Like the sitting room of a particularly groovy granny, the CloseKnit Cafe bursts with colour, craftsmanship and life.

The chair-covers are knitted. The light-fittings are knitted, the magazine rack is knitted and the shocking pink walls are festooned with a veritable rainbow of knitted bunting and fat balls of wool.

Outside there are knitted parasols, a wool-encrusted bench and across the pavement, if you look carefully, a municipal flower-planter has been discreetly yarn-bombed.

With her impressive ’do and glittery nails of bubblegum green, owner Steffi Colbert looks exactly like the sort of person who should be running a knitting cafe, dispensing cake (home-made by her), tea, and ‘the best coffee’ along with advice on how to get into what she thinks is the best hobby in the world.

“I know my grandmother taught me how to cast on but I can’t remember how I learned the rest,” she says, needles clacking furiously. All she knows is that she can’t remember a time when she didn’t knit.

“During the 1980s I had a stall on Camden Lock market and would sell jumpers and things,” she says. She knitted ‘heirloom blankets’ but always had a yen to open a yarn shop. When the opportunity arose last year she and husband Richard decided to go for it. They had just signed the lease on the Southbourne Grove premises and were looking forward to doing it up when disaster struck, in the shape of a particularly nasty form of cancer in Steffi’s face.

“I had surgery on May 16 (they removed part of the bone in her leg to replace that in her cheek), was in hospital to the middle of June, we opened on July 4 and I started radiotherapy on July 17,” she remembers.

Aside from the love and support of her family, what got Steffi through was knitting.

“I knitted in the hospital and in the radiotherapy unit and going to and from the hospital,” she says.

“After surgery I started knitting socks, I couldn’t speak and was on feeding tubes and being able to knit kept me sane. I found it hypnotic and repetitive to be able to do something I could do before I was ill.”

Steffi was always determined to set up a Knit ‘n’ Natter group but during her treatment realised the full value of these gatherings.

“We’ve had people visit who have suffered bereavement and I know that being able to knit and talk has helped a bit,” she says.

Her group talks about ‘all sorts of things’: “And you don’t even have to knit, you can just natter!” but it’s also proved a beacon for newcomers to the area or for people who wanted to make new friends. “I’ve seen people gain confidence and open new horizons, it’s brilliant,” says Steffi.

In addition to knit and natter they hold knitting classes, lead by Steffi, lessons in crochet and art, and; “As much as we can we support cancer charities, we’ll be doing the Macmillan coffee morning,” she says.

They accept donated wool which is used to make squares for community blankets which are donated to the St Paul’s Night Shelter during the winter. They provide warmth and comfort: “As only a knitted blanket can,” and they sell these hand-crafted beauties in the summer for charity.

They also sell furnishings in the shop, Steffi’s about to finish another knitted standard lamp and has also put an Arran knitted magazine rack for sale, as well as innumerable cushions and tea-cosies. She’s knitted fairies, meerkats and dog-coats but the strangest thing she’s ever created was a bentwood hat-stand, all coated in wool.

But it’s by no means the strangest thing she’s seen in her cafe. “I came in one day to discover two ladies who were knitting their own Boris Johnson!” she laughs.