WORK OF YOUR HANDS

Crocheting: From hobby to livelihood

Becky Adeli and Felister Wanjiru turned their clothe-making handicraft into a source of employment, one after realising she had the skill and the other after jobhunting frustrations

In Summary

• Becky Adeli has turned her skills into an enterprise mostly serving females aged 18-34 and mothers seeking products for their babies

• Felister Wanjiru has transitioned from employment to a crocheting shop in the CBD

Becky Adeli wearing her own hand made sweater as she explains about her company ThreadsIntel in Daystar University Athi River Campus on February 13
Becky Adeli wearing her own hand made sweater as she explains about her company ThreadsIntel in Daystar University Athi River Campus on February 13
Image: VALERIE NDETO

All it took was a nudge from her grandmother back in 2018 to spark a passion for crocheting in Becky Adeli.

Crochet is the art of using a hooked needle and either yarn or thread to create a product like a sweater, scarf or beanie.

For Adeli, 21, the skill is in-born, but she never realised it until her grandmother threw her a challenge.

 

“I visited my grandmother in December 2018. She gave me a crochet tool and asked me to try to crochet anything,” she said happily.

 
 
 

“I struggled, placing the thread where my fingers took me, and voila! A scarf it became.”

Impressed by her work, Adeli continued practising, making new items every time.

The third-year student at Daystar University realised how good she was from public interest in her work as people would offer to pay for some.

“I realised my talent could make me money, so I started a business, Threadsintel, making mats, sweaters, beachwear, scarves, skirts and blouses,” she said.

Crochet trends have become popular with the younger generation, despite the activity being as old as pottery.

It gained popularity in the 1800s, a period dubbed the Victorian Revolution, when Queen Victoria crocheted scarves for her members in the force fighting in the South African War.

 

She developed this interest after she purchased lace crocheted by Irish women, who were struggling to survive after the potato famine, giving the item a royal seal.

 
 
 

During this revolution, the rest of the world took interest and within no time, everyone was learning to either crochet or knit, until the emergence of technology.

JOB CREATOR

With high rates of employment in the country, like Adeli, the younger population has given crocheting a new lease of life, with a blend of modernity.

They are incorporating technology to help them reach their skill goals, market their products and make a mark in the fashion industry.

The youths who've ventured into the business say they are able to sustain their needs and save from the proceeds of crocheting.

Adeli’s company, ThreadsIntel, runs her company through online platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where she showcases her work under the tagline: made by thread, made with love.

“I named it ThreadsIntel because I wanted it to one day be a household company, and my tagline was informed by the love I have for what I do as well as the belief that my customers will love every piece I make,” she said.

Adeli has perfected the art such that to crochet a bralette only takes her one and a half hours. Scarves and ponchos take approximately half a day, while the skirts and mats take a day to make.

“The more I do it, the more I get better ideas and the better products I produce,” Adeli said.

Her market is mostly females aged 18-34 and mothers seeking products for their babies.

Adeli said the cost of each product is determined by the kind of yarn used as well as the time it takes to finish the product.

“I buy yarn in town mostly around Biashara Street or imported ones from Yaya Centre,” she said.

Products made using the imported yarn cost more than those acquired locally.

PERSONAL TOUCH

Adeli said she gives a personal touch to her products, which keeps her attached to some.

“There is a skirt I crocheted for a client a while back and a sweater my grandmother and I made together. Those are by far my favourite products,” she recounted joyfully.

“The sweater came about when my grandmother realised I had finally started to crochet and was doing a good job at it. So to mark that moment, we made two sweaters together, One for each of us.”

Managing a business, Adeli said, is not devoid of challenges, like balancing between schoolwork and meeting clients needs.

“I understand the challenges, therefore, I plan myself accordingly, giving enough time for each activity and communicating to clients promptly,” she said.

Through ThreadsIntel, Adeli has devised a plan to stay independent and, thus, does not rely on her parents for upkeep as well as her hostel rent.

“The money I get I reinvest back to ThreadsIntel and try to grow it. I am also a member of three chamas, where we save money geared to projects of buying a rental house and a Safe Boda for starters. In addition, I have stopped relying on my parents for pocket money. I take care of myself now,” she said.

“ThreadsIntel is not very old, but so far, I am impressed with what I have accomplished and just how much positive feedback I have been getting.”

The future for ThreadsIntel looks bright. Adeli looks forward to growing her business to as big as a knitwear in London called n00rvana.


Felister Wanjiru works on a clients order at her shop in River Road on February 25
Felister Wanjiru works on a clients order at her shop in River Road on February 25
Image: CHARLENE MALWA
The business is doing relatively well because on a good day, I could make at least Sh3,000
Felister Wanjiru, 23

ALTERNATIVE AFTER JOB LOSS

If she had her way, Felister Wanjiru, 23, would be a doctor, but fate got her a bachelor’s degree in procurement.

But after missing the cut-off point, Wanjiru opted to explore her interest in crocheting.

During her last year of study, Wanjiru said she found her love for the not-so-conventional skill, crocheting.

“I learnt the skill on YouTube. It was an amateur start but with practice, I have perfected the art,” she said.

She lost her first client four years ago after failing to deliver the design she desired. Years later, she looked for her and made a new outfit for free.

“I posted on my WhatsApp that I was capable of crocheting a skirt and so a client ordered one. It was the worst product I ever made and the client never talked to me again,” Wanjiru recalled.

Wanjiru said failed work gave her the motivation to learn and get better.

“That was the order that got me on my toes. I worked very hard to understand the art that I am now a master in,” she said.

It is now close to three years since she cleared university with her degree on one hand and a skill that turned into a hobby on the other. The degree has since been shelved and the crochet skill has taken the front seat.

“My first experience with the white-collar job was an internship that matured to a job, but in less than a year, most of us were retrenched,” she said.

"After the organisation had contained the crisis, they invited us to reapply for our previous jobs, to which I did but was not reinstated. That was the last time I put my degree to good use."

After constant sending of application letters and endless interviews, she finally decided to down her papers and make good of her skill.

“Three years ago, I had what you could call an epiphany,” Wanjiru said.

"I realised that since I could not just sit around and wait for a job to find me; I would turn my skill to a full-time job. But I am not totally opposed to the idea of working again."

Wanjiru, like Adeli, said her products' price range is mostly influenced by the time taken to make a piece as well as the type of yarn used to create the certain pieces.

“Normally, there are two types of yarn, cotton and acrylic. Cotton mostly is used for clients with sensitive skin and is, therefore, expensive,” she said.

"Which ultimately means that a product made out of cotton will be more expensive than that made of acrylic. The price also is influenced by how much time I put into a piece."

Though the job initially started as an online business, with her making free deliveries in town, she has since expanded to a physical shop in the CBD.

“Even as I expand my business, I still have a lot more to learn. But most of what my clients ask of me, I deliver,” she said.

"I have now learnt to commit to what I can deliver instead of lying to my clients. The business, on the other hand, is doing relatively well because on a good day, I could make at least Sh3,000."

Crochet has proved to be a lucrative business for Wanjiru, with the enterprise catering for all her needs and expenses. It puts food on her table, pays her rent as well as facilitating her other day-to-day needs.

Just like Adeli, Wanjiru has faced challenges, the main one being that some people take her work for granted. There is also competition from other crochet experts.

“My biggest challenge is people not paying on time or not paying at all. I have, however, devised a policy that works for both myself and the clients, where I ask them to pay 50 per cent deposit beforehand,” she said.

Though not a conventional career path yet, Wanjiru, just like Adeli, hopes to venture more into the fashion industry and compete at the same playing field with the likes of n00rvana.

Edited by T Jalio