HER mother’s basket bubbling with cheery colourful balls of wool, needles sticking out like chopsticks; the legendary bench at Loreto Convent School where Sister Aquin would park herself and passionately knit life into the solemn grey yarn – knitting, for Niyati Sharma, unravels ‘warm and toasty’ memories, wrapped in the loving embrace of her mother’s handmade woolens. “My mum’s knitting needles were sacred, her prized possessions, her tools, her therapy, her medium of expression. We would watch her with rapt attention as she would knit effortlessly,” recalls Niyati, whose love for knitting grew, till it became her tools, her therapy, her medium of creativity and expression, her brand, ‘Bunn Na’. “Chalo kucch bunn te hain”, her mum would summon, and they would sit with their needles and balls of wool, ready to receive an education, skill, and tradition, one she has passed on to her eight-year-old daughter.
“People have a pre conceived notion about handmade woolens not being upmarket. I wanted to change this perception, revive this art and preserve tradition,” says Niyati, marching on with her knitting quest, one knit and purl at a time.
Waffle stitch dress, splendid capes and kaftans in wool, tasseled sweaters, patterned throws, striking bedspreads and blankets, Icelandic co-ord sets, chunky funky cardigans, textured knitwear, signature shawls and wraps, crocheted wonders – with exquisite designs, arresting colours, contemporary styles, embroideries and patterns – Niyati’s Bunn Na collection makes a stylish winter fashion statement.
An Indian embroidery specialist, Niyati, who holds a BSc in Fashion Design and MBA in Design Management from Chandigarh, was born artistically inclined and creatively charged. Her extensive administrative and fashion work at NIFT in Chandigarh and a stint at a Ludhiana textile factory where she set up an entire division of embroidery, honed her talent till she decided to start her own venture. “I took a sabbatical and relocated to my hometown, Shimla, in 2011 before tying the knot in 2013. Home is where my love for knitting rekindled. The old world charm, the grounding, rhythmic movement of the needles, the unraveling of a dream through design and colours resonated with me,” Niyati opened doors to her studio, Bunn Na in Chandigarh, in 2015.
The initial years were a challenge. “The first step was to find and curate a knitting circle. My mother in law helped and connected me to vendors and knitters in Bathinda,” says Niyati, who found a brilliant crocheter in Simi, and a head knitter in Anita who helps her manage a knitting circle of ten women in Bathinda.
For Bunn Na to stand out, there had to be zero compromise on quality. “You have to know your wool, have a good aesthetic sense, and a command over your art. My non-med studying maths and science at St Bede’s came in quite handy because knitting involves mathematical precision. It’s a science and art.” She spent hours with the ladies and patiently taught them new silhouettes, clean finish, contemporary patterns, colour schemes, etc.
“I send them detailed sketches and designs for every piece. They were used to only one or two patterns initially, and would deliver a rough finish. It’s taken me time to hone their skills. Once the product reaches, me, labeling, embroideries are done by me,” says Niyati, who follows works of international designers like Gurenkova Knitwear and Laerke Bagger, and holds an annual exhibition at The Cottage every December. “But we knit all year long,” Niyati’s endeavor is also to empower her workers. “They come from humble backgrounds, most of them are widows, hardworking, raising families on their own. I want to make sure they get their due.” The vision is also to start a ‘Bunnwadi’, a school of knitting and crochet, add a winter bridal line, and open ‘her first store in England’.
“Knitting instills in me a sense of calm. It unleashes my creativity. I take my knitting everywhere,” Niyati raises her needles, all set to exhibit at La Feria on October 1 and 2.