Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home |Volume 5, Issue 47, Tuesday, November 30, 2010



Special Feature

A knitted story

I still remember that warm pink sweater my grandmother had knit for me on my sixth birthday. Oh, how I wish she were still here to keep me warm during the cold winters with her love.

Often considered a mere pastime or hobby, knitting is actually so much more. It's a form of art; the kind that gives you the opportunity to express love and affection. The different techniques used to make knitted pieces are truly extraordinary, let alone that beautiful, warm, fuzzy feeling they give afterwards, both literally and figuratively.

The tradition of knitting was still widely practised around ten years ago, when mothers, grandmothers and aunts all across the country would knit beautiful pieces of clothing for their loved ones. Carrying those knitting kits with their assorted pins and needles and beautiful balls of wool, whether they were experts or just did it as a hobby, they used to sit for hours making chequered sweater vests for their husbands and children.

Although not as easily to be found as they once were, there are still ways to get your hands on quality wool. As always, it's New Market to the rescue. On the pavement in front of the mosque at New Market, there are lines of old wool shops. They sell wool by the ounce, and the colours are bright and delightful - golden yellow, tomato red, bright green, gleaming white - instantly attracting you to them. Home-knit sweaters retain an adorable quality with their fluffiness, making the cute toddler wearing them all the more susceptible to some thorough cuddling.

The art of knitting has faded over the years due to a lot of reasons, one of them being the scarcity of shops selling wool. School teacher Salma Parvin, who has held on to the forgotten art, told us how, back in the Pakistan era of Bangladesh, when she first learnt knitting, she used to have access to the best wools to make sweaters with. ABC wool was her favourite. She gave us some other reasons why, in her opinion, this wonderful form of art might have died down.

She has seen the practice of knitting decline as the generations have passed, especially as women and girls get busier in their day-to-day lives. Working ladies have almost no time to sit back and knit after a hard day of work and suffering through the rough traffic.

Of course, we must also take into consideration that we live in a warm country where winter doesn't stay too long. Salma told us that when she used to live in a cooler country like Zimbabwe, she used to spend most of her time knitting perfect little sweaters for her family members. But now buying the funky, trendy sweaters and jackets from Doja Market, Bongo Bazaar and New Market would probably be one's first option. However, knitting a lovely cardigan for yourself every now and then would not only make others appreciate your hard work, you'll feel proud of yourself too!

Salma also loves experimenting with her wool and designs every chance she gets, accentuating the hint of affection that makes her gifts ever so admirable to everyone who receives them. Knitting allows the artist the scope to experiment by striking new designs trying new colour combinations whether it be striped or checked, adding sequins, lace, beads, buttons and ribbons, or anything your fashion sense dictates.

The craft of knitting is not that difficult to master. You need to learn the technique, which puts your hands in a particular flow. Salma told us how knitting doesn't even need much concentration. All you need to do is get your hands into a rhythm. Salma had learned to knit from one of her friends' mother. She says, “When I used to see Aunty work and the products of her toil, I was intrigued. I then asked her to teach me and thus learned to knit at a very young age and have been doing it ever since.”

Of course, many women across the country have jobs now and hardly have any time for even a proper meal throughout the day. But then again, there are mothers, daughters, grandmothers who can spare some time for their loved ones. When you get some free time and have nothing to do, you can always sit down and get knitting.

With winter knocking on the door, why not open the gates and welcome it with some cosy, warm wool and your favourite knitting kit?

By Naziba Basher
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Sherifa Rashid

Special Feature

Mujib Coat

Be they as different as they may, great leaders too have similarities with ordinary men. If not in terms of political aspirations, then at least in the fact that they too have their own style statements and fashion preferences; a way by which to identify their individual personas. A way of styling that becomes them and defines them: Jawaharlal Nehru's cap, coat and unmissable breast pocket rose, Mahatma Gandhi's self-woven dhoti, Che Guevara's revolutionary army coat and cap as prominent examples.

Like all these global leaders of influence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had a particular ensemble of choice as well: panjabi, pyjama, thick-rimmed glasses and most famously, the sleeveless black coat which was to later become known as the 'Mujib Coat'.

Bangabandhu started wearing this high-necked, ebony-toned coat with two pockets at the bottom after he returned to Bangladesh from the famous Agartala conspiracy case. Later his admirers and fellow party members followed suit and it became a part of the popular political culture of that era. The Mujib Coat was no longer just a fashion piece, it rose to the ranks of a wearable pledge of political allegiance, and it became a way of living.

The use of the Mujib Coat increased extensively after Bangladesh gained independence. In current times, the coat is mainly worn by members of Awami League, “Although some Awami Leaguers regularly wear it, the Mujib Coat is worn more for special occasions,” said veteran leader Amir Hossain Amu.

“I admire Sheikh Mujibur Rahman not only because he is the founding father of this nation but also because of his great personality. Men following his fashion trend somehow reflect a part of that persona, of which the coat is the symbol,” says Aziza Abu Bakr.

Winter usually sees an increase in the use of Mujib Coats, which are warm just as they are fashionable for the politically inclined. They now come in different materials such as wool, khadi, endi cotton, silk and dopian silk. The availability of Mujib Coats also leave wearers spoilt for choice, where they can be part of exclusive, traditional designer lines on one end and available at roadside markets on the other.

Fashion in itself is like a living being- subject to constant change and evolution. But some things are here to stay, be they as our tokens of admiration for a leader long gone, symbols of our political affiliations or as simple style statements.

By Mahtabi Zaman
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Sufi Fauq Ibne Abubakar

LS Pick

Winter scarves

A piece of silk wrapped around the neck; the soft, smooth scarf brushing against the skin on a chilly December morning; a cup of steaming coffee and a romantic novel in hand - it is such simple pleasures that make life complete!

For a country that has witnessed a spell of eccentric weather in the recent past, there is no telling what the severity of the winter will be this season. But the days are cooler, and the nights are chilly already; winter is slowly approaching and there is still plenty of time to get our winter fashion grooves on!

Hoodies, long jackets, sweater vests and monkey caps all have their say in Winter Fashion 2010-11, but it's the ubiquitous scarf that is making its way through to the new found fashion statements of many young women.

Scarves have the potential to transform the look of every girl - a simple fashion fact that shouldn't be lost on the wearer. Take the elegant, shawl-style-scarf for instance. Wrap it around your neck or casually cross it in the front -- both ways it looks great. Also goes well with long dresses, long skirts, saris and even trousers or jeans.

Slender, long scarves on the other hand, wrapped randomly around the neck look sensational on those who can pull it off. Try experimenting with the way you wrap it including variations in knots. As long as it's not made too clumsy, it looks decidedly smart.

A lot of women are using winter scarves as the perfect accessory to complement their winter closets, and quite fashionably so. Since winter scarves are out there in diverse hues, designs, and fabrics, women have a wide assortment of alternatives.

Primarily a winter scarf is basically worn around one's neck so as to preserve heat. Nonetheless, as the world of fashion continues to evolve, women wear them even in temperate climates. And a scarf can be worn to complement almost any outfit, each creating a unique statement. They may be wrapped around the neck or even worn as a belt

Long scarves, an all-time favourite for Europeans, are usually worn around the neck layer upon layer. Best teamed with a simple, monochrome sweater, long scarves should be avoided with complex patterns in jumpers, provided you seek to draw attention with the scarf.

If you want to keep things really simple, simply drape the scarf over your neck and shoulders and leave it loose. Embroidered scarves worn in such fashion are an easy option with a plain sweater, blouse or suit.

Even a few decades ago hand-knitted, woollen scarves were all the rage in fashion. Their appeal is still there but sadly, most people can't devote the patience or time required for hand-knitting a woollen scarf. They are however, widely available in the market. Another reason to look forward to winter shopping.

Arab men have worn the keffiyeh for centuries, but recent years have witnessed women's fashion borrow this head-scarf from their male Arab counterparts. With the right attire to complement the look, the keffiyeh on women is the new buzz in fashion. With a little imagination this can be your fashion statement of the season.

The best thing about scarves is that there are no standard codes and you can feel free to innovate your fashion ideologies with them. Experiment in a number of ways. Just pick out a favourite piece and drape it on any way you like. Who knows, your style may become the next craze this season.

By Naziba Basher
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Makeup and styling Farzana Shakil
Model: Taskin, Chitra, Tripola






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