Close-Knit: Black Girl Knit Club
East London knitting collective Black Girl Knit Club was founded with sisterhood, togetherness and connectivity in mindRead more
IMAGE CREDIT: @kings_art
Knitwear designer and textile lecturer Sicgmone Kludje and creative director Vanessa Koranteng were motivated to found Black Girl Knit Club back in January 2019, as designers and creatives were calling for more diversity and visibility within crafting circles using the hashtag #diverseknitty. “We as friends wanted to create a safe and inclusive space for Black women and female creatives like ourselves,” Kludje explains. “A place to gather, share their story and inspire each other through craft skills.” They set out to create a sisterhood of makers, empowering women and girls through craft.
We had found that there were not many diverse craft spaces or groups – so we decided to create our own.
Before teaming up for BGKC, Kludje and Koranteng grew up in the same area of London and even attended the same school – although they didn’t meet until years later, moving within the same circles of up-and-coming young creatives. Both still based in East London, the city offers a continuous source of inspiration. Kludje loves the street art, pop-ups and food markets of Brick Lane, while Koranteng is addicted to treasure-hunting among the brightly-coloured Georgian houses of Notting Hill and Portobello Market: “I used to spend hours there on a Sunday afternoon, you just never know what you are going to find in the antiques section!” Closer to home, both also adore local landmarks like the 1740s William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park, and God’s Own Junkyard – “a paradise of neon lights and vintage signs, all hidden away in a warehouse in Walthamstow".
Black Girl Knit Club’s signature upcycled wax print cloth yarn reflects the founders’ shared love for iconic West African textiles. “We are both London-born, but our family heritage is from Ghana. Most of the cloth prints that we use are the fabric patterns we grew up around, they evoke memories from family parties and celebrations,” says Kludje. “They definitely bring us a sense of nostalgia, we love the use of bold bright colours and patterns.” Exclusively for Liberty, BGKC have created a brand-new Peacock yarn featuring a traditional floral print, ‘Ademe’. “It’s named after a vegetable and yam vine from the south of Togo, that is often prepared in different ways by mothers within a family,” Koranteng shares.
The Ademe print is often passed on to generations of females within a family, representing strength, womanhood and togetherness – this is everything that the BGKC represents.
During the London lockdown, it wasn’t possible to host their usual in-person workshops – but the BGKC community has remained as passionately close-knit as ever, growing and thriving in new digital forms. “We have hosted virtual knit sessions via Zoom, complete with our Spotify Playlist: Black Girl Knit Club Sounds,” says Koranteng. “These sessions have allowed us to be intimate with our members and get to know their lives outside of the routine for a de-stressing session – creating a sisterhood where women can come and meet, whilst also being creative.”
With many exciting projects on the horizon for 2021, togetherness remains at the heart of the Black Girl Knit Club philosophy. The founders recently started an online series called ‘Black Women In Craft’, interviewing London-based curators, designers and makers to explore their creative and professional journeys, and during last summer could be spotted in an ident for the BBC’s Oneness campaign, which was viewed by 34 million people – a proud moment for the founders’ visibility mission: “We are also hoping to do more work within schools, particularly with young girls, to develop their skills and confidence.” Continuing to connect through creativity, while passing on craft skills to the next generation.
A LONDON SECRET...
We are both of Ghanaian heritage, and Kate’s Cafe in Plaistow is really great for some authentic West African food – which we love!
Autograph is a small gallery based in Shoreditch. They share the work of artists who use photography and film to highlight issues of identity, representation, human rights and social justice – it’s a great place to see an exhibition on a Saturday afternoon, they also have some interesting online content.