The pandemic kept many people at home for longer periods of time than usual. People who wanted to stay busy took up hobbies to pass the time.
Milla Lopez Luchak is an independent crochet artist, and runs a crochet Instagram account where she shares and sells her craft.
“When the pandemic hit, I didn’t really have a hobby so I wanted to start doing something,” says Lopez.
“I learned to knit when I was a kid […] but I never tried crochet so I tried it out just because I was at home and didn’t know how to pass time. I bought some yarn, I bought a crochet needle and I started watching YouTube tutorials.”
When Lopez started her Instagram page in early 2021, it slowly gained traction. She amassed more than 17,000 followers over the 2021 holidays. She sells her crochet garments through commissions. Customers are free to contact Lopez directly and request particular garments. She is more than happy to deliver pieces with custom colours and different shapes.
For the last few months, she’s had to stop taking commissions because the demand for her infamous ‘bunny balaclava’ was too high for her to crochet alone. While she adores crocheting balaclavas, she says the crochet hand cramps are a real killjoy.
Once a hobby for elderly people, knitting and handmade pieces of clothing have seen a huge rise in popularity in the past few years. In particular, crochet has risen up the ranks in popularity and re-cemented its place in high fashion and knitting.
These funky, fluffy, fuzzy pieces are popping up in places like H&M, but more tellingly in high fashion houses such as Mui Mui, Issa Bolder, and more.
The Zara chain also collaborated with We Are Knitters, a brand that sells knitting kits for amateurs. The stores now sell kits to make a cross-body phone case, consisting of a needle, some yarn and a pattern.
As an independent artist, Lopez thinks that the implementation of crochet garments in fast-fashion is bad for the art. While knit garments can be made by machine, crochet can only be done by hand.
“Every fast fashion item that someone buys and is crocheted, someone got $5 for something that took them hours to make,” says Lopez. “If you buy a balaclava off some website for $15 it means someone got $3 an hour, even less, to make that. It’s the industry’s fault for paying their workers so little.”
Leo Mchold owns a small personal textile company. Having been around the textile industry for decades, he sees big changes happening.
“This new generation is very open-minded and I think it plays into why crochet is so popular nowadays,” says Mchold. “It is a unique art that can be worn in many different ways […] whether it be comfort or as a statement piece. I say this because crochet is really a variation of knitting that has come back and been popularised by the younger generation. The pieces that I see and would handle first-hand are all bought and sold by people under thirty.”
Mchold has coached a few people in his social circle on how to crochet. He says he believes Montreal’s artistic environment helps every crochet artist expand their network, making the movement even bigger in the multicultural city. When asked about his experiences, he said the following.
“[Montreal] has always been appreciative of the arts. I mean, look, we have ‘Just for Laughs’, we have a huge theatre and fashion industry. It’s really no surprise crochet has taken off the way it has.”
To Mchold, it was just a matter of time before crochet blew up.
To Melanie Loubert, it was a matter of how. Loubert co-founded Vetements Mamé, a company that sells various crochet/knit pieces and collections. She too picked up the single needle-hook as a hobby during the height of the pandemic, but took it a step further when starting her own company.
Unlike many of the popular independent crochet and knit Instagram pages, Loubert wanted to create a label, with an entire business model that includes branding, marketing and collection releases.
From a small side hustle to an entire company, Loubert transitioned from making approximate guesses to price crochet pieces, to having people make statistical calculations about pricing and sales.
“At first, yes, it was like a little hobby. But now we’re actually putting a lot of time into this and it’s actually becoming a bigger business. We have people working for us so it’s important that we calculate everything and think about our predictions for up to the next five years,” says Loubert.
For Loubert, Montreal was the dream city to start a crochet business in. The crochet scene is huge in the city, allowing Vetement Mamé to reach a wider demographic of people.
“It’s Montreal all the way. I could say I would love to be in New York, but if I was in New York or in London which are already really big fashion cities, how can you make a name for yourself when everyone else is trying to?” explains Loubert. “We’ve started a year and a half ago and people in the city are already calling us for big festivals, and people are borrowing our clothes for photoshoots for Little Burgundy and Aldo.”
Loubert is confident the trend of crochet is here to stay, especially in Montreal. And she plans to ride the upswing.