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A CLOSE KNIT COMMMUNITY; When actress and lifelong knitter Lynne Seymour set up her yarn shop in Cardiff two years ago she wanted it to be part of the community. She's now got scores of knitters working together to make baby sets for new mothers in Africa. She tells Abbie Wightwick why knitting is more than a hobby to.

Knitting brings people together, believes Lynne Seymour. Setting up her yarn shop Calon Yarn in Cardiff just over two years ago, she wanted to do something more than just sell the best yarn she could find.

She hoped her shop on Cowbridge Road East would become a community hub, something that would bring people together with a common interest.

She got busy organising knitting mornings and charity knits and her knitters and customers are now knitting for a charity making blankets and hats for mothers and babies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the past year Lynne has got scores of nimble-fingered knitters on board to stitch for Mothers of Africa, a charity led by Dr Tei Sheraton.

Their first consignment of hats and blankets was taken out in June by Dr Tei, who works at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, and now Lynne's knitters are busy stitching another batch ready to go before Christmas.

"I try to choose a charity every year and the response to this has been phenomenal," says Lynne.

"We've been running the charity knitting campaign on behalf of Mothers for Africa to knit 'fish and chip baby sets' - so called because very often the newborn babies are wrapped in newspaper when they are born because they have nothing else."

The charity, based in Liberia, sets up health centres and is adding the newborn baby knits to gift sets including other items like health packs to encourage mothers to give birth at the centre where they and their babies can be cared for and the tots inoculated.

When Lynne heard about the campaign she put out a call to local knitters and had a huge response.

By June they had made nearly 300 sets and 50 blankets, each with a message attached from a knitter in South Wales to a new mother in Africa.

"Dr Tei says women over there are moved and fascinated by the fact that we're taking our time and skill to help them," says Lynne.

"Knitters from all over South Wales have got involved.

"Staff from (furniture company) Arthur Llewellyn Jenkins set up a knitting group in their lunch hour, we have a charity knit at the shop once a month as well as a knitting morning on Fridays and men and women are involved. It's mostly women, but there are some men who knit, and we have people from their 20s to their 80s getting involved."

Sometimes the knitters meet at Calon Yarn or they knit at home and work, bringing their items in.

"So many people want to knit or learn to knit and this project is also perfect for beginners," adds Lynne.

"I think people like knitting because it's getting back to basics; it's not cheaper to make your own, we're just reclaiming skills we've lost.

"You can buy a jumper for a fraction of the PS30 it costs to knit one yourself, but it's nice to reclaim lost skills.

"Knitting skipped a generation and I'm all for feminism but I don't think we should lose the ability to knit."

Lynne hasn't so far persuaded husband Keiron Self, star of BBC One's hit comedy My Family, or their 13-year-old son Jacob Seymour-Self.

That said, she's been surprised by the type of people coming to her to buy yarn and join knitting groups.

"When I started the shop I thought a lot of people coming to the knitting courses we run would be yummy mummy types, but mainly they're hard working, professional women who want to get absorbed in something away from work.

"Knitting can do that as you have to get involved in what you're doing and it's quite rhythmic.

"It's also incredibly sociable. "We have a knitting club on Friday mornings and the people who attend have made so many friends. Around 10 been involved in kn Mothers of Africa. 00 people have nitting for "It's been amazin one lady in her 80s ng.We have s who can barely see but wordemon and knocks An actor by trade been knitting all healso a founder mem Wales-based theatrMappa Mundi, whi classic works to the "I knit in rehears decided to set upm rks like as out blankets." e, Lynne has er life and is mber of South re company ich brings e stage. sals and my yarn shop with my brother Jon because I wanted a shop where I could get wonderful wool.

"I am going on tour soon with Mappa Mundi and will be taking my knitting with me - have wool will travel is my motto!" | Calon Yarns in Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, can be contacted on 029 20 211508 or go to For more information on Mothers of Africa go to A LITTLE THERAPY AWAY FROM CARING COMMITMENTS Jane Paler, one of Lynne's knitters clicking away for Mothers for Africa, looks at knitting as a form of therapy.

After a busy career as chief executive of a large charity, she found herself caring for three relatives with dementia and needed something for herself, but didn't have much time.

"Knitting was something I did with my mother and got into even more in my teens and expanded into crochet and lace making," explains Jane, 59.

"I carried on into my 20s, and then in my 30s my career took over and I didn't do anything for 25 years.

"Then, 18 months ago, when caring for my parents and my husband, I realised I needed to do something for myself.

spawkf "It is very, very stressful caring for people with dementia and at first I was still working, so I took up knitting again as a form of meditation."

VwatOTtus " Jane, who lives in Victoria Park, Cardiff, was chief executive and a consultant to the Cardiff-based Opportunity Housing Trust as well as teaching at universities before she stopped t become a carer.

"Knitting is therapeutic. It's not cheaper than buying but there is a big movement back to knitting. For me it's also part of a fantastic social life. I have met new people through knitting and have been on knitting retreats. Knitting and laughing and drinking champagne together on a retreat is just wonderful!"


| Knitter Lynne Seymour of Calon Yarns Craft Studios on Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff PICTURES: Matthew Horwood (c)

Knitter Lynne Seymour, left, helps Molly Seymour, centre, at Calon Yarns Craft Studios

| Lynne Seymour says it's nice to reclaim lost skills like knitting
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:60SUB
Date:Oct 9, 2013
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