Sitting in front of her house in Arklow in Wicklow county, Catherine’s style is uniquely Tanzanianl. Photo by Seraphine Habimana.
Catherine Murphy says she learnt to crochet at a very young age, when she was in primary school.
“It was something that girls would like to do in our village, we used to crochet a piece of tablecloth and bring it to our class teacher at the end of the term exams as part of Art and get marks for it. I really enjoyed that and I felt good about that.
When she moved to Ireland from Tanzania in 2006, Catherine says she started involving herself in women’s groups where they did different crafts like knitting, crocheting, mosaics etc. “So I fell in love with crocheting all over again.
“Back then when I was a child, I was only inspired by women who crocheted table covers and furniture throws as a business. But now my inspiration comes from seeing people in cold regions wearing knitwear in a high fashion kind of way – it’s really cool.”
Since she moved to Ireland, Catherine says she has made lots of woollen hats and scarfs and sold them. Her craft prices range from €10 to €20.
“I do not want to be too greedy, I sometimes only charge less than €10 per hat and I am happy about that.”
She began by making crocheted hats but Catherine is now making ‘tops’ with sarong or Kitenge (an East African fabric, often worn by women and wrapped around the chest or waist, or over the head as a headscarf).
“I recently made a top! This would be the biggest piece I have ever made; I usually like making small things for quick results,” says Murphy with a smile.
“I always try to find unique ways to crocheting and make it stand out a bit, so while I was exploring my talents, I got this idea of mixing African fabric and crochet. I made a hat and it turned out really well that I was blown away myself. Then I got people interested in it and placed their orders too.”
“When I moved to Ireland, I did not realize that I would find a chance to do that again but when I saw some other women crocheted I decided to keep it up.
“I told myself why can’t I bring Tanzanian crocheting here to Ireland? On top of that I find crocheting comforting to me, especially in winter seasons where there is not much to do. So I would be very into crocheting while watching telly. So I crochet to keep myself occupied and also as a hobby. Apart from crochet, I also love and to make bracelets and earrings and designing an outfit. This business is helping me to put food on the table and pay bills: I am loving and enjoying it,” says Catherine, a mother of two.
Although Catherine showcases her products mainly in Ireland, her products are exported to other countries of Africa and Europe. “The work I am doing blends modern lifestyles with an African touch that is uniquely Tanzanian. It’s a simple way of expressing our culture and creative textile abroad and I like to mix it with Irish culture: it is a good move!”
Catherine says the main challenges she faces is to find African fabric materials to provide a wide variety to customers, adding she had to order to all these materials all the way from Tanzania.
“To import the African fabric materials from Tanzania to Ireland is too expensive. Sometimes they can be delayed or go missing.”
The talented designer says she is planning to go to college this year, which she says might help to improve her business in the future.
Catherine wearing her hat made from Kitenge. Photo by Seraphine Habimana.
By Seraphine Habimana