By AUDREY YOUNG political reporter

MP Judith Tizard is sticking to her knitting.

Last night, the Auckland Central MP continued clicking away in the back row of the Government benches on her latest creation, a black shawl, as the House sat under urgency.

Opposition MPs used every opportunity to needle the newly christened Minister for Knitting, who says she has given shawls to Prime Minister Helen Clark, Health Minister Annette King and relatives. Even Neil Finn was given one after admiring another.

Despite her detractors, the MP didn't drop a stitch. She says she will continue knitting within the rules. It helps to relieve numbness in her fingers from the effects of a condition called "generalised pain syndrome".

Labour colleagues Helen Duncan and Dianne Yates joined her shortly before the House rose last night, casting themselves as knitters in solidarity.

The issue was forced on Thursday night when Judith Tizard, as Associate Commerce Minister, sat in front of the Speaker's chair to guide the passage of the highly technical Trade Marks Bill through the House.

Out came the mohair knitting.

National leader Bill English was so incensed when he heard about it that he left his caucus Christmas Party two floors above to add his condemnation to the "contempt and arrogance" that the knitting minister represented.

Curiously, National whip John Carter wondered what Judith Tizard would think if Shane Ardern had brought his own cows into the House.

New Zealand First whip Dail Jones, who incidentally was taught to knit by his mother, said it was an insult.

Act leader Richard Prebble said it reminded him of the "worst excesses of the French Revolution" - a reference to the character Madame Defarge, who sat cackling at the foot of the guillotine.

It would have been equally objectionable had Judith Tizard pulled out a personal computer or written her correspondence, he believed.

Judith Tizard has been knitting since she was 5 and completes a third of a shawl each caucus.

The one at the centre of the uproar in Parliament this week is destined for "whoever needs it most at the time it is finished".

Judith Tizard, Associate Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, forced a rethink of the House's knitting rules this week. Now they are plain.

Members may knit while sitting in their own seats.

That has been a past practice of not just Judith Tizard, but pioneer knitters such as Marilyn Waring and Sonja Davies.

Different rules, however, now apply to ministers.

It depends where they are sitting and what legislation is before the House.

Ministers shepherding legislation through the committee stages shall no longer be able to knit.

That is when ministers are supposed to interact closely with MPs, answering detailed questions.

Judith Tizard said she accepted the ruling, but she would continue knitting. "It keeps my hands from going numb and it helps me to concentrate on what's being said."

She tried to swim three or four times a week but had not been able to maintain that under urgency, so decided to keep the movement in her hands going with knitting.

When the condition is at its worst, she said, she cannot hold a cup or a car steering wheel.