By Sue Chigorimbo
My name is Sue Chigorimbo and I started knitting in 2018. My daily routine had become boring and I bought myself some yarn and knitting needles. I began by making headbands for my daughter. One day I posted them on Facebook and Instagram and people loved them. Next, I made placemats, accessorized them with buttons and orders started coming in. Then I thought, why not knit a cushion cover. I did and it took me a week, I was so frustrated because it took so long, but then people loved it and I was getting orders. One lady saw my work on Facebook and she came by and asked if I could use a knitting machine. I had never used one before, so she offered to get someone to teach me. I learnt how to make cushion covers on a knitting machine in 3 hours. From then I was making up to 20 a day. I bought my own knitting machine and Knits n Krafts by Sue was born. The cushions were a hit for a while. Then I stopped because I was battling depression. The whole of 2019, I did not make anything. When the depression got bad, I figured I needed to keep busy to ward off the anxiety, so I started knitting again in 2020.
I started posting again on my now dormant Knits n Krafts page and the response was amazing. I started getting calls and messages from all over, women inspired by my work, some wanting to be taught how to knit. I felt great and I did not want to stop. So, I started to teach knitting via Whatsapp, Skype, Zoom and Youtube. I started a Youtube channel and it took off well. The knitting kept me going, I was in a great mental state, was happier and had no anxiety at all. The joy of creating something every day meant I looked forward to waking up.
I then started writing my patterns and listed them on Etsy, Lovecrafts and Ravelry. The money started coming in from the pattern sales and this pushed me to keep going. In 2020, I started upcycling empty wine and whisky bottles. I would spray paint them and accessorize them with all sorts of things such as buttons, lace or even yarn. I took a chance one day and posted my bottles on Twitter. The response was amazing, I was overwhelmed with orders and messages from strangers urging me on. I started experimenting with rope, making coasters. From coasters, I made trays and baskets. A month later I made my first bag. Instantly I knew that the bags would change my journey, that this was the beginning of something great. I am yet to achieve my goals, but I have come so far.
Initially, boredom was the motivation for me to start knitting but as I started battling depression, knitting became therapy. It was my outlet. Each time I felt the anxiety coming on, I would start knitting and would produce amazing creations. I realized that when knitting, my mind was constantly focused on what I was creating. I did not allow myself to think of anything else other than my creation. Anyway, knitting is highly mathematical, with so many sequences to follow, a lot of counting and remembering involved, so you do not have a choice but to block out everything else. It is a highly cognitive and mathematical craft.
Juggling motherhood and entrepreneurship is challenging. Especially now, with the lockdown and homeschooling. I have to monitor my children’s work daily. I now start a lot later than I used to, and most of the time I have to work late into the night to meet orders. My 24 hours feels like 12 because there is always so much to do and very little time.
Imparting my craft skills is one of my goals. My skills are so diverse and it has been difficult for me to focus on just one. I am literally all over the place, I make anything and everything. This made me think long and hard about how to make the most of my diversity and the dream is to open a crafts school. This would offer opportunities for employment to other creatives like myself to teach what they know. My dream is to nurture young creatives from a young age, instil confidence in them to showcase their talent and change the perception that crafts do not pay. I have been teaching knitting virtually for a year now and I am working on turning it up by doing face-to-face classes once Covid dies down.
Perception is my greatest challenge and it trickles down to my pricing strategy, as people expect handmade crafts to be cheap. There is a general lack of understanding and appreciation of the creative process, how taxing and complex it is. Talent needs to be appreciated and the prices of our products need to reflect the worth of the creative process. If perception changes and crafters receive support, our journeys would be a lot easier.
There needs to be a lot of education from a young age, on how important crafting is alongside other career paths.
Images by Sue Chigorimbo
Originally published in the 6th Ndeipi Newsletter