My name is Grace Wambui Kanja, a crochetpreneur and designer. I am the founder of Krafting Hands, a business that designs and makes all season crochet attire. We bring handmade to your wardrobe.
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Curiosity killed the cat.
My journey was literally born out of curiosity. Much like the cliché Kenyan crocheter’s story, my mum and aunties crocheted- but I never gave it a thought. I remember knitting with broom sticks when I was in class 3 in primary school but that is as far my entanglement with yarn went. I didn’t even know a word or art like crochet existed.
Fast forward to my finals in my 3rd year of campus back in April 2015 . One day, I decided to explore the internet to relax my mind after along study session. And that is where I discovered crochet. I saw this beautiful off white scarf on Pinterest, and my mind could not comprehend how a wearable piece can be made out of a straight, single strand of yarn and a hook. My interest was piqued; I just had to know how it was done.
I followed the link to a YouTube video and I just couldn’t believe it! It seemed like magic. The crocheter was doing it so effortlessly it seemed impossible. That got me extremely excited. Let’s say that day I left the library having downloaded around 50 video tutorials on how to crochet different items-the joy of free school Wi-Fi .
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On my way home I passed by the supermarket; it was the only place I had spotted yarn. I didn’t even know yarn shops existed. I bought some yarn and since I had seen my mum crochet before, I borrowed her hook. It was difficult at first. I had terrible tension; I couldn’t understand why my stitches were coming out wrong. But after many trials I could see improvement. I practiced for the rest of the year using new patterns and making a few things.
In February 2016, I sold my first pair of earrings to my classmates and that’s where my business was born. I hawked earrings, hair clips and bows around the campus for a while. Then I discovered Facebook and Instagram. That’s when I officially launched my business online. Since then it has been a growth journey. I have had challenges but giving up was not an option. I have a great vision for Krafting Hands.
Favourite crafting memory.
These you can never have enough of! From seeing a client wearing and appreciating your design to finally getting your long desired crochet tools.
Personally, I have 2 bests. Earlier this year, a client gave me a family heirloom (a blanket) to recreate into a dress. It was a difficult design. When my client wore it, I was literally shocked, happy, honoured and thrilled all at the same time. I had never seen my designs worn in person and it was the best experience. I fought really hard not to cry.
The second was when I was learning to crochet. I was at my grandmas. On this particular day it was raining. It was quiet, the rain was soothing and my hands just moved with the rhythm. I remember feeling excited and really passionate about crochet at that moment. This is when I knew that I wanted to do it for as long as I can.
I have had challenges but giving up was not an option. I have a great vision for Krafting Hands.Wambui of Krafting Hands.
My clients inspire me. They all have their unique requests and preferences. This challenges me to come up with designs to suite their exact needs which in turn has helped me grow and learn a lot in the crochet. I have to push myself to bring out the best every time.
Goals for Krafting Hands.
One of my major goals for 2021 is to make the transition to a professional pattern designer and seller. And this is what I am most excited about. I am hoping to launch my Esty shop by the end of May. Working on clients orders has taken a toll on me, especially time wise. And selling patterns as an alternative source of income will give me more time to spend with my son.
I am also one of the founders of Crochet Art and Fashion Association (CAFA) an association/ society of yarn crafters in the country. So far we have over 50 members. We have successfully organized 2 crochet competitions and we got a feature on a Tv station. Our aim is to reach out to as many yarn crafters countrywide and support them in using crochet to transform their livelihood by creating a platform where they can sell their makes. Also support them by sourcing for market and quality materials to work with.
I also plan on launching my own yarn line. Lastly, I am looking to introduce a new crochet collection that features both yarn and fabric into a finished piece. This is an effort to combat the ni uzi tu (it’s just yarn) mentality from clients and to add value to my makes. Clients shy away from crochet attires because they see yarn as outdated. Also for the same reason they feel yarn items should be cheap. So with a touch of fabric it won’t be yarn only.
Effect of culture.
I am from the Agikuyu community. One of our character traits is that we are resilient. We don’t easily give up in anything that can improve our livelihoods. If one thing fails we quickly move on to the next until we find what works for us. This has helped me because when times are hard or whatever strategy I am working seems to not work, I quickly re-strategize or change my tactics
I have received a lot of bashing on social media with regard to my work. This was mainly when I was starting out. These days it is rare though. Most people would call my craft outdated and say how they would never wear yarn (they called it mauzi). My work even appeared on a meme twice. At first, I was mad and discouraged. But then I realized it’s about me and not them. I am passionate about crochet so I decided not to allow anyone to bring me down.
Also I carry my crochet with me almost everywhere. I crochet in matatus and I always get stares from people. The older generation look at me in awe and shock like I am misplaced. They wonder how I am so good in an outdated craft. My agemates and those younger are interested in my work with others wanting to learn it. But some are very negative about it.
Current Krafting Hands struggles.
My biggest struggle is getting clients who value my work. Majority who sort after my pieces have the mentality that crochet items should be bought at a throw away price. They don’t understand the dedication, effort, passion, time and experience that have goes into my designs.
Another struggle is raising capital to get the necessary materials to start my own yarn line.
Lastly acquiring quality yarn to use in my projects is a challenge. I am stuck with one local choice not ideal in all projects. Furthermore, imported yarn is either very expensive or sold in small quantities.
All in all…
I would like to see more young people engage in the craft. One can make a livelihood from it. I would also like to see more awareness programmes in the art and crafts department. Many people see crafts as just a hobby or a pass time whilst it can be a game changer in someone’s life.
I would love for people to visit my social media pages, view my work and place orders. I also take on bulk orders and have a small group of women who I work with who benefit from this as well. My business line is +254 712 407488 or you can reach me through my email address [email protected]
Disclaimer: All photos provided for the purposes of graphics & illustrations for this article are from Wambui Kanja of Krafting Hands.