South African Knitwear Designer Craft Patterns Led to Successful Business
Nomagugu Ndlovu (Pronounced Nor-ma Nd-lovu) got exposed to a variety of crafts as a small child. While her mom and aunt sewed, crocheted, and knitted, Nomagugu learned to knit herself at 5. She became so skilled that she was able to assist her aunt with custom orders. Later on, she expanded her craft skills by learning basket weaving from a neighbor. Knitting for over 30 years, Ms. Ndlovu continues to grow her skills and showcase her work across online platforms, including Instagram, Ravelry, and LoveCrafts.
What led you to start a craft business?
I always enjoyed coming up with designs and sharing my work with others. After learning about different online selling platforms, I decided to publish my first pattern in 2014. I was fascinated by the idea of people in another country or continent working on my design and having my work scattered worldwide. My first sold pattern was the Sandi Cable and Lace Baby Blanket. It was well received and sold in volumes on Ravelry, Craftsy, and Etsy, which encouraged me to keep designing.
What would be your ideal craft project, and how soon do you want to accomplish it?
I want to knit a long cable coat, and hopefully, be finished before Christmas.
How would you describe the craft community in South Africa?
The craft space is growing here in SA. Compared to the United States, we still have a long way to go. Before the lockdown, the knitting community had a few craft festivals. A few craft centers and markets, including Rosebank Sunday Market, showcased and sold their work. Now that things are open again, it will be great to have more craft events to meet other crafters.
What pieces were your mom and aunt known for making? How did their work inspire you?
My mom used to crochet doilies and blankets. I was fascinated by the movement of the crochet hook – it seemed so fancy. She did a lot of sewing, anything from baby clothes to more intricate adult garments. My aunt loved cables, and I learned them very early in my knitting journey. Those are still my favorite knitting techniques.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
It was being able to self-publish patterns on Ravelry when I was only used to seeing patterns in published books or magazines. When I was sharing my work online, I wasn’t interested in publishing. Once I saw how easy it was to use the platform, I tried and glad I did.
What advice would you give new crafters?
Have fun, and don’t limit yourself to one way of doing something. Be willing to try new methods.
What is one thing you would like to see change in the craft space?
Sometimes crafters aren’t taken seriously. I would like for people to realize the hard work crafters put into making physical and digital products.
Nomagugu lives in Johannesburg with her husband, Colbert, their two daughters, Sandi (7) and Noni (14 Months). She and her sister recently launched a new business selling project bags made with African printed cotton (Shweshwe). Her designs are on Ravelry and LoveCrafts