In her first post, our contributor Sonam Kukreja writes about artist and knitting enthusiast Madhu Mehra of ‘She Who Knits’.
“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.” – Elizabeth Zimmerman. I have memories of my grandmother knitting sweaters and beautiful woolen stoles for me overcome the harsh winters. It was when I randomly came across Madhu Mehra’s page– She Who Knits, I realised this art was not as extinct as I thought it to be! In fact the products were quite contrary to what I had associated good old ‘knitting’ to. Smart and functional, the adorable patterns and colour combination make her products exclusive.
Born out of the love for knitting, She Who Knits started as a local brand that sold knit accessories that are handmade and weave something for everyone – young or old. It now has customers from all over the world! And this success is largely credited to the people on the team. We usually hear about creative entrepreneurs doing it all by themselves- right from making the products to photographing and marketing them.
‘She Who Knits’ is a story of collaboration and team work. Madhu is the ‘knitter-in-chief’. She handles the actual knitting of the products along with her younger sister and ‘partner-in-crime’. Madhu who helps her when there is a deluge of orders.
Her younger daughter Smriti handles branding and marketing and is also the ‘design police’ while her older daughter is the force of motivation that keeps Madhu going. In fact, it was upon her insistence that Madhu pursued her passion for knitting after quitting her job as a bank manager. Her son-in-law is the product photographer, unwilling model and advisor. He also illustrated the ‘She Who Knits’ logo for their Facebook page.
“Knitting is a natural anti-depressant and can help ease anxiety, depression and chronic pain”
A graduate in physics and a retired bank employee, Madhu initially began knitting just to keep herself occupied. She made tiny gifts for friends and family. As more and more people got to know about her new found hobby, she got more requests to make stuff for them. Smriti then came up with the idea of starting a Facebook page and named it ‘She who knits’ in 2010; to showcase the work her mother was doing.
They never expected for it to be a business to begin with. It started as a response to the work Madhu was doing and gradually developed from a modest bunch of clients to more than two thousand. Like most ‘handmade’ businesses and projects of passion, profit making has never been their rationale. They believe in staying small and get extraordinary joy in thinking of new ideas.
“My daughter has brought up the idea of expanding the brand but I have never wanted it to become a pressure. I knit because I love to knit”
At She Who Knits, everything has advanced gradually in a natural way. Madhu realises her products occupy a niche market, however she does not have much enthusiasm for making it greater. She would rather also spend some time watching television daily- something she loves to do. But that does not mean, she doesn’t love exploring new ideas. She loves to try better techniques and improvise on her products. With Smriti’s background in designing, they are never short of ideas. Finally, a scarf is a scarf but a little uniqueness is a must! The design, the colour palette, what material is available in the market, – when everything comes together – the end product becomes appealing.
“I don’t stop fidgeting until I am satisfied with the end result”
Having been born and raised in North India where young ladies were required to know sewing, weaving and cooking, Madhu learnt the art from her mother and close relatives on broomsticks when she was around seven. Ready-made things were not commonly available in the 60s thus they made their own sweaters then.
The most entertaining compliment she’s got till date was when a client said that she did not expect a person my age to be producing ‘chic and funky’ stuff. Madhu’s range of products defies stereotypes- after all who says old women can only knit sweaters! A woman of recreation who is great at multi-tasking, Madhu leads a dynamic social life. She travels and meets friend often over snacks and films. Knitting happens when she’s watching TV or taking a break from it. True to entrepreneurial spirit, they are now planning a whole collection of products with Ajrakh.
“There is a lot more coming and I can’t give away more than that just yet.”
A closet poet since childhood, the writer in Sonam never died. After her tenure with the IT sector, she took a deep dive into the writing field. As a content writer, Sonam aspires to make a difference in helping the unheard voices to be heard. Hungry for knowledge, writing for The Handmade Co. helps her know the unknown and become a better writer with every attempt she makes.