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.

Beautiful Imperfections

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.

Beautiful Imperfections
بڑی دادی امّاں

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

Beautiful Imperfections

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.

Istanbul, Turkey

Beautiful Imperfections

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

Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art:

103 Comments »

  1. Its so beautiful Ma’am …chrochet work is something that makes you feel relaxed & reduces stress. I like this post Ma’am :3

      • Hi.You are doing a great job.Its really fine nd awesome.Most important you are working with refrence of Pakistani Culture. Impressive…

      • Thank you! We’ve realized that our experiences have so much in common with people everywhere, and by building these virtual bridges we can encourage the world community to realize that humans are not that different whichever part of the world they inhabit. I’m glad you like it.

    • You’re welcome. We’re hoping to receive more insights into the creative process behind Afshan’s designs.

  2. Loved reading it was so well written it took me back to my childhood which we shared and also my short but interesting trip to Turkey
    Thanks for teaching me how to knit and crochet

  3. As I read this post, I kept thinking, only a few can write so peacefully, so surrealy. And Crochet is love, and on my bucket list! Waiting for more beautiful posts! 💕

  4. The title suits the content.Its well written and gives a glimpse of different memoirs that is possible because of these tiring times of COVID.Looking forward to the next episode.

  5. A very refreshing yet intriguing article keeping the reader hooked up. Love the way you described the beauty of crocheting
    Hope to read more from you 🙂

  6. Excellent Ma’am👏👏👏👍.Beautiful😍😍.More power to you.Keep Shining✨✨💐💐💐🇵🇰💚

  7. A beautiful article. It reminded me of my childhood when my mom knitted for my family. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Someone recommended me to read your blog & the way you’ve described it all your journey from learning knitting & crocheting; it’s magical. Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. I hope you’ll enjoy reading other posts too – or perhaps submitting a post of your own. The information is on the “Submissions” page.

  9. I enjoyed reading it. It reminded me of days when I used to take classes for knitting & embroidery. But I left it due to studies; now after reading your blog I’m thinking of joining the classes again.
    Thanks for sharing it. 😍🌺☺️

    • Thanks a lot Rasia for reading and appreciating my blog . I am glad to know that you are also interested in creative skills like crocheting and will be taking classes.I am sure you will enjoy them

  10. Thank you Afshan Shahid for your beautiful blog. I have shared with some of our students to offer global perspectives and grounding during these times.

  11. Quite interesting and informative blog it is.

    Ma’am, you’ve portrayed your emotions, experiences and our beautiful culture in such an amazing way. It’s worth reading, no doubt! I appreciate your work.

  12. Beautifully articulated peaceful era and made us to go back to feel the joy, the family times and strong bondings that was enriched with cultural traditional teaching values, norms and mannersims.

    • Yes, Samia, she is. We are requesting more posts from Afshan, but she is a very busy woman. Thanks for your feedback.

  13. Thank you so much for your beautiful words and the peaceful feeling that they evoked. Much love from Liza

  14. I have always wanted to know how to crochet. I was learning at an early age but I stoped, i lost interest very quickly. Lovely way you write. It’s a lovely blog

    • Thank you! Anniqua and I decided to create a virtual space where people from all over the world can get together and share moments of their life and their thoughts – connect with each other. If you would like to share too, please look at the submissions page and email either one of us.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

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