Steven Be:

A transitive verb: to take something further than it was meant to go.

 This urban dictionary definition sums up the essence of self-proclaimed yarn goddess, Steven Be, also known internationally as the “glitter knitter.” This fibre fashion guru has taken the knitting world by storm with his stylish and whimsical “Knit it in a Minute” guides to restore, and not restrict, creativity. Knitting is the world’s new yoga and has evolved far beyond simple making a piece of string into something to wear. With the resurgence of this craft-culture of note, Steven Be has embarked on a tour of South Africa to add a touch of glitter to the everyday South African knitter.

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WHO IS STEVEN BE?

“When my grandmother escaped East Germany all those years ago, she had her shoes tied around her neck and her knitting stuffed in her bra.” Similarly, Steven Be has always had knitting close to his heart. From knitting garments for Barbie dolls, the earnings of which were used to pay for his first year of design school, to being Vice President of an international fashion company, Steven Be is no stranger to design. After twenty years in the corporate world, he realised it was time to return to his true passion and so Steven Be and his take on reinventing knitting was born. His traditional background in design has given him the ability to understand the true shape of patterns, however his innovative outlook has taken knitting beyond just a craft into an art.

 A garment that captures the essence of this larger than life character is a jersey incorporating old film strips that contain filmed images of a traumatic childhood camp experience. This ability to reinvent the ordinary is a gift he has used to turn such traumas into triumphs. “When I wear that outfit I think: I have won, my talent has taken me from a victim to a victor,” and so Steven Mark Berg created the Steven Be empire to inspire others to Be who you were born to Be.

His “will work for yarn” attitude has created a deep appreciation and passion for yarn, to the point where following strict patterns is no longer necessary. “I don’t count stitches on principle – if you start counting, you need to keep counting! Society forces this rigid pattern following. I say, if you dropped a stitch, carry on – just keep knitting.” This non-conformist attitude has resulted in the creation of out-of-the-box items such as the “Sharf” (oversized scarf to the point of being a shawl) and the “shlanket” (oversized shawl to the point of being a blanket).

 WHY WE ALL SHOULD LOVE MOHAIR

“I have been knitting with Mohair since my beginning days because when it is dyed, it soaks up and projects such an intensity of colour.” Steven Be admits his outdated view of Mohair used to be of “old, itchy sweaters,” far removed from the darling delicate yarns available.  “When I found out about the rich history of Mohair in South Africa, I fell deeper in love. I have always been obsessed with zebra stripes.” Indeed his Minneapolis based studio, which can be described as a cross between your grandmother’s attic and your eccentric uncle’s boudoir, is surrounded by a bold zebra stripe.

KNITTING AS ART

“I use yarn like a painter uses tubes of paint. If a painter us the same blue tube of paint for the entire canvass, it would be so boring – why then do we knit a plain blue scarf?”

Indeed many of Steven’s creations can be appreciated as a Monet painting. Close up the dots don’t quite make sense, but from far away you can see the full picture. “Mohair is the best way to link these gorgeous colours because it gives a bit of a glazing – it is the water colour weaved through all of my work.”

With avid knitters constantly struggling to justify their oversized “yarn barn” collection, Steven Be has given the go-ahead to start looking at yarn purchases as investments in a fine art collection.

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STEVEN BE’S TOP KNITTING TIPS

A top tip in changing the way you knit is to cross words like “only” and “just” out of your vocabulary. “It bothers me when women dumb down their creations by reacting to complements explaining the scarf they knitted only took a few seconds and they just used leftover bits.”

Further advice includes staying away from the tendency to “match,” as colours and yarns were never intended to match but rather to blend.

Steven Be further warns against seeing knitting as an irritatingly long project (we all have that unfinished scarf from three winters ago). “Instead, use bigger needles and use your desire for this instant gratification to motivate you. I knit every weekend so that by Monday I have something new to wear to work!”

“To all knitters I encourage you to look a little harder, shop a little freer and to play a little more.”

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 GET STARTED

– Ravelry is essentially Facebook for knitters and is a great community to share ideas.

 – Watch the Steven Be TV where Steven Be partners with Stephan West to change the knitting world two Stev/phens at a time.

 – Local yarn/wool stores in Port Elizabeth include: Plain and Purl African Expressions; Little Angel ; Pandora Wool Boutique; The Wool Shop; Samil

Many thanks to the sponsorship of  African Expressions, Samil, Be Inspired, Cowgirl Bues, Adeles Mohair and Create Magazine under the leadership of Mohair SA who have made Steven Be’s tour possible.

In the rhythm of the needles there is music for the soul and Steven Be is a tune to keep singing.

 bye for now xx

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