In these difficult times, it is the little random acts of kindness that can make such a difference, and in Newport Pagnell one lady has single-handedly managed to raise spirits of the whole town. Sammy Jones tracked down the enigma who calls herself Knitting Nana…
I did a couple of bobble hats, and gloves, and now I do key rings, bookmarks and little embroidered wreaths. I’ve made soft animals, owls, I’ve just done a fox…”
Knitting Nana is telling me about some of the many little knitted niceties she has hidden around town over the past few months.
We’re living through a pandemic; times are tough, the news is sombre and she decided she just wanted to spread a little happiness, and give people a boost.
“Everyone needs cheering up, don’t they?” asks the needle-wielding superstar who has caused a sensation for the gifts that she leaves dotted around in public places.
Nana keeps things seasonal too – she started by making Christmas decorations, but Easter egg covers are her current ‘works in progress’.
“I’ve bought some cream eggs to put inside those…” says the lovely lady.
All the items are accompanied by a handwritten note, and her efforts have been warming the community who now delight in sharing images of their found treasures through the town’s Facebook page.
“I always put a little message in – I think it’s important,” she says, “It gives you a little lift, doesn’t it? It just perks you up. The items seem to find the right people somehow too,” she realises, “The bookmark was found by an avid book reader, and a lady whose mother collects owls found the owl that I had hidden. It’s strange, but lovely.”
Knitting Nana learned to knit one purl one at a young age; a skill she mastered from her father: “He learned in the army, and his mother was a very good knitter too.”
Previously, the idea of your Nana knitting little bits and pieces while watching the TV might have been considered an old-fashioned hobby, but let us tell you that thanks to the anonymous lady, knitting is very much on-trend in the Paggers area again!
“And my husband doesn’t mind at all!” she laughed, “I knit every day and I always have. I’m really interested in the social history of knitting too. We’re not at war right now, but we’re in a pandemic and more and more people are taking up things like knitting, gardening and crocheting.”
And Nana has a fresh and funky side to her knits: “I design some things myself,” she says,
“I tend to try and knit things that I call quirky.”
When she’s not busy on her ‘Knits for Newport’ she still works the needles – making items for the Knit For Peace charity: “They support refugees coming from Syria, and send stuff to camps where it is needed. They also help women’s refuges.”
This pastime helps to keep Knitting Nana feeling fine too: “For me, the benefit is my mental health; when I am knitting I am not thinking about what is going on, I am thinking about what I am designing. And it is medically proven to lower your blood pressure,” she promises.
Unsurprisingly, her family are proud of their Nana’s newfound fame.
“My grandson says he is going to keep all the bits I’ve knitted for him over the years, in case they become valuable,” she laughs, “He calls me the Banksy of knitting!’
And just like Banksy who creates his street art undetected, she is distributing her knits without being identified – but doing it is a two-man job.
“My husband comes with me and stands on guard to check there is no-one around!” she admits.
The gift-giving idea seems to be spreading too, and someone has recently taken to distributing crocheted hearts around the town.
“I don’t mind at all,” she says of this new mysterious creative on the scene, “It cheers people up, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, isn’t it?”
Knitting Nana says she will carry on producing little gifts for as long as the lockdown continues, and so we expect her to be busy with her balls of wool for some time yet.
And Pulse is keeping the identity of this kind-hearted lady a woolly secret : “I’ve had a lovely response on Facebook and it is so nice reading people’s responses. I can’t believe how it has taken off,” she said, “But I haven’t done it for the fame…I just want to make people smile.”