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Closely knit friends in Daikanyama

by Danielle Demetriou

I am sitting at a low wooden table with a group of Japanese mothers discussing the pros and cons of different knitting stitches.

In my hands are the embarrassingly uneven beginnings of a turquoise scarf that I am hoping will become the first-ever knitted item among the many I’ve started that I will actually manage to finish.

The women around me are clearly in a different league: one is putting the finishing touches to a knitted toy rabbit. Another is crocheting an impressively complicated item of clothing.

But despite my lack of skill, I feel relaxed and happy — as best of all, our children are being looked after in the same room, so their mothers can have a break while the little ones busy themselves with a pile of toys.

Hobbies are often one of the first things to go for new mothers following the arrival of a baby, along with high heels, late nights and spontaneous social lives.

And so it was with great pleasure that I stumbled across Sweetroom Daikanyama. The baby lounge and studio focuses on the concept of enabling parents to relax and enjoy an array of activities for mothers — from yoga and massages to knitting — while their babies are happily entertained on site.

The lounge is a relaxed space with stylish sofas, low tables, brightly colored walls and a high-quality toy and book collection that would seduce even the most reticent of children.

There are spacious baby-changing facilities as well as a self-service kitchen with soft drinks and a studio space next door where yoga and other physical activities take place.

A few times a month there is a Knit Club. It is initially with trepidation that I venture into the space having not handled a pair of knitting needles in years, not to mention my bad track record in completing things.

But the teacher, Madoko, dressed in a prettily handmade waistcoat, is as friendly as she is skilled: she later confesses that she knitted her first scarf — albeit wonkily — at the age of 4.

Slipping off our shoes in the entrance and joining the group, there are two other mothers with young daughters, aged 1 and 2, who are making knitted animal toys, as well as Naoko Suzuki, the ever-smiling owner of the space, who is busy creating a complicated crochet masterpiece.

My year-old daughter Kiko Blossom is initially wary. She clings to me as I sit down and eyes the toy collection with cautious curiosity — before slowly warming up and making her way over to explore.

Fortunately, she is in good hands: a childcarer dressed in a striped apron is looking after the babies and is skilled at keeping them entertained — from engaging them in cooking imaginary meals to reading them stories, with multiple hugs dispensed along the way.

As the knitting session gets under way and Kiko becomes immersed in cooking her fantasy stew, I am forced to confess to the teacher: I have absolutely no idea how to create the first row of stitches when starting a new piece, as I’ve always asked friends to do it for me.

And so, she shows me how to do it — before also teaching me a stitch called meriyasuami which is apparently among the most basic but feels as difficult to do as it is to say.

Different from my usual foolproof “garter” stitch, I awkwardly stretch my fingers and loop the wool, movements that feel as alien as rubbing my stomach and patting my head.

But I slowly make progress — and over the course of two hours, accompanied by cups of rooibos tea and a quick lunch break for Kiko, I knit a modest number of rows of stitches for a new turquoise scarf.

Chatting to the owner Suzuki, a mother and former nurse, at the same time, she explains: “The idea is to create a space where mothers can relax with their children. They can come here and have some tea, bring their own food or order organic lunch boxes.

“They can also take part in activities, from yoga to massages. It can be difficult to go to normal cafes with babies, so this is somewhere they can relax and meet other mothers.”

As we pack up to leave, I ponder how it’s hard to say with certainty that I’ll ever manage to finish anything I start knitting, but at least I now know how to start — and I’ll definitely be coming back.

Knit Club at Sweetroom Daikanyama meets at least twice a month and costs ¥3,000 for two hours. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, closed Sundays. For class schedules and prices, visit sr-d.jp. Twin Building Daikanyama B 102 103, 30-8 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku; 03 6416 0443.