Namaste!! My name is Haseeta, meaning “The happy one”. I’m a Kenyan-Indian, born and brought up in our beautiful country. I live in Nairobi with my husband and 2 sons. The rest of my family has moved to Canada. I’m a Montessori teacher by profession and that’s how my creative juices started flowing. Being creative calms me down, so I do a lot of different hands-on things, like crochet, as I feel inspired learning new skills.
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We Build Ourselves From Our Stories.
I learnt knitting when I was in primary school, many many years ago, although I’m still a 2 year old at heart…hehehe. I have always loved crocheted clothing, but find them too expensive. After trying to learn to crochet earlier and not succeeding, 2017’s mission was to learn crocheting, even if just the basics. YouTube became and still is my friendly teacher. I take one small step at a time and I’m happy to say I did get past the basics.
I love making knitted and crocheted items for myself and showing them off. My passion for handmade items is fulfilled by making clothing articles and blankets for my family. Furthermore, it keeps the learning cycle going. My biggest achievements in this regard would be the blankets I made for both my sons, and my parents.
Amazing Knitting and Crochet Group.
I started the Amazing Knitting and Crochet Group, Nairobi, in 2015. A friend asked if I could make 8 inch knitted or crocheted squares for charity blankets. The blankets would be made and then distributed to children with cancer and abandoned babies in Delhi, India. The crochet group started with nine ladies and a gentleman. Surprisingly just a year later, we sent over a 1000 squares, which were used to make blankets for various charities within Delhi.
Trust me I thought we would do that for a couple of years and that would be it! The crochet group has grown slowly, with friends encouraging others to join. We now have 25 active members within Nairobi and a few others who are in Uganda, UK and Canada. What a fantastic group of ladies. They mentor and encourage each other, share ideas, and are a positive support system for each other. We have a huge amount of amazing talent in the group, and all our projects are a success because of their dedication. We do a lot of work for charity. I can also see the ladies now make personalized gifts for family, friends and cute baby sets for newborns. It’s also lovely to see their creativity bloom.
Grow Through Life.
2017 saw us slowly look at projects within Kenya. We had to ensure that what we were going to make would be used by the people they were intended for. Since then we have done more than 3 local charity projects every year. We have made knitted and crocheted beanies, scarves and even blankets that have been donated to various charity projects within Kenya.
This year we have done more charity projects than we had intended to do. We donated handmade scarves to the children at the Retinoblastoma Pediatric Ward at Kenyatta Hospital, beautiful blankets to the elderly at Nyumba wa Wazee and 1000+ beanies for preemies that will be distributed in hospitals around Kenya, amongst many other projects.
Crochet for Change.
The Menstrual Hygiene Campaign is to date the most important project for me. It kicked off on 11th October 2020, being International Day of the Girl Child, and will run till 28th May 2021, being Menstrual Hygiene Day. This campaign is open to all knitters and crocheters in Kenya. We currently have over 60 ladies, that I know of, working on this campaign. I LOVE the support given by everyone. I’m hoping to create awareness regarding the unhygienic circumstances most school girls across Kenya endure during their menses. I hope that someday they won’t have to miss even a day of school because of such a natural process. It really scares me to think how they cope and still go about their lives as normal, all this with a smile on their faces.
The campaign is also about the availability of sanitary napkins and the stigma around monthly flows. For this reason, I also support some organisations that distribute sanitary towels. The red and maroon themed beanies made for this campaign will be distributed by the African Girl Foundation when they distribute their menstrual packs to various schools in 2021.
Significant barriers to high-quality menstrual hygiene management(MHM) persist across Kenya and remain a particular challenge for low-income women and girls. Formative research shows that girls face monthly challenges, with 65% of women and girls in Kenya unable to afford sanitary pads. Only 50% of girls say that they openly discuss menstruation at home. Just 32% of rural schools have a private place for girls to change their menstrual product. And only 12% of girls in Kenya would be comfortable receiving the information from their mother. There are also more jarring statistics signaling that menstruation is tied to more fundamental risk and issues of gender inequity, with studies showing 2 out of 3 of pad users in rural Kenya receiving them from sexual partners and 1 in 4 girls do not associate menstruation with pregnancy.
My maternal grandmother was an avid crocheter. I loved how she would just sit on the couch, watch TV and do her magic. I’m nowhere as experienced as she was, but I just love the fact that I can create beautiful handmade items. Ladies from that generation were amazing at making handmade items. They would get together, sit and chit chat while being creative.
My mum has been the other big influence in developing my creative skills as she insisted I should learn embroidery and how to use a sewing machine. The sewing skills help when we need the blankets to be lined, as this makes them neater and more durable.
A Sense Of Community.
I have a few other projects that I work on. I run an elders’ support group with a group of friends for elderly ladies. Just getting them out of the house once a month, gives them something to look forward to. They get to meet friends and catch up, take part in planned activities and have a hot homemade meal. Covid-19 has put this project on hold for the moment.
I love making salads, and after a few requests for recipes I started off my WhatsApp salad group. We share ideas on how to make different types of salads and dressings with family and friends, and encourage each other’s abilities and healthy eating.
I love the talent in Kenya. I have joined 2 Kenyan crocheting groups on Facebook and WOW!! people are really talented, creative and hardworking in their craft. If only others would appreciate that talent and not go looking for branded clothing all the time.
Optimism Is A Behaviour.
In 2016 I fell and fractured my knee. Sitting on the bed for 8 weeks (which was very boring) got me learning how to draw mandalas and to doodle. Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means circle. The circular designs symbolise the idea that life is never ending and everything is connected. This created my colouring group. I believe people of all ages must stay busy and active, otherwise they slowly wither away.
A sincere thank you to some of the local yarn manufacturers and individuals who have donated yarn towards our various charity projects. The knitting and crocheting community would appreciate reasonably priced cotton and variegated yarn in the market. Cotton yarn is especially better for infants, those with allergies and also for wearable clothing.
You can support us by joining our group, liking our Facebook page (Amazing Knitting and Crochet Group, Nairobi) and encouraging the yarnists. Also if you have yarn lying around at home that you don’t need, we can always use it in our projects.
Something I learnt while working aboard, your CV should never stagnate. The day it does means your life has stagnated. Learning is a never ending process, so never stop. Hence my motto, ALWAYS STAY ACTIVE!!! And don’t forget to SMILE!
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Disclaimer: All photos provided for the purposes of graphics & illustrations for this article, are from Haseeta of Amazing Knitting and Crochet Group