30 before 30 #25: learn something new or develop an existing skill with a course of study;

starting from stitch
starting from stitch

Those two years of Home Economics we get here in Scotland before you get to choose your options and abandon it in favour of science or art or something are such a missed opportunity. In those classes we are a captive audience; young minds in the 12-14 age bracket ripe and ready to learn such essential and useful skills as how many minutes you should boil an egg for and how one takes up a hem. Instead the curriculum has us stuffing peaches with soggy cornflakes and running a cushion shaped like the first letter of our names through a sewing machine back to front.

Those are two true stories. Perhaps your experience was better, but hell am I jealous of those crafty queens who can turn out professional-looking baked goods and one-of-a-kind pieces of knitwear of an evening, perhaps while watching television. I learned to knit in primary school – a scarf for a cuddly toy of mine that thinned out halfway down when I ran out of one colour of yarn – and had a phase where I worked on cross-stitch projects from a kit box I got one Christmas. One holiday I picked up a make-your-own ragdoll kit, but the results were so unlike anything on the front of the box I threw the poor thing in the bin and vowed there really wasn’t a point when you could pick up a sweater for ten pounds in Marks and Spencer.

Then, a couple of years ago, I bought a copy of Stitch ‘n Bitch with my Christmas money and decided I was going to take up knitting properly. I convinced myself that by the middle of the year I’d be turning out handmade jumpers and stripy socks and the hat with the kitty ears. I mastered the art of the ‘knit stitch’, made myself a simple scarf and then… my enthusiasm petered out. I think it might have been something to do with the instructions for making said stripy socks, I mean, bloody hell. Primark really oughtta give those kids in their Chinese sweat shops a little more credit…

When I saw my friend Iona, who runs an eco-shop and craft projects under the name of Wolf Bones, was offering her series of “Starting From Stitch” craft workshops again it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get back into something I’d been interested enough to make an entire shoebox worth of yarn’s investment in while requiring less financial and temporal commitment than, say, night classes. Based at the Ironbratz craft space in Glasgow’s city centre where Iona has established her shop, Starting From Stitch is a set of four workshops intended to teach you the basics in hand-sewing, embroidery and knitting through a range of fun take-home projects. Since all the materials you need are provided you’re welcome even if you haven’t tried your hand at this stuff before, although once I got going I found that the necessary skills came back to me like the proverbial riding of a bike (I say this having never ridden a bike, as I confessed to a friend on a recent visit to Glasgow’s new Riverside Museum). Refreshments are also provided, although given that Wolf Bones’ launch was sponsored by none other than Kopparberg and there were a good few leftover bottles I’m not sure if that’s the best way to take charge of a sharp object if you lack the experience.

Each session lasts three hours but don’t let the pressure get to you. The beauty of these projects is that they’re portable, and my personalised notebook cosy and hand-knitted coin purse photographed above were conversation stoppers on a couple of weekends. Having Iona on hand to help me through my more interesting mistakes (it might be like riding a bike but believe me – when I fucked up, I fucked up) has also given me the confidence to work on something on my own – I’m currently knitting a snuggly cornflower blue cowl for the winter, and let me tell you it was far easier to lug on last week’s train trips than all thousand pages of Infinite Jest.

Another great thing about the workshops is that they give you the chance to spend time coveting the products in Iona’s gorgeous little eco-store.

wolf boneswolf bones
wolf boneswolf bones

Wolf Bones will be taking a break in 2012 so Iona can go travelling – she’ll be climbing Macchu Picchu in Peru in aid of Action for Children. You can sponsor her here, but in the meantime she’s donating 15% of her pre-Christmas sales both in store and online to the cause.

And in the meantime, a new Starting From Stitch session will run every Wednesday evening in November. There’s a £10 upfront fee plus a £10 weekly charge to cover materials which you bring along on the night.