Northern Ireland

Close-knit group make knockers and natter

Ball of wool
Image caption One man told BBC News NI that knitting helped him with his depression

All it takes is a ball of wool, some patience and two good needles.

But the benefits of knitting for some people stretch far beyond the warmth of a woolly jumper.

Knitting, embroidery and crocheting are the arts activities which most people in Northern Ireland actually participate in, according to the annual arts report published by the Department of Communities.

For Martin, it helped him to battle depression.

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Media captionClose-knit group make knockers and natter

"People with depression, they sit in the house and can start thinking stupid things," he said.

"But if you're sitting knitting or crocheting, you're not thinking about the things which are getting you down.

"Somebody wants me to make them something, and while you're doing that it's making you feel better."

Knit like fury

Martin attends the 'Knit and Natter' group at Belfast's Ormeau Road library, which meets every Thursday morning.

Group members have a cup of tea, chat, and knit like fury.

It is one of almost 80 'Knit and Natter' groups that meet weekly in libraries across Northern Ireland.

When I called in, members were busy knitting a variety of socks, hats, coats and jumpers.

But helping Martin recover from depression is not the only way the knitters contribute.

Hot and sticky silicone

Some are also knitting prosthetics for breast cancer survivors.

Image caption The padded knitwear can be tucked into any bra and is an alternative to silicon for women who have had a mastectomy

Mary Field from the 'Knitted Knockers NI' charity was one of those busy with the needles.

"We supply these free to breast clinics," she said.

The padded knitwear can be tucked into any bra and is an alternative to silicon for women who have had a mastectomy.

"Silicone can be unpopular because it gets hot and sticky, and we've had very good feedback about the knitted version," said Mary.

"We've already completed about 100 orders and we only started in July.

"The group has been great, and it's very good to know that while you're knitting and nattering you're also helping someone."

According to the Department of Communities, more than three quarters of adults go to arts events at least once a year.

A trip to the cinema, going to a museum, the theatre or a gig are the most popular.

However, when it comes to actual participation, knitting came up top - ahead of playing a musical instrument, painting and drawing.

And if you would like to knit - and natter - it is easy to join a group near you.

There is a full list on the Libraries NI website.