Nomvulas knitters is a small community led business based in Sea Vista, the township in St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape where most of our clothes are designed.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN… Nomvula (nom Voo la) is a Xhosa word. It means “she who brings the rain.” It’s considered a lucky name because any sign of rain in Southern Africa is gratefully received. When Frances Becker, the founder of Nomvula’s was christened, the heavens opened and drenched the family and friends who were gathered at the church. Dinah, a young Xhosa woman who worked for the Becker family named Frances “Nomvula”—in honour of the rain that came that day in May.
Frances became a dancer, choreographer, designer, teacher, filmmaker, mom and a Hodgkin’s disease and breast cancer survivor. “Knitting was very healing for me when I was ill. With that in mind I decided to teach knitting skills to those women (and men!) who desperately needed work. The idea was that a steady income would ultimately help their children as well as the whole community.”
In 2008, Frances invited local women to attend a free knitting class in St Francis Bay. On the appointed day Priscilla and Letitia arrived. They were the very first knitters! Clifford, a local security guard came forward too. He was the lone man, eager to try his hand at knitting! It was slow at first, but the news spread. Nine months later 14 regulars were meeting regularly twice a week to hone their knitting skills and share their progress.
Unemployment is very high in this little town as work is dependent on seasonal holiday makers. The knitters live in an area called Sea Vista. Their homes are made from packing crates and corrugated iron. Rain is kept out with plastic, and floors are often sand. There is rudimentary electricity for some and no indoor running water or bathrooms for most. This semi-urban squatter community is typical of other areas in Southern Africa. Many of the community have travelled from even more depressed rural areas where unemployment is at an all-time high.
The business although still small, is generating enough full-time work to put food on the tables for the knitters and their families.
Meet some of the knitters.
Nomalizo is a talented and fast knitters. She is able to take a rainbow of coloured yarn and create beautiful striped garments.
She is good with new patterns, changing hand knits to machine knits as well as crochet patterns. She is also a mom of 2!
Her dream and vision
“I’d like to learn PC skills and gain a better understanding of business. I also want to learn to drive. I hope Nomvula’s grows so much that in 5 years I can be a manager of a group of knitters–assisting them with new patterns and teaching people how to knit. My daughter is 4 years old and I want her to get a good education and to have choices in her career.”
Zanele, which means Last Born in her native language, Xhosa is the latest member of Nomvula’s Knitters!
She is a fast learner who is already excelling with knitting. She makes the most amazing mohair poncho’s!
Her dream and vision
“I would like to learn to design and to have my own knitting label one day. I’d love to move from my shack into a real home because that means comfort and safety for me and my family.”
Your support: The team only have their small store In St Francis Bay to sell their beautiful products – with your help we can bring them a new market. With every purchase of a Nomvula’s product you are ensuring continued employment within the local community and helping the dreams of the knitters become a reality.
To look at the beautiful ponchos Zanele and her colleagues make for us click here
Thanks for visiting reading their story, happy shopping!
Enkosi Kakhulu (thank-you)