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Casting Off




Julia's Blog

Guinness World Record Knitting

Julia Demonstrates Guinness World Record Knitting Needles in Hong Kong
Julia Hopson (owner of Knit Wits wool shop in Penzance and Cornish Organic Wool Ltd) and her Guinness World Record Needles were invited to Hong Kong for a charity knitting event just before Christmas.

Julia says, “we received an email from Betake Marketing in Hong Kong inviting me out for a charity event, all expenses paid. To be absolutely honest we thought it was a wind up (excuse the pun) but, no, they were genuine. They initially invited me on my own but they didn’t appreciate quite how big my needles are (3.5m long, 6.5cm diameter) so I explained that I’d need to bring my husband, Matt, to carry them and change the needles round at the end of each row when I was knitting.”

The next problem Julia and Matt faced was simply getting the needles out there. Some carriers are reluctant to carry odd shaped cargo (notably British Airways will no longer carry surf boards) so their travel agent rose to the challenge and Air New Zealand stepped into the breach (obviously with all those sheep they’re used to bizarre woolly related items!). “The next challenge,” says Julia “was to get the needles to Heathrow from Penzance – they’re not exactly your average luggage on British Rail”. Amazingly, the Chinese agreed to pay for a car to carry Julia, Matt and the giant needles to Heathrow and back again and they found a taxi company with a people carrier which, with seats removed, just fitted the needles.

“We did wait with some trepidation in Hong Kong airport to see if the needles appeared”, says Julia, “obviously they wouldn’t fit on the usual luggage carousel – but, lo and behold, they appeared on a special trolley being wheeled by a curious Chinese porter!”.

Julia and Matt spent 3 days in Hong Kong and were amazed by how much it’s changed since they were last there in 1991. The biggest changes were the number of new tower blocks (even the harbour is now being reclaimed for more building land) and, sadly, the amount of pollution - with smog over the city most of the time. Julia says, “we hear about the pollution from China and the effect it’s having on the environment all the time, but to see it first hand was quite alarming, however we weren’t there to make political statements - we were there to knit and, to be honest, if I’d paid for someone to travel that far I’d have made them work far harder than we did!”. After an initial photo shoot on day one they had a day free for shopping, “perfect just before Christmas and with two boys at home” and then the big event was on the third day.

Julia explains, “it turns out that our tickets had been sponsored by The Sunshine City Plaza shopping mall in the New Territories. Apparently, it’s very common to hold ‘events’ in shopping malls in the run up to Christmas to attract shoppers. For some unknown reason someone decided to have a knitting theme – hence our appearance. I had to knit as many stitches as possible and for each stitch that I knitted the owners of the mall were going to give 10 presents to the St James Settlement Charity for the poor and elderly of Hong Kong. We were a little surprised to find posters with my face on them all over the Mall – a little disconcerting especially as all the writing around was Chinese so we had no idea what it said! Then someone turned up with a copy of that day’s local paper and there was a whole page with photos of me and the giant needles at Tregenna Castle in St Ives when I did the record knit – it was all rather bizarre, but it was going to get a whole lot more bizarre before the event was over!”

One of the problems had been the question of what to knit with – something the Chinese hosts, not being knitters themselves, hadn’t thought about. In the past Julia has knitted with nylon rope but she and Matt decided, this time, they would use their very own Cornish Organic Wool. Julia says, “we had experimented with 50 strands of our wool at the same time and the result was very attractive so, having just been certified for dyed organic wool, Matt dyed up 9 colours which, with the cream, allowed us to knit with 5 strands of each colour to make 50 strands. The result is a very thick, textured wall hanging or rug!”.

“For the event itself I had to sit on a stage wearing a voluminous t-shirt I had been supplied with, with the name of the shopping mall on it in Chinese, and knit with my 50 strands of wool. A well-known Hong Kong TV personality, Tavia Yeung, was in front of me being interviewed by a Hong Kong DJ and she then came and had a go at knitting (even though she confessed to me she’s never knitted before in her life – I’m hoping I converted her!) and then she went to the front of the stage to sing. The TV cameras were in front of us and Tavia’s ardent fans were singing along, word for word, in the front row. It really was the most surreal experience I have ever had”, says Julia. “I have to confess that, at one point, I thought I was going to get the giggles but I managed to keep control.” In the end Julia knitted 80 stitches so the mall was able to give away 800 presents – they were delighted and so was Julia although she did say she offered to knit for longer but they said it wasn’t necessary!

“We left the spare wool behind so the ardent knitters of Hong Kong can now knit up their own items in Cornish Organic Wool”, says Julia, who also managed to find time to pop into the wool shop to be greeted with, “Ah, here’s Julia!”. “The only wool shop in the world where I walk in and they know who I am and it just so happens to be in Hong Kong”, she says, “I managed to pick up some Noro which was far cheaper than the UK so I can now knit myself a jacket which will always remind me of the wonderful time we had and the fantastic hospitality of our hosts and the Chinese people”.

The final footnote to the weekend was the huge fuss made of Julia and Matt when they arrived at Hong Kong airport (at 5.30am!) with the Air New Zealand check-in staff, and other travellers, taking photographs of Julia and her extraordinary needles. “Matt said, a couple of times during the flight, ‘I hope the needles are on board’”, says Julia, “I kept saying, of course they are – especially after all the fuss they made of us”. But they weren’t! “We stood by the carousel and waited and waited and eventually a porter asked us what the problem was and they checked the plane and there were no needles”. They were finally delivered to us at home in Penzance at 9.15pm on Christmas Eve – now that’s what you call service!

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