1st Contact speaks to self-confessed knitting nut, Larissa, on her relocation to London from Melbourne, Australia.
Larissa, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do for a living?
Where to begin? The basics: I’m an Australian living in London. I consider both Melbourne and London to be my homes, as I love both cities with a passion. I’ve had two stints living in London, with a total of five years so far, and no plans to move back any time soon. I’m a social worker, which is how I got my visa; I’m working here sponsored on a work permit. As challenging and stressful as my job is, I just keep reminding myself that it allows me to live in London!
You’re passion is knitting obviously. Where did it start and what has it taught you?
I started knitting about five years ago. A flatmate was learning to knit, and I thought it sounded fun so I tagged along. I’m not sure why it piqued my interest, as I’d never been in to crafts at all. My initial progress was pretty slow, but then I discovered the world of knitting blogs, and I found the creativity of the online community to be totally inspiring. Although as a downside, I spend more time admiring other people’s creations than actually working on anything myself! I’d say that knitting has enhanced my attention to detail, which is a trait that I had anyway. Unfortunately I find myself staring at people’s knitwear in the street, figuring out how their cardigan or hat is constructed, so that’s something that I have to work on! Knitting also requires lots of patience, but I’m not so great at that. Most significantly though, it’s been a fantastic way for me to meet amazing people. I’ve connected with so many other knitters, both around the world and here in London. No matter where you live in London, there’s a knitting group nearby, and it’s a great opportunity to meet up with people, have a coffee or glass of wine, and make some great friends. I joke that my knitting meet-ups are just an excuse to go to the pub really.
You have a wonderful picture of your Mum on your blog. Tell us a bit about that picture.
On mothers’ day I posted my favourite photo of my mum as a small tribute. I tend not to post anything too personal on my blog, but this was something I decided to do. It’s a photo of mum at the beach in Tasmania (in the middle of winter, no less) with her pet lamb, Bow. He was four days old at the time, and a total sweetie! It’s one of the photos that I think best captures mum’s spirit and her great sense of humour. I don’t think it’s often that people see a lamb being walked down the beach!
How do you keep in touch with family back in Australia? Is it difficult?
It’s amazingly easy these days to keep in touch; Australia doesn’t seem like far away until you actually get on a plane to travel there! Email is of course very simple, but for family members without internet access, phone calls are much cheaper than they used to be. Years ago I used phone cards, but I found that the line quality wasn’t always great, so I just use the standard landline connection and calls aren’t expensive. Just remember the time difference!
You seem to love vintage London and its markets in general. When you first arrived, how did you know where to find all the best London markets and sites of interest?
I actually first moved to London as quite a spontaneous decision, so I had very little prior knowledge of the city. This was also back in the day before the internet and
blogs had really taken over the world. I find that Time Out magazine is a great source of information about what’s happening in London; I have a subscription but they also have listings on their website. Now that the weather is finally improving, I’d love to head out with my camera and do a bit of a blog series on London markets, and show off a few more of my favourites.
You say you criss-cross between London and Australia. Do you always travel light? What’s the biggest item that you’ve ever lugged/sent around?
Well, I have good intentions of travelling light, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way! I generally pack light if I’m going back to Melbourne for a visit, but that’s mostly in anticipation of all the things that I’ll buy there! I seriously believe that Melbourne has pretty much the best shopping in the world, so I’m looking forward to my next two-yearly visit to stock up.
I definitely didn’t pack light when I decided to move back to London. I have a very strong nesting instinct, so even though I move around frequently, I like to get settled in and make a place my ‘home’ quickly. I don’t actually own any large items, and although my knitting yarn adds up to quite a bit in terms of size, I’d say that it’s my books that are the bulkiest, and definitely the heaviest. Even though I spend my life on the computer, books are precious to me. I actually can’t ever move back to Australia because I have too much stuff!
What do you think the young generation’s take is on knitting?
Being thirty-something, I can really only guess what the young folk think of knitting! It’s interesting to see the whole fashion-led resurgence of knitting though. Barely a week goes by without a newspaper or magazine article about how trendy knitting is, and all the celebs are into it. I think it’s just like any hobby really; there will be people who love it, and others who aren’t interested at all. I get lots of very intrigued people stopping to chat when I’m knitting on the tube or train, so that’s really nice. People always seem fascinated, and there’s something very soothing and comforting about watching someone knit. I look much younger than I am, so I think that also makes people stop and question their stereotypes of knitting only being something for people of a certain age.
Do you have any parting words of wisdom for Australians moving to the UK?
I would suggest making it a priority to get a bank account set up, and don’t underestimate the bureaucracy involved in getting a National Insurance number! Once you’ve got these sorted, the rest is a breeze. Oh, and if you’re in London, make sure to use the buses, as it’s a great way to see the city. Enjoy!
Larissa’s blog: http://travelknitter.wordpress.com