Olivia Forster meets a creative talent who can rarely be found without knitting needles in hand

IF it moves, Lone Helliwell can probably knit it. Needles clicking, the 57-year-old from Forcett, near Richmond, spends much of her time fashioning all sorts out of wool.

“I have been asked if I can knit anything,” says Lone, a part-time textile tutor at the Clervaux Trust at Croft-on-Tees. “I had a student who would challenge me to knit various animals out of a book he liked. I never disappointed him.”

Such is her skill that it’s not surprising to learn that knitting is in her genes. “I was born in Denmark and my mother taught me to knit when I was four years old, so I knit the Scandinavian way,” she says. “My English grandmother used to make jumpers that would last for years – they seemed to grow with you. Also, both of my parents were tailors. My father was the costume designer for the Royal Danish Ballet and master of the tailors’ guild of Copenhagen, so I grew up surrounded with creativity and wonderful fabrics.”

Nowadays, Lone always has several projects on the go, one feeding the next with different ideas. “I never stick with my first draft. I like the piece to develop and grow,” she says. Her first chair, a striped affair, was covered in knitting using up odds and ends of wool, and sold within half an hour of the opening of the craft fair Lone took it to. “While I was knitting it, I was starting to get other ideas – what if I added some 3D knitting and themed the chairs? – thus my Garden and Seaside chairs were created.” She is currently working on another one which will involve sheep and farming.

Lone’s creations take a long time to design and knit – each of the chairs have at least 80 hours’ worth of knitting in them – and sizing can sometimes be tricky. “The first blue tit turned out more like an eagle,” she laughs. Thankfully, she finds it a relaxing hobby. “When life gets a bit chaotic and there is a lot going on, a few minutes' knitting sorts your thoughts into order,” she says. “I then feel I can function much better.”

  • Lone sells through a Facebook page, which also informs visitors where she is going to be demonstrating her art - facebook.com/madaboutwool