Beautiful Imperfections: Interlocking Threads with Memories
By Afshan Shahid
Calming the “resfeber” of my Heart with Beautiful Imperfections
The Covid-19 lockdown has given me time to sort out my half-finished yarn projects stashed away in the garage. I usually start these projects with a flourish and discard them just as quickly. My excitement wanes as the design appears.
As I sort through my unfinished work, I come across a crochet shawl with a scrap of tissue pinned to it. It has the word Mysa written on it. I recall writing this Swedish word at Heathrow Airport. It means warm, comfortable and homely.
Recently, I have become fixated on words from around the world — Words that convey certain feelings and emotions where English fails. I search for the perfect word to describe all my creative projects.
I love to travel, so I built my business around it. And when I’m travelling between London, Turkey, and Pakistan, I take my projects with me. Crochet is ideal for this purpose; it fits nicely in my travel bag and keeps me from getting bored on long-haul flights. Most importantly it calms the resfeber of my heart—that tangled feeling of fear and excitement of the journey.
The Wabi Sabi (侘寂) of Life
Hand crafted projects rarely are perfect, I remind myself. I have learnt to embrace these imperfections and incompleteness, the wabi sabi (侘寂) of life. The simple Japanese concept of coming to terms with transience, the beautiful imperfections and the incompleteness that life holds —an ideal way out for my obsession with perfection and the pressure to achieve it.
Anyway, the mistake in my shawl is too far down to start undoing it, so I accept it as the beauty of my hand-crafted project. Earlier on, I would have undone the labor-intensive hours of work just to make it a perfectly designed piece of art. The unfinished shawl looks comfortable and gives a feeling of homely pleasure.
That’s why I wrote the Swedish word Mysa on that tissue that’s pinned onto it.
The Time Before Sunrise
I’ve been crafting with threads and yarns since I was a little girl. This gives me an outlet for my creativity and a feeling of accomplishment and self-confidence —a pleasurable way to pass my time.
I recall the exact day and place I started to crochet. It was Ramadan رمضان in the winter of 1967 in Chakwal, Pakistan. We lived there with our extended family: grandmother, grandfather, uncles, aunts, great aunts, cousins, a home full of people. I was about eight. It was Sehri صحری time—the time before sunrise.
Hooked on crochet
Even today, I can smell the wood fire in the warm dining room. I sat waiting for the hot parathas, flaky layers of unleavened bread oozing with desi ghee. This was the first time I was going to fast. I was excited and apprehensive—staying without food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Would I be able to do it? The resfeber of my day-long journey.
My grandmother’s eldest sister, Fatima, had come to visit us. BaRi Dadi Aman بڑی دادی امّاں (eldest grandmother), as we called her, was crocheting. That’s how I remember her. Seeing my interest, she gave me a ball of white cotton yarn and a crochet hook and taught me how to make a chain. Then for the whole of that day, while I waited to break the fast, I chained the ball of thread—I had plenty of free time. That’s when I became hooked on crochet.
I have not stopped crocheting since.
The Colors of Istanbul
In my travels, I collect yarn. I seek out yarn shops before I leave. Istanbul, Turkey is one of my favorite destinations, ideal for my fernweh the fascination to experience different cultures and people that make this world so wonderfully diverse yet alike.
In my search for diversity, as I travel through the narrow crowded bazaars of Istanbul, I follow the instructions from the blog: Where to Buy Cheap Yarn . I listen to Orhan Pamuk’s dreary description of the streets in The Black Book, while I marvel at the brilliance of the tiles, yarns, and pottery around me.
Exiting the grand bazaar on the east side, I walk through the Mahmutpasa Gate where I find my destination Kurkcu Han a paradise for yarn buyers. My search for my new design project “colours of Istanbul” begins.
Afshan Shahid has an apparel design studio in Cambridge, UK and a manufacturing unit in Pakistan. She travels extensively searching for inspiration. Inspired by Italian embroidery, Irish crochet, Scandinavian knitting, Russian soutache work, lace-knitting from Eritrea, she seeks them out in her travels. In addition to Business Management and Information Technology from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, she has an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Biology.
To visit another old bazaar, click here: Charming Booksellers in the Chaotic Urdu Bazaar of Lahore
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