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Tom Daley interview: We chat to the nation’s favourite poolside knitter

Tom Daley interview: We chat to the nation’s favourite poolside knitter

He’s a spectacular diver, talented knitter... and now a published author, too! To celebrate his new book, Made with Love, we caught up with the lovely Tom Daley to get to know the knitter behind the needles. We all know his inspirational story as the young Olympian who took the 2012 Olympics by storm, before going on to add a gold medal to his collection in 2021 – where he was also spotted knitting poolside, of course! Having set in motion a revival of the craft among younger generations, Tom continues to shine a spotlight on the benefits of knitting and crochet, bringing it to a wider audience than ever before. 

Tom took up knitting after his husband Lance suggested it could be a good way of occupying his mind and keeping the nerves at bay during competitions. “During the bigger competitions, there can be a lot of waiting around and, for me, this was when the worries started to take hold,” Tom explains. A huge advocate for the meditative benefits of knitting, Tom considers knitting to be his “superpower”. Knitting “calms my mind and takes me completely away,” he says. “I’m able to completely switch off from everything else, be in the zone, be in the moment, be present and it really helps me to rest and recover too.” Are there any drawbacks to knitting poolside, we wondered? “The worst thing is that when yarn gets wet, it stinks! Wet wool is not good!” he jokes. “When you use other fibres it’s better, so maybe if I don’t knit with 100% wool it will be fine…” 

Tom Daley interview: We chat to the nation’s favourite poolside knitter

As well as garments, the new book features accessories, homewares and gifts, but Tom’s biggest love is making clothes. “I love fashion, creating things I can wear and use in the house,” he says. “For me, it’s about being able to create a range that is different, cool, and something you wouldn’t necessarily be able to pick off a rack in a shop.” With this new collection, Tom hopes to encourage people to be creative and experiment. “There’s something really special to me about making and designing something completely new, something that I’ve seen that isn’t necessarily knitwear and then adapting it, designing it, changing the shape to create something that’s knitted that I’ve made myself. There’s something really satisfying about that,” he says, pointing out that his new patterns can be adapted and customised to suit the maker too. “That’s the amazing thing about making something yourself – it can be totally unique!” 

Tom Daley interview: We chat to the nation’s favourite poolside knitter

Tom is keen to allay beginners’ fears when it comes to making mistakes too. The very first thing Tom knitted was a “terrible” purple scarf – his words, not ours! – which he gave to his mum for Mother’s Day, and he’s had many a blunder since. “Be extremely patient,” he advises newbie knitters. “If you ever find yourself having to start again, you’re not starting from scratch, you’re starting from experience. That’s something I’ve learnt over time!” 

Tom Daley interview: We chat to the nation’s favourite poolside knitter

Now a father, Tom still finds time in the pockets of family life to get his ideas down on paper. “I am constantly drawing, knitting and designing, coming up with designs, finding inspiration from all kinds of places, creating mood boards – that’s what I do,” he says. “Robbie has started school now so as soon as I drop him off, I start knitting and designing, and then once he is in bed I’m knitting,” he grins. “I love the drawing process – I’m not very good at it but I love doing the doodles and figuring out what’s what.” Tom sends his sketches in to be turned into CADs (computer-aided designs), which he can then use to start creating swatches, exploring colour and texture. “When I create swatches, I love playing around with the different textures and stitches, which really allow me to envision what it could look like,” he enthuses. “And I love playing with the colour schemes and palettes before arriving at the end result.” 

Tom Daley interview: We chat to the nation’s favourite poolside knitter

Tom has certainly had fun with colour in this new collection, highlighting the patchwork blanket as a favourite design. “It has a really fun colour scheme,” he says. “It covers so many different techniques, and it’s so soft, warm, and cosy. There’s also the silk mohair blend for the vest that has some intarsia work through it – I absolutely love that.” As well as using modern palettes to appeal to younger audiences, Tom says he also focused on putting more of a “fashionable twist” on traditional knitting and crochet. “It’s trying to put a younger skew on it because for so long knitting has had such an older connotation to it,” he says. “But now, knitting is for everyone! It’s such a special skill to be able to learn.” We couldn’t agree more there, Tom! 

Tom Daley interview: We chat to the nation’s favourite poolside knitter
Q&A with Tom Daley

Q. If you could have a Knit & Natter with any group of people, who would you pick? 

A. That’s a really good question! It’s like the dinner guest list isn’t it? I would definitely want Beyonce there, that would be amazing. I would also love Anna Wintour, and Tom Ford would be really interesting. I would want to pick all of their brains because they’ve done so well with their chosen careers. 

Q. Describe your ideal knitting or crocheting session. 

A. Picture this: you’re at the beach, sat on a sun lounger, away from the sand, you have a small little project on the go, you’ve got a margarita next to you, the sun is setting so it’s shady, not too hot, not too cold either... That’s the dream!  

Q. If you had to choose a favourite out of knitting or crochet, which would you pick? 

A. Such a hard question! The thing is, crochet is so good for being able to design shapes, it’s easily fixable and changeable and you can add things to it. Whereas knitting is more challenging in that respect. But I love the way that knitting looks, so I’m going to have to say knitting. 

Tom Daley interview: We chat to the nation’s favourite poolside knitter

Tom’s new book, Made with Love, contains 30 fab knitting and crochet patterns and is out now!

Made With Love by Tom Daley is published by HQ, HarperCollins on 27th October 2022 (Hardback, £28)
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