I’m Elizabeth Adedeji, and I crochet and own 21 Wool Street.
Growing up, I used to draw, but I found myself crocheting and left drawing alone. I miss it, but here we are. Also, don’t ask, but
I can speak a little German.
Okay, so a different question then. What’s the difference between crocheting and knitting?
Crocheting is a one-hook work. Knitting uses two needles or hooks, and you can even machine knit. With crocheting, everything is done by hand.
I like that every crochet piece is original because of this. I’d never thought about it like that
Exactly. You can create a piece really fast, with the help of a machine if you’re knitting. But crocheting takes a lot of time. You have to put a lot of work into it. People always mix them up, so I’m glad you asked. People always ask what I’m “knitting”, and I have to explain I’m crocheting, not knitting. There’s a difference.
How did you go from drawing to crocheting?
I was in art class in primary school, and I was probably my art teacher’s favourite because I was really good at it. Everybody is so good at art these days that competing is difficult, but I enjoyed art class. I thought I’d become an artist when I grew up. I remember having an art exhibition when I was in what? Primary five?
I’ll say you’re still an artist, but carry on
Exactly! I think my first memory of crocheting was watching a woman do it in church when I was in secondary school. I was immediately fascinated by the idea of making something from scratch. She gave me a beginner’s tutorial, and from then on, you’d always just find me with pins and yarn, making one thing or the other. We also had crocheting classes in secondary school home econs. I spent so much time crocheting that I didn’t have time to draw anymore.
Does your drawing background help you visualise the things you create?
It definitely does. Plus, I draw once in a while now. It makes it easier for me to sketch my ideas and bring them to life before starting a project. That’s one advantage my drawing background gave me.
This is so random, but I just know you were that kid who always gifted people things you’d crocheted
Yes, omg! So, one of my friends still has a bag I crocheted for her in secondary school when I was 11. She’s always like she’ll keep it till I blow, so she can say, “Lizzy made this for me back in secondary school.” I definitely was that person who gave things I made to people a lot. In secondary school, I made bags, small purses, and scarves, and I’d give most of them out.
So people are just out there walking around with your originals? When did you decide you wanted to earn from crocheting?
In 2017, I started my brand, 21 Wool Street. Before then, I didn’t even know you could crochet outfits with wool, but I always thought I’d try it out anyway. Then I started seeing a lot more people do it on YouTube and Instagram. One of my friends reached out that she needed something to wear to the beach. I’d already made a beach outfit for myself and was rocking it everywhere, so I made the exact same thing for her. She got a lot of compliments, I got a lot of referrals, and I thought, “Hey, I can make money from this.” This was in 2016. I started making things for my classmates in uni.
Which of your crochet pieces do you love above all else?
I’ll say a couple. Last year, I collaborated with a friend’s brand, Stepping with Semi to create a footwear collection we called Gaze, and I enjoyed the process of making it. The whole shoe collection, for me, was just giving. Another project I liked was when I replicated Kate Spade’s crochet design for a customer in 2020, and the whole process of doubting myself then actually achieving it was a lot. The funny thing was the original designer who worked on the design under Kate Spade’s brand reached out to me, and he was kind about it. The most recent one I really love is my sister’s wedding dress.
How did you get to crochet your sister’s wedding dress?!
I posted a picture from one of my favourite brands, Studio Imo, in June or May . He made this beautiful white dress, and my sister replied saying, “Shey you will not just make my wedding dress for me like this?” I laughed because I love challenges, so I said, “Sure, let’s do this.” She sketched out a design she wanted, and I started researching the kind of pattern I wanted to use and inspiration from what other people had done. It didn’t have to be bridal; it just had to be crochet. It took a month and a lot of trial and error. I had to start over when I made errors. When I felt confident I was getting it right, we added more details to make it really come out and added the lining and the elaborate sleeves. By the second fitting, everything looked good.
How many times did you start over?
I honestly lost count. I started it two or three times and kept it aside because I had a dinner event for a Topship grant I applied for and made the top three finalists. I had to crochet an outfit for myself at the last minute. I came back to my sister’s dress a week later. When I got to the knees, we had an idea to make it A-line. We loosened it about three to four times until we decided to make it a straight dress. Then, the sleeves didn’t fit, so I had to redo them twice. The thing with me is that if I notice a slight mistake, I’ll start all over. It helps me retrace my steps, so I don’t make the mistake again.
Doesn’t going back to fix mistakes take a lot of time when you have many orders?
It does. Since I work on a preorder basis and I’ve mostly worked on bags recently, it’s not so bad. I usually have delivery dates for every order and ensure I create time to fulfil each order. This wedding dress did take a huge chunk of my time, but for the sake of getting it right, you just have to do that. It would’ve been worse if the whole outfit was a mess and there was no way for her to wear it.
How many pieces have you crocheted since you started? Do you have assistants?
Maybe over a thousand. I’ve worked with two crochet designers this year and I’ve had a couple of people work with me this year, on side projects I can entrust to someone. I worked on my sister’s wedding dress alone because for a project like that; you don’t need too many hands. I’m working on getting more people because I obviously can’t do it alone forever if I want my brand to be big. It’s been a challenge trusting people, but it’s been good so far.
What’s the most expensive or least expensive thing you’ve crocheted?
My sister’s wedding dress is the most expensive thing I’ve crocheted so far. I sold it to her for ₦200k. I consider many factors when I determine the price of my pieces: time, the design, the quantity of yarn and if it’ll require other artisans like a tailor to add linen to a dress, or zips and buttons.
Ever ran into a loss?
Yes, with my Jadesola bag. Late last year, prices of yarn and fabric kept increasing until I realised I was no longer making a profit. When I started, I would buy the materials at a particular price, but one day, my usual supplier stopped selling the yarn. I had to use a supplier in Nigeria, and the prices kept going up every time I went back to re-supply. I was running at a loss at first. I had to increase my prices in January.
What’s your favourite part of being a crochet artist?
I mostly call myself a crochet designer. My favourite part is just being able to start things from scratch and bring it to life, to see the end product or result. Whenever I finish my work, I’m always so shocked, like, “Wow, I did this! This came out of my hands!”. The process of creating each piece is beautiful, and I enjoy every bit of it. I like that my work would always stand out from other designers’ works because I aim to create timeless pieces that outlive fashion trends. I love that as a crochet designer I get to show people the endless possibilities of crochet wear and how it goes beyond just swim/beach wear. Finally, I love when my customers share pictures and feedback on their purchases, being able to curate them and post them on my brand account gives me joy every time.
What do you do outside crocheting?
I’m a content creator and I’ve worked in tech and public relations. That’s my 9-5; I write and create content. I recently got into embroidery art. I just enjoy anything that allows me to express myself and start something from scratch. I don’t exactly make embroidery art for money right now. It still feels like fun; the business part tries to spoil it.
No one likes this question, but what do the next few years look like for you?
Laughs* You’re right, but I’ve realised most of the things I said I would do, three to four years ago, I’ve done bits and pieces of them. With 21 Wool Street, I’m trying to branch into other aspects of crocheting.
I started off making swimwear and dresses, and I remember writing in my business plan that I would make footwear and bags. Seeing what I’ve accomplished is amazing. In the next couple of years, I want to get into menswear and the bridal industry. It’s a market that needs to be tapped, so I’m strategizing on how to get into these markets. It would be cool to be one of the pioneers for male and bridal crochet wear in Africa in the same way that Deola Sagoe has modernized the look of traditional bridal wear in Nigeria and globally. ‘