Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Saturday, 2 January 2010

Edinburgh knitting project attracts ex-cons

By Morag Kinniburgh
BBC Scotland

Weaving at Greyfriars Community Project
Weaving is taught at the Greyfriars Community Project

Weaving, knitting and crochet are not what you would expect to attract ex-convicts, drug users and alcoholics.

But now a Greyfriars Community Project scheme in Edinburgh is proving popular with men and women knitting scarves, weaving ties and crocheting purses.

The project volunteers said teaching the traditional skills helped centre-users rebuild their lives.

Pat Laing, of the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, said: "It's about getting skills."

She added: "You're never going to be a weaver, but it's the co-ordination, the involvement, just doing something useful and seeing something at the end of it that you can actually say I've made that, I did that, which is really great for your self esteem, and for your sense of self worth."

I come here to clear my head and just focus on doing stuff instead of being out in the streets gang fighting and taking drugs
Project participant

One 21-year-old taking part in the scheme, who did not wish to reveal his name, said he had spent several years behind bars for serious assault and attempted murder but the project had helped him turn his life around.

He said: "It's like a dream come true.

"I've been in prison several times, more than several times, and then I started in here and from then on I've found a better person within myself.

"I come here to clear my head and just focus on doing stuff instead of being out in the streets gang fighting and taking drugs."

Dying out

Teaching traditional craft skills to those with chaotic lifestyles is not only to give them a sense of purpose so they can turn away from addiction and crime, it is also designed to help keep traditional skills alive.

Josiah Lockhart, Greyfriars Community Project co-ordinator, said: "It's something we've had for thousands of years and is dying out right now.

"We really wanted to help address the breakdown in the community and reinvigorate a desire to bring back these traditional crafts."

The unnamed participant said he was planning a career in music and dance and was already doing some DJing work in the capital, but he warned that without the Greyfriars Community Project he would easily slip back into drink, drugs and crime.

He said: "It would take away my self motivation to get up in the morning, so I'd automatically convert back to my old ways, which is something I do not want to do because I've been there, I've got the T-shirt."



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