Meet the Dudley sisters helping people love knitting

Debbie Willetts and Tracey Jackson with some of their Valentine’s Day merchandise

Balls of yarn and patterns for making everything from toys to clothes have been in high demand after the lockdown sparked interest in all kinds of crafts.

Arts and crafts retailer Hobbycraft saw its online sales triple as people tapped into new interests to stave off boredom.

And knitting was one of the most popular, as artisans of all ages tried their hand at learning new skills or rekindling old passions.

Knitting has long been considered a stress-relieving hobby and many may recall diver Tom Daley going back and forth during breaks from competition at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Knitting has become very popular again since the start of the pandemic

Sisters Tracey Jackson and Debbie Willetts both learned to knit as young girls and now that they’re adults they still find it a fun and relaxing way to spend their free time.

They also design and sell their own patterns for a wide range of items, from newborn hats and dog sweaters to blankets, bags and home decor.

“In our family everyone knitted. Our grandma loved to knit, she had 12 children and she knitted for all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” says Tracey, who lives in Stourbridge.

“Craftsmanship, as a whole, is experiencing a revival with the idea that you can take something ordinary and then, using your own skill, dexterity and vision, you can make it extraordinary.

“Knitting is also very good for mental health, it’s relaxing

Their mission is to create models that can be enjoyed by all abilities. They have easy-to-follow instructions and photographs showing the various steps and require minimal hardware purchases.

In fact, the majority of their patterns can be completed with a set of needles and with yarn that can be purchased at budget stores.

Their business, Sisters That Stitch, began during lockdown last year supporting For The Love Of Scrubs, a nationwide sewer collaboration making scrub sets and other items for frontline health workers.

Since then it has grown into a small craft business selling on Ebay, Ravelry and Lovecrafts.

“We started to adapt and create new models, putting our own touch on them. We also wanted to simplify them so as not to discourage people.

“Sometimes you get a template with a long list of instructions and it looks more complicated than it actually is,” says Tracey, 49.

All sisters patterns are designed to be easy to follow

“We also wanted to include pictures of the different stages because when I’m a model I don’t know if I made a mistake until the end when my finished item doesn’t look like the picture. I have to uncheck it and that can be quite destructive to the soul.

“With photos, you can stay on track all the time. For it to be relaxing, it has to be easy. We wanted to be friendly to knitters of all skill levels so everyone could have a go.”

“Because our patterns are easy to follow, you can knit while watching TV. Many patterns require you to stare at the sheet all the time, so we’ve tried to solve that problem,” adds Debbie, 48, who lives at Dudley.

Tracey and Debbie have created models to help people celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee

Each pattern includes line-by-line instructions along with a list of techniques and equipment needed and information on how long it will take to complete the project.

The sisters, who both work in the glazing industry, have made a series of videos demonstrating different skills from casting on and taking off to doing a stockinette stitch to help beginners and rusty knitters.

“The other thing we have done is to ensure that the majority of our patterns can be made with 4.0mm needles and DK (Double Knitting) yarn. Some patterns require specific yarn times and this limits when you can finish a project. We measure all the yarn so people know exactly how much they need. We wanted it to be cost-effective and affordable for people,” says Tracey.

They also create designs for special occasions, including hearts and flowers for Valentine’s Day, and they’ve also created a Royal Collection to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which includes a miniature version of Her Majesty in wire .

Each pattern can take a few weeks to perfect so it’s easy to follow for knitters of all skill levels.

“One of us will create a handwritten model and make sure it works, and then another person will test it. It might take a week or two depending on what’s going on. The more rows, the longer it takes time,” says Tracey.

She says giving someone a handmade gift can be cheaper, better for the environment, and can show the recipient that you really care. “There is love in every stitch.”

Tracey and Debbie enjoy sharing their passion for knitting with others. “I love the whole process, from getting inspired for what we can do, to creating the patterns. It’s a real change from the other things I do in my full-time job,” Tracey says.

“I like that it’s something creative and if you’re picky in the evening it keeps your hands busy,” says Debbie.

For more information see sistersthatstitch.co.uk or facebook.com/sistersthatstitch