Life & Style

Crochet: a craft that we are hooked on to during lockdown

Pencil toppers made by crochet artisans of Happy Threads. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU  

As the lockdown gets extended, we have discovered that crafts can help us cope, because for a while, nothing matters more than the act of doing something with one’s hands. Plus, it gives us homebound worker bees a break from staring too long at computer screens. This is no longer about haphazard needlework projects done to pass school exams, but about finding one’s inner balance through the meditative act of counting and repeating stitches to form a pattern. And finding a calming beauty in uniformity.

Crochet, with its simple requirements — a ball of thread or wool and a hook to pull one stitch through the other — seems to be enjoying a revival among women in India. Whether as a means of personal expression, business opportunity or social empowerment, it has a number of fans hooked. Well before the lockdown, crafters had already started gathering online. As people stayed home more, and discovered new hobbies, communities began to expand. On Instagram, #crochetersofinstagram has 4 million posts and counting.

“We have 6,000 members across the globe who collaborate on crochet projects,” says Subashri Natarajan, founder of Mother India’s Crochet Queens (MICQ), a group that holds the 2018 Guinness Record for the world’s largest display of crochet sculptures in Chennai.

Team for joy
  • ‘Happy Threads’ (HT), functions amid the Dawoodi Bohra community under the ‘Supermoms4u’ NGO headquartered in Surat, Gujarat, and has over 700 women artisans spread across the country.
  • The HT network has artisans based in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, and efforts are on to increase the membership in the coming years, says Tasnim Sabuwala, marketing head.
  • “While we were initially focussed on the Dawoodi Bohra women, we have now extended our mentorship to other communities and organisations. Happy Threads had been invited by the Chattisgarh Skill Upgradation Department for imparting workshops shortly before the lockdown,” she says.
  • Women with basic needlework skills are trained by HT to take up projects (mostly hair accessories, stationery, key chains, soft toys, wall hangings, coasters) which are graded and sold to online and retail majors.

As a lockdown initiative, MICQ started the ‘165 stitches in 165 days’ project on April 1, where members crochet small squares daily using different stitches. “Anyone who knows the stitch well can become class leader that day. Once the project ends, members can use the squares to create other items,” says Subashri. “Besides this, we are engaged in at least six charity projects to order, such as crocheting scarves for our Army jawans and ponchos for children in Northeast India,” she adds.

As the lockdown eases, Hyderabad-based crochet artist and entrepreneur Himabindu Manchala is planning to celebrate Yarn Bombing Day (June 11) by decorating her car with crochet and then draping nearby street furniture with crocheted yarn projects.

“Crochet can be used to make removable art installations, besides wearables and decorative items. During lockdown, we have encouraged people to stay home and do yarn bombing safely,” says Himabindu, who retails her creations through her Instagram handle

Journalist and crochet lover Ishita Russell showcases projects suitable for young mothers through social media and online tutorials. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU

Journalist and crochet lover Ishita Russell showcases projects suitable for young mothers through social media and online tutorials. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU  

“It can be frustrating when you are learning it, because you make mistakes. But once you get the hang of it, you can just make it your own,” says Jyotsna Gokhale, a Delhi-based knitwear designer who has added crochet accessories to her Instagram-based product line ‘Artistree1970’.

A stitch in time

Quite unlike the craft itself, crochet’s history has many loose ends, with its provenance said to be from Iran, China or South America. But the craft came into its own only when it became popular in Europe during the 19th Century. Scottish missionaries are believed to have brought crochet to India in the early 20th Century, and its earliest use was in Islamic prayer rugs and caps.

As a reflection of British Raj culture, crochet soon was being used to embellish clothing with delicate edgings or yoke panels, and also to create soft furnishings like doilies and table linen. But like its cousin knitting, crochet was soon relegated to something that only women of a certain age would do, as factory-made goods took over in post-Independence India.

But now, a wide availability of online tutorials and forums has led to its popularity among young working women, who see the craft as a quick way to relax.

Ishita Russell, a financial journalist, showcases her crochet projects on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook under the ‘Busy Mom Creationz’ handle. Catering to young mothers like herself, Ishita showcases soft toys, infant garments and small storage containers for kids’ supplies. A mother of three young children, Ishita says crochet gave her the strength to cope with post-pregnancy issues. “When you are counting stitches, you are in your own zone. Your stress levels are taken care of. Sometimes on a bad day, my only achievement would be the little crochet flower that I made,” she says.

A doll made by crochet artisans of Happy Threads. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU

A doll made by crochet artisans of Happy Threads. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU  

Coimbatore-based school teacher Geetanjali Goswami gets a similar sense of accomplishment when she completes her crochet projects.

“I time it to coincide with special occasions, so that I can have a handmade gift ready,” she says. “My students have taken to crochet in a big way — some of them even made dresses and shawls, and had enough to hold a Christmas bazaar in school,” she says. The school’s Class IV students learn crochet as part of their handwork module, while there are 15 pupils who practise it as part of the Handwork Club.

Thiruvananthapuram resident Meera Radhakrishnan learned crochet online, and then started holding workshops. Her work can be seen on Facebook and Instagram handles ‘crochettalesbymeera’. “We have created a community called ‘India Yarn Circle’ to connect all fibre artists across the country. It will help beginners learn crochet very easily,” says Meera.

Today, haute couture has promoted crochet in a big way, with dress designers giving it a racy spin in the form of cropped tops and lacework dresses last year. It continues to evolve, with beads, wire and lengths of fabric. But much before the trendy totes, the ‘koodai’ (basket) crocheted with thin plastic wire has been a regular accessory for many shoppers, especially in rural southern India.

With inputs from Saraswathy Nagarajan

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 1:55:05 AM |

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