When I first stumbled upon the burgeoning sisters’ craft niche in the Muslim blogosphere, my cynicism hijab must have been wrapped too tight. Why? I wondered. There are g-oodles of craft blogs, websites, online video tutorials and so on, why would the Muslimahs want to add to that clutter? And then I scrolled down – and it was love at first sight: a Muslimah-only international craft swap!
Farhana Faruq started her blog Sketched Soul way back in 2006, and it is one of the oldest of the Muslimah craft blogs on the Internet. Fresh onto her Canadian ISP, Farhana’s interests in creativity, encouraging sisterhood, sharing a love of reading, and her family’s various grassroots charity projects immediately showed through in her first few posts: “Surfing the net I realised there were a lot of people out there like me. Creative but broke. Wanting to give but not having enough. So Sketched Soul was born. It was (and still is) meant to be a means for creative (and the not-so-creative) people to come together and help with little projects that make a huge impact on the lives of those less fortunate. At the same time, the blog brings (mainly) sisters together through the different projects and swaps.”
A graphic designer with a love for fashion, Farhana’s sister-to-sister “swaps” and charitable “projects” have become a staple of her blog, but her compulsion to craft also keeps the blog filled with a wide range of tutorials and innovative art and craft suggestions, such as her Arabic calligraphy wedding cake topper, annual Ramadhan crafts, and a fabulous stencilling tutorial. This winter, between uploading photos of her recent hand-painted leopard-print skirt project and a headband tutorial, Farhana also synthesised her several years of e-community building know-how to help put together an international book drive for an orphanage her uncle has built in Zambia.
Educators and entrepreneurs have long known that fostering creativity and actively pursuing hobbies gives people the confidence to amass new skills, try new things, and therefore tend to be more successful in their endeavours and lives. While they’ve all had their fair share of admirers gush “Oh, I could never!”, long-time crafters know that actually folks really could – if not this, then maybe that. While someone may not have the patience or ambition to learn a particular craft, art-making processes, like all other things, can be learned and all learning begets more learning across different mediums. For these sisters who initially just wanted to chat stitches and knots, branching out and subsequently building up are re-occurring themes .
“An artist/artisan of sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery … and sometimes craft,” Sabina Taylor has over 30 years of experience in fibre arts as well as a multitude of other mediums she has mastered to incorporate into her work. Like all the bloggers, Sabina simply loves her craft; she is thankful to Allah (SWT) to have her talent and she has a drive to share both her appreciation and knowledge with others. Sabina first stepped away from her Kenmore and dye baths long enough to put up some blog entries on Slip Stitches and More when she was living overseas in the United Arab Emirates. What “began as an outlet while acclimatising to the Mideast” ultimately increased Sabina’s tech-skills online: “as I grew in SEO and pc/web knowledge I began to ‘get it’ and incorporate all this into my handmade business.”
Sabina’s modest blog has grown into a nice little brand for her with a YouTube channel, a few social network pages, and an Etsy shop. “The novice sewist” is still Sabina’s motivation and while the blog is a great showcase for her work, Sabina freely shares her decades of know-how with many tips and tutorials that can be especially beneficial to sisters, such as her videos of an easy caftan-making lesson and how to repurpose a butterfly abaya into a shoulder abaya. In turn, as someone who has benefited a great deal from da’wah and knowledge-based websites, Sabina has also expanded into a second blog which is Islam-based and she has had the opportunity to share plentiful information about the deen with her non-Muslim craft readers.
Erum in Pakistan has long been a compulsive crafter and wanted some way to record and maybe share all the projects she had done for her family, such as the fancy holiday dresses she makes and embellishes for her daughters. Her nephew suggested she get a blog and with little know-how, Arts Crafts N Hobbies was hesitantly started in 2010. Craft blogging has turned out to be an amazing experience for Erum who has met many talented and generous people all over the world: “The blog polished my creativity and has given me a chance to learn and try out so many new things.” While she continues to enhance her skills and expand her repertoire, Erum has also begun to dabble a little in selling her crafts locally.
Another seasoned blogger of several years, Ginger Davis, aka UmmLayla of the Crafty Muslimah blog, posting from the American Midwest, just recently started a second craft-focused blog where she hopes to highlight her aim to make one project a week during 2012 with the goal of making herself a whole wardrobe. On her other blog, Ginger’s original Ramadhan crafts always garnered a lot of attention from readers searching for Islamic-related items unavailable commercially and for those who are more likely to do-it-yourself. Ginger tries to wear something handmade every day and by simply uploading pictures of projects she is already doing, “in the end maybe other people will be inspired to do the same.” Ginger loves the process of creating something from start to finish, beginning with the rawest of materials, figuring all the bits out, and finally arriving at the finished product. “If I could go from baby sheep to finished sweater, it would be fulfilling a dream of mine.” Sounds like someone has a lot of blocking and blogging to do!
If you are a crafty Muslimah – newbie or master – you can find like-minded souls, not only among the Muslimah craft blogosphere, but there are also e-groups budding up all over the Internet. If you don’t have time or access to quilting circles or beading classes in your area, you can still enjoy the camaraderie of other crafty sisters on Facebook, Yahoo, Flickr, and throughout Cyberville.
Brooke Benoit is an American artist who is home-educating her 5.5 children in Casablanca, Morocco. This year when people ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over her kids’ projects, she may begrudgingly admit that the brilliant ideas were not originally her own.