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Could diver Tom Daley's knitting at the Olympics in Tokyo inspire others to take up stitching and crocheting?

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Tom Daley - Olympic gold medallist and avid knitter.

While youngsters across the country have taken to parks, sports pitches, and swimming pools to emulate their Tokyo heroes in the past two weeks, could one of Team GB's Olympic champions perhaps inspire an altogether different hobby?

The synchronised diver caused a stir early on Sunday morning when he was pictured in the stands beside the water at the springboard final passing the time while knitting.

Not content with flicking through a book or magazine, or scrolling on his phone like so many of us these days are inclined to do, the recently crowned Olympic gold medallist was mask on and head down, crafting something from a ball of purple thread.

His appearance, caught by the panning television cameras, generated a wave of questions online from people keen to know exactly what he was working on that meant his eyes were on the wool and not just the water. (He later confirmed it was the start of a jumper for a dog.)

Tom Daley loves to knit and crochet
Tom Daley loves to knit and crochet

Tom, who has previously described knitting as his 'secret weapon', has credited his gentle hobby with 'keeping him sane' in the run up to competing in Japan.

In fact, when the 27-year-old came onto Instagram after taking the top spot with dive partner Matty Lee, it was a knitted medal pouch he had designed with both the Japanese and Union flag on it, that he proudly hung up for his camera alongside his shiny gold medal.

The married father-of-one wrote: "Thank you to all my fellow stitchers. Learning to knit and crochet has helped me so much through these Olympics."

There is even a dedicated Instagram page to showcase his skills - called @madewithlovebytomdaley - which is followed by almost half a million people alone and is on top of the 2.6 million followers cheering him on through his main Tom Daley diving page.

The second site, reserved for all things connected to crafting and stitching, has also helped raise thousands of pounds for The Brain Tumour Charity thanks to auctions and online raffles of his pieces. The charity is close to the athlete's heart after Tom's father Robert died of cancer in May 2011, aged just 40.

Tom Daley's enthusiasm for knitting, particularly during the Olympics, has been warmly welcomed by fellow knitters - with many of them among the 7,000 comments the video of his stitched medal pouch generated congratulating him on raising the hobby's profile.

Tom Daley's public enthusiasm for knitting has been praised by others who enjoy the hobby
Tom Daley's public enthusiasm for knitting has been praised by others who enjoy the hobby

Knitting shop Yarn etc, which sells both online and from its base in Harrogate, wrote: "Congratulations Tom on your well deserved gold medal. You are a wonderful ambassador for our fabulous country and a fantastic ambassador for your amazing yarn community. Keep on crafting and winning those medals."

While internet yarn store abitwoolly.co.uk, based in Bristol, posted: "Many, many congratulations (and to Matty too). And thanks for rocking the knitting and crochet industry too."

The history of knitting
The history of knitting

With a 21st century trend for unique, handcrafted goods, celebrities like presenter Stacey Solomon showcasing their own crafting efforts on their social media pages and programmes like Kirstie's Handmade Christmas encouraging everyone to give some form of crafting a go, there's perhaps never been an easier time to take-up such a skill.

The pandemic is also understood to have encouraged many people to take up hobbies they may not otherwise have considered while we were all locked-down in our homes for many weeks both this year and last.

Has the trend for crazes like yarn bombing encouraged more people to get crafty?
Has the trend for crazes like yarn bombing encouraged more people to get crafty?

The graffiti-inspired trend for yarn bombing, in which those who knit or crochet decorate items such as post boxes, fences and railings in their communities with unique handmade designs, has also grown in popularity over the last few years further bringing the popularity of crochet and knitting skills into the mainstream once again.

Those wishing to give knitting a go for the first time will find a raft of help and advice online detailing everything from the best equipment and thread to get started with alongside some basic stitches and patterns to try.

Craft store Hobbycraft which runs both in-store and online workshops, has a number of free knitting patterns to download online and an entire stream of You Tube videos which carefully show keen crafters how to begin.

While June's worldwide Knit In Public day encourages those with a passion for knitting to share it in public, with 18 different countries including the UK taking part this year. Learn more here.

And with only a pair of needles and a ball of thread initially needed to cast-off - its relatively kind on the pennies to begin with too.

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