Vanessa Bracewell on Working with Wool
It is always amazing to discover the different ways in which people are working with wool to make life better, and today WOVEMBER is delighted to introduce Vanessa Bracewell of Knit Quit Kits, who is producing kits that use 100% WOOL, designed to help smokers quit. I smoked as a teenager and in my early twenties, and picking up my knitting was one of many strategies that I adopted whilst trying to give it up. I am happy to say that I have avoided smoking since 2004 and don’t miss cigarettes at all. Indeed with hindsight I realise I may have given up much earlier if I had developed the healthy WOOL HABIT which now utilises the time I once spent smoking! It took me the best part of a decade to move from cigarette smoke to wool fumes, but luckily, if you are a smoker and wish to quit, you don’t have to wait that long! Simple patterns for knitting comforting objects in Bluefaced Leicester Wool are here to help. And here to explain Knit Quit Kits is Vanessa, who has kindly agreed to do a Q&A for WOVEMBER. All content and photos © Vanessa Bracewell and used with kind permission.
WOVEMBER: When I was giving up smoking, one of the things that helped was understanding what I enjoyed about the habit and finding healthier alternatives. Having something to do with my hands and a talking point for when meeting strangers were things I liked about smoking; I’m happy to say that knitting has provided wonderful replacements for these. When I am waiting for a train or a bus I can get on with my knitting rather than smoking, and when I meet people for the first time, my knitting makes a great social talking point! Does any of this resonate with your own experience, and how has knitting helped you quit? What was the first thing that you knitted when you were giving up smoking?
Vanessa: Over the years there seemed to be an increasing list of activities I could accomplish quite fluently with a cigarette on the go; thankfully knitting isn’t one of them! In retrospect I certainly wasted a great deal of money and a large amount of my precious time whilst actually smoking. In the beginning the most difficult thing about not smoking was having nothing to do with my hands. Although my Mum and Granny were both fluent knitters and keen for me to learn the practical pastime, as a child, the quiet, sedative nature of the activity never did appeal to me. However those qualities have now become my salvation and given me a fascinating new and productive interest. Taking up knitting again has also encouraged me to share my success – of knitting instead of smoking – with others who want to be rid of the addiction.
My first knitted item (six months ago, when I quit smoking) was a poor attempt at a sweet little mouse for my cat to play with. I had tried following patterns but couldn’t really apply myself to learning complicated stitches and keeping track of my rows and stitches. Using the basic knit stitch I ad-libbed the design and produced my first knitted keepsake.
WOVEMBER: Your kits contain three patterns: ‘Bill the Owl’ Keyring (to offer wisdom in moments of stress); Best Friends Together Bracelets (one for you and one for your quitting-smoking helper); and a practical drawstring bag for stashing money that would otherwise have been spent on cigarettes! These ideas are lovely, and the kits are suitable for beginner knitters, as well as being stylish and fun. Could you say a bit about how you have gone about designing Knit Quit Kits with someone who is trying to quit smoking in mind?
Vanessa: Wanting to design something both practical yet simple to knit, ‘Bill The Owl’ came to mind initially, symbolising the wisdom of my efforts to become a non smoker. I kept that to the fore of my mind whilst knitting in those early difficult days when I was really desperate to kick the habit and still felt vulnerable. It seemed a natural progression from the owl to the drawstring bag which represented somewhere to keep the savings I was making. It does hold quite a number of £5 notes and it became pleasing to see them increase in number! The bracelets were useful objects to wear as a reminder of what I was trying to achieve, so that each morning when I put them on I was pleased to remind myself that another non-smoking day had passed and I was heading nearer to my goal.
WOVEMBER: Of course of key interest to WOVEMBER readers will be the fact that you have chosen to use pure wool for your Knit Quit Kits and that you officially support the Campaign for Wool. It took me ages to discover wool when I got back into knitting; like most people, I started out being obsessed with softness and colour, and knew nothing about the provenance of what I was knitting with. It seems that you have discovered the wonders of working with pure wool far quicker than I did; what was it that made you decide the Knit Quit Kits should be made of pure wool and not something cheaper like acrylic?
Vanessa: It was an easy decision about what yarn to use. Initially I tried acrylic for cheapness but hated the feel of it – particularly the way it caught on the needles, and because it made me cringe, (like fingernails scraping along a blackboard ). I recalled that in my childhood my mother only ever knit with pure wool.
Her contention was that if she was going to spend so much time creating garments like, for example, Aran sweaters for my sister and me, then she was only going to knit with the best yarns. We lived on the Yorkshire border, over which she went to buy hanks of wool that I held whilst she wound the balls. Since I stopped smoking my sense of smell is keen and the wonderful country odour of the wool is very pleasing to me now and very reminiscent of snuggling into those warm and comfortable garments.
WOVEMBER: You have specifically chosen Bluefaced Leicester Wool for these kits; I wondered if you could talk a little bit about this yarn in particular – where it is spun; why you chose it; – and what you feel the benefits are of working with British Wool?
Vanessa: I first came across the Bluefaced Leicester sheep in my fell walking days as a teenager although at the time I saw many breeds of sheep without knowing anything about their wool. I have begun to recognise the different breeds more since I made a study of their yarns for the purpose of producing my Knitting Kits, and when I decided I wanted to use British wool for its feel and quality I tested various 100% British Wool Yarns. For me, the gorgeous Bluefaced Leicester is the softest and most rewarding wool to knit with and all the yarns we use in the Knitting Kits are spun in Yorkshire Mills. We use various suppliers of British Bluefaced Wool because the colour options are quite important to me and can’t all be obtained from the same source – which may seem a little fussy for a basic ‘learn to knit kit’ but I feel that if you have stopped smoking and new to knitting – why not use the best? You’re worth it.
The various yarns are now available to buy on our website at www.knitquitkits.co.uk
WOVEMBER: Where can folk who are trying to quit smoking find your kits to buy and is there any way in which WOVEMBER readers can help support Knit Quit Kits?
Vanessa: After a great deal of testing, knitting, re-testing, knitting and enlisting the help of many volunteer knitters including family, friends, knitting groups and two wonderful review knitters found through the Ravelry website, our Knit Quit Knitting Kit is now ready for sale:
They are available on our new website at www.knitquitkits.co.uk , priced £16.99 each.
You can also follow us on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/knitquit, or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KnitQuit
You can also see some beginner-knitter tutorials on some of the techniques used in the kits on the Knit Quit Knitting Kits YouTube channel here.
Thank you very much Vanessa for sharing your story here with WOVEMBER readers. We were thrilled to see that you have also been joining in with the WOVEMBER WAL! We love the photo of your knitting, cat and fire, and hope that you are having a wonderfully warm and woolly WOVEMBER without cigarettes and WITH your WOOL!