lady in one of my Upcycling classes who was having a dreadful time with illness and incapacity. Coming to my class seemed to give her a whole new lease on life and she told me it had made her feel happy for the first time in ages. That made me feel really great, knowing something I was doing was making a positive difference. I also love the mindful aspect of knitting and crochet. When you doing it, you are not thinking of other things, just what’s in front of you. It’s a natural Mindfulness Meditation practice and has been shown to have great benefits for people who suffer with depression and anxiety. I’ve seen it happen in front of my eyes. Most of all, I love seeing people enjoying themselves, learning something new, making new friends and coming back for more, week after week.
Why is being part of the Knitting For All team so important to you?
I feel I have a solid structure around me. All the tools I need are there and the support system as well. The branding is excellent and is easy to convey to my area. I think it’s one of the best businesses I’ve come across in my many years in business. I love being part of this and feel happier than I’ve felt in many years, doing what I love with a great infrastructure behind me. I know Kerry will always answer any questions and it’s wonderful to have the group aspect too, where we help each other and give ideas and feedback. Running a small business alone can be very lonely. I know, I’ve tried before and hated the aspect of doing it all alone. With Knitting For All, I have a big family around me and that makes all the difference to how I feel when I get up every day.
Tell us about your your classes!
Doing this teaching, I have come across so many new people and from all walks of life. I am new to the area I teach in, Kilkenny, Ireland, and this has allowed me to meet so many great people, some of whom are becoming friends. I had a wonderful group in an Upcycling class in one of the local libraries, who all had special needs. There was one really sweet woman, called Gabrielle, who actually never did any of the projects and mostly spoke about how she was dying for her lunch, which was her favourite: sausage and chips. She was so affectionate and warm and just made me smile every week, especially when she put the basket one person had made onto her head as a hat! The other ladies in the group were great knitters and their carer, Marian, and I made the yarn from fabrics and they knitted up some gorgeous things with it.
I taught two groups of children during Easter. It was my first time teaching children and I was a bit nervous beforehand but it turned out to be great fun because most kids are happy to think outside the box and are more free with their creativity. I had one little boy who was only 5 who couldn’t really get the knitting and all the other kids made him loads of pom-poms so he had something to go home with. I thought it was so sweet that they were concerned about him. In one of the classes I had a little girl who was on the autistic spectrum. I didn’t know in advance but figured it out fast and allowed her to play with the yarns and make her own things, at a distance from the others. She didn’t speak much but responded very well to me and the organisers in the library were very happy with how she reacted.
I have a Wed afternoon group of ladies who come, rain or shine, and have become friends. They are mostly learning to crochet and bring along the things they’ve made during the week and I try to teach them something new each week. We often end up sitting together way past the time I’m meant to be there, mostly because, for me, it’s a pleasure to spend time with them.