Crochet caps shaped like owls and bears, and multi-coloured beanies sit on the floor of a hall at Akayyapalem in Visakhapatnam as a group of women wait in anticipation next to their creations. A couple of hours of counting later, there are wide smiles and jubilations. These women are members of Mahila Manovikas who set a Guinness World Record for the largest display of crochet caps and hats, earlier this week. Around 200 crocheters from across cities in India and other countries made 4,686 caps to set this Record.
“This is a wonderful feeling. We feel we have achieved something and this was possible after months of efforts by women across geographies,” says Visakhapatnam-based Madhavi Suribhatla, the founder of Mahila Manovikas. There were participants as young as eight years old, to those aged 70 years, from different walks of life. An expert, prolific knitter and crocheter, Madhavi has been involved in crocheting since 2014. She was previously part of three Guinness World Records for the largest display of crochet scarfs, crochet sculptures and Christmas decorations.
Madhavi started her first online class in 2020 when the pandemic began, with the basics of crochet for a group of 30 people. Soon, queries started coming in for advanced techniques and she decided to form a group with crocheters from across the world with Mahila Manovikas. Today, she is teaching her 22nd online batch, and has trained crochet enthusiasts across India and places such as the US, Dubai, Sweden, Singapore and Australia.
“It’s nice to see the community getting involved especially after being physically disconnected the past couple of years,” she says, adding: “The idea behind setting a Record for crochet caps was to create something purposeful that can be donated to the needy, rather than do something decorative just for the Record.” The concept of “giving back” has long been a philosophy for these crocheters. Most of them will be donating their works to orphanages and old-age homes.
The event saw participants travel to Visakhapatnam from cities like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Madurai, Coimbatore, Mumbai and Chennai, cheering for each other and sharing a passion. For Nidhi Sah from Ahmedabad, the experience gave her a platform to be a part of a global community. “This project involved team-work and coordination, which helped us bond. Crocheting is a relaxing experience for me. The pandemic gave me the opportunity to revisit this passion of mine,” says Nidhi, who travelled to Visakhapatnam to be a part of the record-making moment.
Nagpur-based Anu Sabharwal made a collection of newborn baby caps and adult-sized caps for the project. “This effort took us over three months. There is something soothing about the click of needles, the growing rows...,” she adds. The youngest participant was eight-year-old Vedanvitha Tamarisa Mandala, who, along with her 11-year-old sister Anveditha, made five caps each. The sisters, who are being homeschooled in Hyderabad, were among 11 other children who participated. Both started learning crochet three years ago and made bags and caps throughout the pandemic during their art and craft sessions. “My grandfather was the happiest when he heard of our achievement. His mother, my great grandmother, was a skilled crocheter. But after her, nobody took to crocheting in the family. So he was absolutely thrilled,” says Anveditha.
“The girls gained life skills through this experience. It was their first time at an international platform and they were part of a humongous coordinated effort. They also had to communicate with a mixed age group, patiently wait for their queries to be addressed. There was a timeline given to each participant, so they understood the importance of discipline and to take time from their routine to complete their crochet works,” says their mother Anuradha. Right from choosing the colour of yarn and design of caps to being alert about communications regarding the project by the team, they did it all by themselves.
Madhavi says that social connection, through being part of a group or even engaging with communities online, could be a boon for many who spend time alone. “I have seen how it helps women bond and share stories,” she adds. Her next Record in mind is for the largest display of ponchos, which she plans to donate to the tribal communities of Araku and Paderu.