Meet the Expert – Hazel Tindall

Hazel Tindall © Kate Davies Designs

We know how important our experts are on a Stitchtopia tour & we love getting the chance to get to know them a little better. We met up with knitting expert Hazel Tindall recently (otherwise known as the world’s fastest knitter) for a catchup on knitting & to talk about her role in our upcoming Shetland tour.

Hazel, you hold the title of ‘World’s Fastest Knitter’. Tell us how you discovered knitting and how you first became passionate about it.

Growing up in an extended family home – my family shared a house with my paternal grandparents and their unmarried daughter – I had regularly watched knitters from the time I could first focus on movement. The three adult women in the house were knitting because it was the only means of earning. Children invariably want to imitate adults so it was not unusual for children to start knitting before starting school. I too earned cash for knitting fair isle yokes during the years I attended secondary school and college.

Did you always aspire to be the world’s fastest knitter or is this something that just happened?

I never aspired to enter a competition; it just happened! In 2004 Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers held a competition in Shetland to see if we could knit faster than the person who already held the title. Most of us could, but I was the only one heading for England at the right time to take a detour to London to enter the national competition organised by UK Hand Knitting later that year. Representing the UK, I won another competition in America in 2008 ahead of the current Guinness World Record Holder.

Was there a single moment when you fell in love with knitting, or did it happen gradually?

I always loved knitting, and enjoyed the freedom to experiment with colour as I knitted all those fair isle yokes in the 1960s. For a time I spent more time sewing and crocheting but once I started to knit fair isle again I immediately realised there is a rhythm to knitting with yarn in both hands which I had missed. I’ve never stopped since then.

You are so lucky to live in wonderful Shetland! We have added two new Shetland departures to our 2018 knitting programme. How excited our you to be leading these two trips and what do you think first time visitors to Shetland would most enjoy?

I really enjoy meeting all the enthusiastic knitters who choose a special interest holiday in Shetland. First time visitors are usually impressed by the scenery as they are driven from the airport to Lerwick. Coastline walks from the hotel are a great way to see seals, birds and possibly otters, especially if you are up very early. The yarn shops are also special places for knitters to visit.

Can you give us an idea of what you will be teaching in your workshops on the trips?

My aim is for participants to go home with a finished/almost finished useful piece of knitting. I give a choice of 2 things to knit, giving opportunity to experiment with colour as well as knitting in the round with 2 colours. One project involves cutting the knitting to give a flat piece. It is possible for the very able knitters to finish both projects.

You are a passionate Fair Isle designer. Do you have a favourite piece of historic Fair Isle knitting?

One of my favourite pieces is a jumper my Mum knitted for my brother in 1953. It was probably worn by his 3 younger sisters after he outgrew it so it is in very poor condition now.

What would be your top 3 knitting tips?

Try using a knitting belt and long double pointed needles.
Practice so you can hold the yarn in either hand – it makes knitting with 2 colours easier.
Avoid sitting too long before taking a break.

What projects are you currently working on?

I need to write up some patterns so can’t allow myself to start a big piece of knitting until that is done. I have several garments which could be worn again if I would get on with mending them!

What destination would you love to visit and why?

I would love to visit New Zealand. Many Shetlanders emigrated there and it would be good to meet my cousins, and see the scenery.