PURL YOURSELF TOGETHER: Reef Younis investigates what rock stars do next. No. 8: How The Breeders’ Keeley Deal traded needles and knitted herself out of addiction


In 1992, Kelley Deal joined her sister (and former Pixies bassist) Kim, in alternative rockers The Breeders. Offered the chance to be the band’s new drummer, and probably preying on their sisterly bond, Kelley insisted on being lead guitarist despite the fact she couldn’t play guitar. Still, that didn’t stop her going all-out to learn the necessary parts that helped make ‘Last Splash’ (released at the close of summer 1993) a platinum-selling success, and cemented ‘Cannonball’ as an MTV2 anthem for years to come.

But three years after joining the band, and two years after the release of The Breeders’ hit record, Kelley was arrested for heroin possession. Publically living out two-thirds of the ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ cliché, her indiscretion effectively put The Breeders on a six-year hiatus with a swift stint in rehab helping her avoid court and conviction.

As music stories go, it’s a familiar box-check of artistic excess but Deal has always maintained that the drugs came way before the music. “I hate the misconception that I joined a band and became a heroin addict,” she told The Guardian in 2002. “I started shooting up when I was a teenager. I was a practising alcoholic in my day job; I was working in a computer company, I had top-secret clearance for what I was doing, and I was turning up for work in the same clothes I had worn the day before, having stayed up all night on ecstasy.”

After coming through rehab, Deal took up a new vice to help her stay sober: knitting. Using her time on tour, she perfected the art of felting, blocking, simple crochet and embroidery, and her switch to needles of a cleaner kind began to pay off. It started with the sale of knitted handbags through her website, continued with appearances on the DIY Network show Knitty Gritty (what a name), and culminated in the release of her book, Bags That Rock: Knitting on the Road with Kelley Deal in 2008.

With her place in the – ahem – Knitterati confirmed, Deal’s shift from junk excess to knitted vests is an unorthodox story of rock redemption but is proof that, sometimes, two needles are better than one.

“I like to knit,” she admitted in a 2008 interview. “It’s so uncool but on the other hand I’m like, ‘fuck that, man.’ I’m not gonna be embarrassed by it, you know, I’m gonna let my freak flag fly. I like to knit, fuck everybody else.”


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