Veronica Chibaya, Studio Manager, Zimbabwe
I joined the project in 2011 through my aunt, Lizzy. I began by sewing the eyes of the crochet monkeys at home, and then I came to work at hand sewing in the studio. In 2013, I went home to Zimbabwe for a year but came back to Cape Town the following year as the studio manager – by then, I had learnt a lot about the workings of the project and the studio. I learnt more about working in a team, business and management skills, being in charge of running the studio and the production side of orders, which is very important. By working in the studio, I have gained a lot of self-confidence. Part of my job is teaching needlework, which requires a lot of patience and focus. I have enjoyed being in the studio – and as a woman, I have learnt to stand on my own two feet and be independent. You need to focus, have creativity, and keep a positive mindset. also, it is crucial to be open to new things. as women, we must not look down on ourselves because we are all able to achieve better things in life.
Grace Kalonga, Crochet Artisan, Malawi
In 2014, my friend Miryam brought me to the studio to join the project as a maker. I crocheted pots and flowers, and I also do the winding of yarn from the cones into balls for the project. I am happy to be part of the project, and I have also learnt a lot about crocheting. It is also not easy to crochet the way I do – I work a lot with single (thin) yarn, to create fine, delicate handwork. I have since learnt how to make a lot of different shapes and objects. My life has changed, and I have met a lot of people who have become my friends. I have been able to contribute to my family’s income through my skills. I am happy and fulfilled because the project is part of my life now. It takes the effort of many women, working together because everyone puts in something of themselves.
Miryam Whiski Crochet Artisan and Studio Needlework, Malawi
Relocating to South Africa was a big adjustment for me – Cape Town is very different. Malawi will always be my home even though I enjoy living in Cape Town. I was living in Hout Bay, which is where the project was based, when I joined the project in 2009. My friends, Bridget and Linda, thought I would be a good fit because I can crochet well. I spoke little English at the time, but I was happy to get crochet work making scarves, flowers and cacti. In 2011, I came to work in the studio, and I began doing needlework with Veronica. It was hard in the beginning, because the work is difficult, and you have to be very neat. I was shy when I first joined the project because I had not learnt a lot of English yet but now, I am much surer of myself! Being in the project has changed my life, and it has provided a good source of income during difficult times.
Monica Mdimutsa, Crochet artisan and Sample Maker, Zimbabwe
I joined the project around 2004 and I also introduced it to the friends I made at church. It has been fruitful, as I was only making scarves and tablemats when I joined but went on to make some of our first cactus plants and also learnt how to create animals and flowers. I make everything now. I liked that, and did not know at the time that I would end up in the studio, designing as a sample maker. It turned out to be good because I am not so keen on needlework. I am fascinated by wire workers who make interesting things they sell on the side of the road, whom I imagine crocheting whenever I see them. on the technical side of things, I have learnt a lot about shapes and colours. I can even crochet things without a pattern. I have also have discovered different stitches that not many people use. I managed to save up for the things I needed, and I appreciate that we are a group of women who support each other. We are all good friends.
Peta Becker, Founder, South Africa
The original idea for the project began when my friend, knitwear designer Hillary Rhode and myself were chatting, having reconnected in cape Town after we’d both lived for many years in the uK. she lived in Scotland, and I lived in London. The idea was to start a craft and design textile initiative to help the many unemployed women in Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in Hout Bay, to earn extra income. We had both been to art school, had worked in areas of design, and knew we wanted to create beautiful and unusual handmade textiles for a luxury market, so that was what we both knew best. crochet seemed like a decent low-tech option: many women had picked up the skill at home, from family members, or had learnt it in school. You could do it from anywhere, and the tools and yarn were readily available. We began by making intricate disc scarves, using fine crochet yarn and super-thin hooks, to achieve a level of exquisite handwork. I could not crochet at all, and still can’t. Hillary had run an enormous knitwear concern without being able to knit a stitch. The point was bringing something beautiful into being that would allow us to charge for the high level of skill and beauty – and so be able to pay a decent amount to incentivise our artisans to continue to upgrade their skill levels