Why yarn queen Nicola Robb is telling Hong Kong to get knitted

Newly opened Yarn in the Works in Sheung Wan is offering knitting and crocheting workshops to get Hongkongers away from their smartphones

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 5:38pm

Anyone who loves knitting will feel like the proverbial kid in the candy store when they visit Yarn in the Works in Sheung Wan. And that’s the feeling Nicola Robb was aiming for when she set up her shop late last year.

Trained as a cultural historian with a background in fine art, Robb turned to needles and yarn when she moved from Hong Kong to New York “in the dead of winter” in 2009. Pregnant with her fourth child, Scottish-born Robb says knitting helped her cope with the very long dark nights.

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“Knitting had a big cultural following there at the time – you could go to Soho or Downtown Yarns and meet other knitters. It had a community focus.

“I also studied 18th-century women’s history and was very interested in how they created things – knitted a jumper, shared stories with their daughters and passed down skills like knitting.”

Robb wants to lure people away from their smartphones. “I want people on the ferry and the buses to knit instead of wasting time on their phones. I want them to take time to create something through knitting. Smart people are knitters, after all.”

Robb says the craft is in her blood – her grandparents were lacemakers and her great-grandfather had a mill in Yorkshire. “He ran one of the first mill cooperatives. I have to say I’m not a fantastic knitter or crocheter – mediocre at both – but I am fascinated with textiles and colours.”

There is a long narrow room with twinkling fairy lights at the back of her shop, where Robb holds workshops. “Over Christmas we knitted chunky beanies, drank champagne and ate mince pies.”

Upcoming workshops include:

Crocheting Granny Squares on February 11 and March 11

Storage basket making on February 18 and March 1

Children’s crochet workshop on March 4.

“We have also expanded to include kids parties, and don’t forget Knit Night every Thursday.”

Robb is weaving for good by making kindness mats to help the homeless. She’s asking people to drop off plastic bags that will be turned into yarn and made into waterproof mats. “They can place them under whatever they are sleeping on,” she says.

Knitting had its time in sun in 2015, when the city was covered by the works of Esther Poon Suk-han. Known as the city’s yarn bomber, her colourful works covered railings, poles and trees – even a footbridge.

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Yarn in the Works, 28 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan, tel: 2915 8211

Where else to get knitted

The Crafties

This place has been offering knitting classes since 2013. A lot of the classes are one-to-one workshops and tailor made, catering to all levels of knitters and crocheters. thecrafties.hk

KPC Yarn

This Hong Kong-based company has its roots in the Shanghai textiles industry. It runs regular workshops in crochet and knitting. kpcyarn.com/