Watching Jacqui Fink knit with metre-long needles in her hands may seem like a novelty, but the luxurious throws and other merino wool creations she makes paired with the therapeutic benefits are anything but.
Jacqui’s story about how she found her knitting calling is a long, emotional and unconventional one that stemmed from her mother – who was diagnosed with terminal lung disease at the time – confessing that her only regret was that she had never fulfilled her true potential. Not wanting to ever feel the same way, and blessed with her mother’s complete recovery after a last-minute double lung transplant, Jacqui was woken up from her sleep one night and heard a voice say to her, “You have to knit and it needs to be big.”
Taking the sign literally, Jacqui reconnected with her basic knitting skills she learned from her mum as a child and started extreme knitting.
We spoke to Jacqui to find out more about her extreme knitting journey, and what we can expect from her EDEN masterclass on September 15.
What is extreme knitting?
“Extreme knitting is the name I’ve given this type of knitting that I do both because of the extreme lengths it takes to get the material I use to the quality I need it to be, and the physical scale of the work, where I use needles that are 110cm long with a 50mm diameter. My dad helped me make the needles. They may look like just a novelty, but when you’re knitting on such a big scale with such big materials, the tension you use is very different to regular knitting. You need a larger needle to be able to create a much looser tension.”
How else is extreme knitting different to traditional knitting?
“The technique of extreme knitting is the same as traditional knitting, but with some subtle differences. Plus, the reward for traditional knitting isn’t as quick, and I think that’s what I find so frustrating. The beauty of extreme knitting is I can create a throw in about three hours, and a scarf in half an hour while I sit and watch the news.”
How can knitting be therapeutic?
“Knitters will always tell you that knitting is the best form of therapy there is. I can’t meditate – I’m just not someone who can quieten my mind. But when you knit on a large scale, it involves your whole body, it’s incredibly physical, and the beautiful sensory feedback you get from high-quality merino wool is like nothing you can imagine. The combination of the full-body movement, the sensory aspect and the rhythm and ritual of knitting itself becomes this mindful experience. You zone out and once you re-emerge, you’re like ‘oh my god, where have I been? That was incredible!’ It becomes a little addictive!
I also used to suffer from depression and anxiety but since I found extreme knitting I no longer do. This work has been my salvation and that’s the real reason why I do this. I know I should be focused on the commercial side of it, but that’s just not my driver for doing this. I want to help teach others that this can provide a beautiful therapeutic outlook in their life, too.”
What about people who aren’t naturally creative? Can they still do extreme knitting?
“I used to think, ‘I can’t paint, I can’t draw’ and therefore I’m not a creative person. But creativity is such a broad concept and every one of us has some kind of ability to tap into our own creative side.”
What other exciting projects are you currently working on?
“I’m going to New York in January for Vogue Knitting Live, which is a big knitting festival, to teach a couple of workshops.”
Can you give us a teaser of what we can expect from your EDEN masterclass…
“I’ll be giving everyone 1kg of merino wool and will help them knit it into anything they want, whether that’s a scarf or a little wrap – it’s really up to them. It’s a very interactive class and the whole audience will be a sea of smiles!”
To learn the art of extreme knitting with the expert help of Jacqui Fink, come by our EDEN masterclass on Saturday 15thSeptember from 10:30am – 12:30pm.