Bringing together her long-lived passion for music and a newfound love of knitting, Xoli Ngcoza, music DJ and owner of Hand Knit by Xoli, shares her story and a new Knitting Playlist for the listening pleasure of all you makers.
The first time I heard House music in South Africa my world changed, the deep rhythms and bass-filled beats were mesmerizing. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, I've had a love affair with Electronic music since the 1990's. I remember playing the DJ with cassette tapes at my mother's get-togethers and working at a hip-hop club when I was a teenager.
In 2004 I made the journey to the U.S. By 2007 I was working as an online promoter for Open Bar Music who hosted House DJ monthly parties, and I began taking turntable lessons from fellow artists I admired. Now based in Connecticut, I am a Certified Nurse Assistant, Doula, hiker and knitter.
I learned to knit in 2008 as a way to connect with my patient, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I discovered a stash of yarn and knitting needles in her closet while putting her clothes away. The time I spent with her before finding her knitting stash, I noticed that she always wanted something to do with her time. I figured if I get her back into knitting, she might have better time spent during the day doing what she always loved. So, I asked her if she would teach me how to knit.
I hadn't knit anything since primary school, and I didn't even enjoy knitting when I was young, but I noticed the most incredible thing when I gave her the needles and yarn. She smoothly started casting on stitches and went right into her knitting mode. She gifted me my first set of knitting needles and yarn, and showed me how to cast on. That afternoon I spoke to her daughter (who lives in Michigan) and she told me how much her mother had always enjoyed knitting, but that she didn't think she would go back to doing it.
We spent our days knitting together.
As time went by I struggled with my project. I don't think I touched my knitting until after a year, and by then I wasn't working with my client. I had cast on a lot of stitches, and my project took so long, but I finally finished it after three years. The excitement of having this beautiful big scarf made me want to tackle a new project, and that's how knitting took over my life.
I started making scarves for family and friends. It was so much fun. It was in 2015, while I was knitting, that an idea came to mind. I've always enjoyed sharing music with friends and as a DJ, I've been collecting vinyl for a while now and I have so much to share. I started recording my own knitting soundtrack and posted it on my Mixcloud. I thought it was a fun thing to experiment with; why not mix two of my favorite things together? I wanted to create something that was new and something completely different. It was also a great practice for me to learn recording from vinyl, which is a difficult skill to learn, and I didn't want to neglect my DJing skills.
Music makes me happy and lets me forget a lot of stressful things. Being a Certified Nurse Assistant is a difficult job; I hold space for a lot of people that have terminal illnesses, and I've also comforted the dying. Music helps me heal. It's the same thing with knitting. Joining these two together has been a beautiful adventure for me. If people knew the feelings one gets while knitting and listening to music, we would all be happy.
I have a friend in London who kept telling me to sell my knitwear on Etsy. I opened an account in 2014, but I didn't sell anything until more recently. Another friend told me I could create my own website. At the moment I sell my knitwear at Workspace Collective, a boutique store owned by a friend, and I also take orders from family and friends. The business side of knitting is still something I'm learning; I sometimes get overwhelmed because all I want to do is sit down and knit and not have to worry about other things. Opening an Instagram account was another issue I had, but I must say it has helped me a lot because there are so many knitters that have inspired and helped me. Knitting is my yoga.
The playlist I chose to share consists of some of the music I've been listening to this winter. I find it soothing. Winter has a way of making us tap into our feelings, and these songs did the same. I also wanted to listen to something slow paced. I recently started teaching myself the cable stitch, and I find these songs to be engaging to what I'm currently working on.
1. 11 Lessons of Kamasutra - In the Hands of KamaIn the Hands Of Kama
2. Dasha Rush - Space Privet for Cosmonauts
3. Ernst Reijseger/ Harmen Fraanje/ Molly Sylla - E Lucevan Le Stelle
4. Kiyoko - Fragments
5. Synkro - Midnight Sun (Helios Remix)
6. Riciccomoto - Mama (feat. Anita)
7. Kiasmos - Looped
8. Nicolas Jaar - Ishamael
9. Ernst Reijseger/ Harmen Fraanje/ Molly Sylla - Faleme
10. Olafur Arnalds - Kinesthesia I
11. Ya Nass - Hal
Happy making, happy listening,
- DJ Xoli
What's on your knitting / crocheting playlist? Tell us in the comments below, or tag us on our @ourmakerlife with #ourmakerlife with a picture of your maker life for a chance to be featured on our feed!
Are you a maker who loves to combine your other passions with the fiber arts? We'd love for you to share your thoughts with OML - just send us an email for a possible collab!
- OML Team
Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, DJ Xoli has had a love affair with Electronic music since the 1990's. In 2004 she moved to the United States, where she has since become a Certified Nurse Assistant, Doula, hiker and of course, knitter. She now enjoys knitting for her handmade shop Hand Knit by Xoli, and creating playlists for creative minds on Mixcloud.