Why knitting is the hobby you never knew you needed
With the pandemic sparking a knitting revival, the founders of Black Girl Knit Club show us the power of community and craft.
Viewed as a specialist craft, or perhaps a dying skill reserved for the older generation who lived in a time when making your own clothes was the norm, knitting has become much more appealing to younger audiences and brought with it an opportunity for visibility and recognition of black crafters and designers. This is certainly true for Black Girl Knit Club, whose founders, Sicgmone Kludje and Vea Koranteng, launched their platform pre-pandemic, and have been nurturing their growing community ever since.
“Our motivation for starting Black Girl Knit Club (BGKC), came from following the social media hashtag #diverseknitty. At the time different knitwear designers and makers were calling for more diversity within the craft community. The reason why was due to visibility. We as friends wanted to create a safe and inclusive space for black women and female creatives like ourselves, to gather, share stories and inspire one other through craft skills, and more importantly, develop creativity whilst equipping the next generation with a new skill.
We started in January 2019 and we’ve built an amazing community of members who attend our monthly workshops and online tutorials. Not many people know that the origins of knitting trace back to ancient Egypt. Lorna Hamilton-Brown, a knitwear designer, educator and keen advocate of black women’s rights in the knitting industry, discusses the history in her dissertation paper, Myth: Black People Don’t Knit, and she references a piece of knitted cotton socks from Egypt dating back to 1000-1200AD. These items can be found in the V&A collections in London.
[Sicgmone]: I hadn’t experienced much diversity within craft before we started the BGKC. I studied a degree in textiles at a London university and had never encountered a black academic for craft. However when I went to Ghana I worked with a designer called Kofi Ansah and I learnt about the craft of weaving and the long history of the kente cloth.
[Vea]: I’ve always had a passion for visiting artisan and vintage shops. The garments fascinated me and this spurred me on to start my online vintage store. I felt like I had to create my own path and navigate my dream to working in crafts in a different way.
Building a sense of community has always been at the heart of the BGKC. Representation matters and being featured on the BBC – seen by 34 million viewers – was a massive achievement simply because of the lack of visibility in the knitting industry. Since then we’ve been able to build connections with other black-owned businesses that share our values. For example, last year we did a knitting workshop with Black Girls Camping Trip, a foundation offering outdoor retreats for black women and nonbinary women in the UK.
The resurgence of craft, especially knitting has become apparent. Reports show knitting has been searched over 24,000 times a month. The pandemic has been a huge reset for wellness and has encouraged many to adopt more mindful and relaxing hobbies. We created a safe space online for members to be among other women from similar yet different cultures. Members came from all over; Brazil, New York, Washington, Norway and regionally in the UK. It was a safe space where they could talk about their feelings, share their thoughts simply breathe whilst making a knitted pouch or sewing a face mask.
This then led onto the Black Women in Craft Series, where every Sunday we interviewed a craft expert. All kinds of topics were highlighted from balancing motherhood and a career, starting a business, to the significance of black hair. To date, we’ve featured embroidery and embellishment designer Rebeckah Apara and graduating textiles student Mia Rogers. This year we have several exciting projects in the pipeline.
As a part of the Conscious Crafts series: Mindful Makes, we explore how knitting reduces stress, anxiety and aids in preventing dementia. With our workshops we aim to explore areas like upcycling your own yarn too. If you are a beginner knitter and really want to develop your skills check out our first knit book called Conscious Crafts: Knitting, Mindful Makes to Reconnect the Head, Heart and Hands. The book is now available to pre-order via Foyles. Welcome to the world of knitting!