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Durham’s Very Own Crochet Queen: Clara Smith’s ‘Clazcancrochet’ Business Success Story

Clara and I met through a mutual best friend, and have been good friends for a couple years now. Since I found out about her business I have essentially become a shameless plug on her behalf, proudly showing off all of her crochet work to friends. Regardless of our friendship, her creative talent speaks for itself, and this, coupled with her vivacious personality, has led to the growth of ‘Clazcancrochet’ from lockdown hobby to successful business. 

When Clara returned from Madrid on her gap year in December 2020, she was faced with compulsory two weeks isolation. Like many of us did over lockdown, she felt she needed new hobbies to pass the time. Inspired by an ‘extortionately-priced’ crochet top she had bought on holiday a few years prior, she learnt how to crochet through YouTube videos, starting with tops and documenting her progress for friends on Instagram. What she didn’t foresee was the following and support her work would attract.

Friends began to text asking her to make tops for them, which Clara modestly described as ‘out of solidarity’. However, thanks to word-of-mouth and the ubiquity of Instagram and TikTok, her business gradually took off. Her brand developed, and she now has over twelve different top designs, also making bags, dresses, bucket hats, scarves and fingerless gloves. All pieces are sold through her Instagram account @clazcancrochet.  

All the items she sells are hand-made, inspired by YouTube videos, patterns, based on requests, and, as Clara laughed, ‘a lot of guess-work’. Through her work, Clara is in contact with fellow crocheters and there is often an exchange of ideas between creatives in which one will share their design for free in return for others trying the stitching pattern to ensure it works.

When asked about balancing student life with her business, Clara and I discussed the difficulty of juggling the social and academic pressures of university, especially in tandem with many hours of crocheting. On average one glove takes her 45 minutes, whilst a top can take anywhere from two up to six hours depending on the design. When she first started university she took a temporary break, but she is now continuing with commissions. So why buy from small independent brands like Clara’s rather than get your crochet fix using ASOS next-day delivery or picking something up in the Zara sale?

Firstly, crochet, unlike sewing or other similar methods, cannot be done by a machine, meaning that each piece must be hand-made. Although this does contribute to the uniqueness of this fashion trend, it comes at a high labor cost. Bearing this in mind, the reality is that your £10 ASOS crochet top is likely either the result of underpaid exploited workers, especially when factoring in the percentage commission that the company takes, or it may not even be a genuine crochet article. A lack of transparency on behalf of big brands in the industry with regards to worker’s rights could be considered a tacit acknowledgement of unethical treatment.

Secondly, the rise in popularity of vintage and Depop pieces is indicative of a growing tendency towards one-of-a-kind statement items. Not only does supporting small businesses mean you can avoid the embarrassment of matching with someone in a club or lecture, but it also reflects a progression towards a celebration of stylistic originality. In the words of Coco Chanel, ‘to be irreplaceable one must always be different’.

Finally, as students we tend to think about plagiarism in terms of our summative essays, Clara highlighted its prevalence within the crochet industry. It is not uncommon for bigger brands and other creatives to copy designs without permission. Given the labor intensive and innovative nature of work like Clara’s, it is essential that full creative credit is given. Wearing a crocheted piece is wearing a piece of unique modern art.

Therefore, paying slightly more for independent brands (Clara normally charges from £25 – £50 for a top) offers a sustainable, socially responsible, and not to mention stylish solution. A simple scroll through her Instagram or TikTok will show you all her pieces and prices and should confirm to you that Claz can truly crochet.

I’m in my second year studying French and Spanish and love all things current affairs, literature and travel!
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