If you had told Linda Brown the venture she started 15 years ago would grow so large, she would have been in stitches. 

That’s because Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers is not just one group of dedicated crafters, but an entire network with more than 2,300 members across Norfolk and surrounding counties.

Mrs Brown, a 76-year-old retired headteacher who lives in Aylsham, said: “It’s an amazing organisation. 

Dereham Times: Linda Brown, who started Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers 15 years agoLinda Brown, who started Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers 15 years ago (Image: Stuart Anderson)READ MORE: Couple devastated as Norfolk's only watermill FLOODS costing £1,000s

“I was editor of a little newspaper called Wensum Diary which went around Weston Longville.

"I put in a little article about knitting for charity along with a pattern, and then I helped a lady doing it. 

“She started the first knitting group with her friends, and since then it has grown exponentially.”

Dereham Times: Jenny Smith from Dereham Stitchers with a dress bound for AfricaJenny Smith from Dereham Stitchers with a dress bound for Africa (Image: Stuart Anderson)READ MORE: Stately home sees visitor surge after £6m restoration

The network now includes 127 groups and runs five resource centres - in Diss, Sheringham, King's Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Norwich.

Although many attendees work on their own projects, the groups also support more than 100 charities, crafting everything from school uniforms for children in Africa to plush hedgehogs for Norfolk rescue centres to sell as part of their own fundraising. 

Dereham Times: Members of the Dereham Stitchers groupMembers of the Dereham Stitchers group (Image: Stuart Anderson)Jenny Smith, who runs one of the groups - Dereham Stitchers - which meets on Thursdays at East Tuddenham Village Hall, said: “Anyone who is lonely or just wants a chat is welcome to come along and do their own sewing.”

Mrs Brown added: “Everybody feels involved. It’s entirely run by volunteers and it’s the only thing I’ve ever done where I’ve never had to scrabble around for help.”

Dereham Times: Denise Pipper, from Mattishall, takes part in the Dereham Stitchers groupDenise Pipper, from Mattishall, takes part in the Dereham Stitchers group (Image: Stuart Anderson)She said the 15-year anniversary would be celebrated at a ‘carnival of colour' at  Wymondham Central Hall in Back Lane, on Saturday, October 7 from 10am-4pm. 

She said: “There will be stalls from all our resource centres showcasing and selling things our members have made. Entrance is free. There’ll be a quiz, raffle and refreshments.”

To find out more about the groups, visit www.norfolkknitters.org.uk

The knitting boom

Mrs Brown said members of Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers came from all walks of life, and an interest in knitting and sewing was not confined to any age group. 

The extra free time many people found themselves with during the coronavirus pandemic spurred a boom in people picking up knitting needles and sewing machines, and the trend has shown no signs of slowing down. 

Dereham Times: Tom Daly knitting for Red Nose DayTom Daly knitting for Red Nose Day (Image: PA images)Singer Harry Styles and champion Olympic diver Tom Daley have both become ‘poster boys’ of knitting and knitwear, with the latter being regularly seen poolside wielding a pair of needles and a ball of yarn. 

The UK Hand Knitting Association (UKHKA) said about 1 million people have taken up knitting since 2020, meaning the country has around seven million knitters.