Fibre heart of gurus’ craft

Octayvia Nance

DO not be surprised if you see mohair “Ponchinis” explode over the metro this winter as a pair of knitting gurus who visited Port Elizabeth this past weekend inspired their audience to pick up their needles and knit their own fashionable scarf-cum- poncho.

Flamboyant American “glitter knitter” Steven Berg and Be Sweet founder Nadine Curtis presented their unique concept of “Fibre Fusion” at The Granary in Stanley Street, as guests of Mohair South Africa.

The knitting gurus spoke about their separate careers, how the duo met and shed light on their concept – taking unusual fibre combinations and putting them together.

“I don’t have a favourite material that I knit with because I use them all and because I have a shop and I’m not a wholesaler or distributor I can grab my favourite fibres from everywhere and so that’s where fibre fusion comes in,” Berg said.

Berg, who started knitting at the age of four, left the corporate fashion world after 25 years because he was tired of “living in a box”.

“I opened a yarn shop – at the age of 40. It took off and I had to expand by opening a second store. Now I’m travelling the world talking about it, getting patterns published, setting trends and planning to become the superstar of knitting,” Berg said. He describes his label as pop cultural, exciting and inspiring, and says the list of wacky things he’s knitted is endless.

“I started with cassette tapes, and also work with copper wire and caution tape or crime scene tape. Most recently I made a sweater out of 8mm movie film. I like pushing the envelope and one of my quotes is ‘leave no continuous strand un-knit’.”

Curtis started Be Sweet, based on the principle of being kind to others, in 2003 in Cape Town. She brings socially, environmentally friendly products to fashionable consumers.

Curtis, who started knitting at the age of 12, spoke about knitting trends and how South Africa was not far behind.

“My understanding is that the community of hand knitters in South Africa is relatively small. International hand knitters are probably pushing the envelope a little bit more, but what I love about South Africans is that they adapt amazingly. I believe there is some incredible innovative craft in South Africa,” she said.

Berg and Curtis met 10 years ago at a trade show. Curtis had a stand showcasing South African mohair.

“When Nadine and I met, I gravitated towards the South African mohair and the South African job creation programmes and women’s empowerment. I like to have a story that goes with the fibre I’m working with, whether it is my story or [the fibre] has a story of its own. It’s so important that it has a heart and soul,” Berg said.

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