Happiness Blog Series P2 – Interview with Margaret Bell, Free Range Knitter

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Hello and a pre-emtive Merry Christmas to you all!

We’re super excited to officially introduce you to the first of many Q&A’s with some of our favourite Free Range Knitters. We’re affectionally calling it our ‘Happiness Blog series’, because they’ll be taking a look at some of the thoughts and ideas of the people that keep us inspired and make us feel happy. We hope you’ll find these ideas just as interesting and inspiring as we do!

First up we’re talking to Margaret Bell, a true Free Range knitter at heart who keeps us on our toes and reminds us why we’re in the wool business!

P.S. If you missed our Founder, Michelle Stewart’s interview, catch up on it here.


Tell us a bit about yourself – what makes you tick? Anything from a favourite colour to something or someone you find inspiring!

I’m a quiet and reflective soul and would be quite happy sitting and knitting alone all day with just some occasional outside interaction! However, I have found group knitting satisfying as well. So if I’d been around during the French Revolution, I’d probably have been a* tricoteuse (but would have looked away during the executions!). I am greateful that thanks to the feminist movement, knitting is now being seen more and more as a ‘normal’ activity that people of any age or gender can choose to do without being judged.

 I love to create for others and knitting allows me to create something from start to finish and pass it on to someone who needs it – whether that be family, friends or a charity. Like Granny McFlitter, Champion Knitter, I’ve also knitted for penguins!

*For the less history-savvy amongst you (we had to look it up as well!), a tricoteuse is ‘a woman who sits and knits (used especially in reference to a number of women who did this, during the French Revolution, while attending public executions).’ Yikes!


How and why did you first get into knitting and crafting?

As a child, I was really blessed to live right next door to one of my beautiful grandmothers. My Nana taught me to knit when I was around five years old – it was easy for me to just walk across the driveway to her house. I still have my first attempt at knitting a ‘Peggy square’, which we ended up re-naming as a ‘Doll’s apron’ because I was really good at decreasing without even trying!

 My own mother was also a great knitter, but was kept busy running a business and a home. She was always there when needed, though – especially when I was knitting in the back seat of the car on a road trip. Every time I dropped a stitch, I’d just pass the work through to her in the front seat, she’d fix it (as if by magic) and pass it back! Mum also taught me to crochet, but knitting has always been my first love.


How often are you crafting and what inspires you to do it?

I’m an ‘all year round’ knitter – I get grumpy if I don’t pick up the needles every day…

Knitting has been a constant in my life.  Mostly I have knitted for family and friends, but for a few years while I was on the DPB I was doing it out of necessity. I earned extra money for the family by knitting jumpers with sheep designs that were exported to Japan. I still love sheep, but never want to knit that design again! I also knitted really trendy designs for a store in Queenstown that catered for overseas tourists. Then, I was fortunate to be able to knit sample garments for the local wool shop, Garney Spooner, which was a great way to test new patterns and yarn – and is still my absolute favourite wool shop!

My inspiration is the excitement and anticipation of how a garment will turn out – who will get to wear it, the places it will go and the memories it will create.


How and why do you think slow crafting helps you live a happier life?

Probably, like a lot of people, I can’t sit in one place and do nothing with my hands. Knitting means I don’t feel guilty when I watch TV because I know I’m going to have something tangible to show for my time. 

Knitting is my stress release and it goes everywhere with me. It’s in the car on road trips (but only when I’m not driving!), when I’m watching a movie (always a simple pattern without shaping so I can knit in the dark!), watching sport or when I’m waiting at appointments (more productive than reading a magazine!). I don’t care what anyone else thinks when I pull out my knitting – mostly it’s a conversation starter *and the odd person who gives me a strange look isn’t my kind of person anyway… 

*This is one of the reasons we love Margaret so much – a true Free Range Knitter! 


What is your knitting style, who are you crafting for and what are you making?

Over the years, I have knitted for family, friends and partners (mostly now ex-partners, so I think that tale about never knitting for your man until after you are married might have a ring of truth about it!). I am so glad that wool has come back into fashion – my grandchildren all love hand knits that are made in trendy designs such as those Michelle from The Woven designs.

It makes me happy to know that I have taught all my children and grandchildren to knit (admittedly, with varying degrees of success). That skill will be a lasting legacy – along with the garments and blankets I have made for them.


Any advice for others you’ve learnt from crafting?

Life is too short to use cheap yarn! There have been times when I’ve had to use cheap wool, but I’ve nearly always regretted it. You’re spending hours creating something and putting your heart and soul into it, so try to use the best quality wool you can. Think of it as a living legacy and don’t ever feel guilty for spending time and money doing what you love.   

 Always hand wash your knitted garments – they were made with love, so should be treated with love. I’m still wearing a hand knitted jumper made 30 years ago – it’s been washed lots of times yet still looks fantastic and draws admiring comments.

If you found that inspiring, keep your eyes peeled for our next post, we’ve got plenty more inspiring thoughts and opinions to share with you!





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