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Knitting a sweater while wearing a sweater.

Featured Article

Holy Xoli, This Chick Can Knit!

Designer and Knitter of Gorgeous Sweaters and More

Article by Robin Moyer Chung

Photography by Maya Porrino

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Xoli Ngcoza, born in South Africa, bemoans the celebrity-idolizing social-media-obsessed culture of Millenials. “They’re missing things that are handmade,” she explains. “I’d like to own a store and teach them about knitting… they don’t know to switch off and do something with their hands.” Well, something other than texting and swiping.

A Certified Nursing Assistant and DJ, Xoli learned knitting from a client stricken with Alzheimer’s. Having tried, and failed, to connect with her client, Xoli found yarn and knitting needles in her client's home. “I asked her for lessons,” she recalls. “My client's mind went smoothly into it and we spent days knitting together. She gifted me my first set of knitting needles and I’ve been knitting ever since.”

My own experience with knitting wasn’t as poetic. I decided to sign up myself and two of my kids for a free knitting class. After 3 confusing minutes my kids were questioning every decision I had ever made in my entire life and after 7 minutes we bolted, needles flying in our wake.

“I hated knitting when I was young,” Xoli admits after hearing my tale of woe. Turns out her experience wasn’t as poetic, either. Because knitting is tedious and confusing (my words, not hers), it took her three years to finish her first project. When she finally did she had a new scarf and a new passion. “If you don’t have patience, put it away,” Xoli says. “Then take it out again and finish it and you will catch the bug.”

Today, Xoli can knit the hell out of a pile of yarn.

She knitted loads of scarves and beanies before boredom forced her to pearl and loop her first sweater. For the knit-naïve among you, scarves-to-sweaters is the maker equivalent of parenting toddlers-to-teens: a necessary but intimidating process.

“It took me a long time,” she says, “as soon as I finished it, I was jumping for joy. I remember myself at home screaming, ‘It’s finished!’… it’s been the same feeling every time I finish one.” She designs all of her sweaters and painstakingly researches yarn and colors.

If you want to see her in action, you can find her in Westport Yarns or terrain, custom-knitting cozy and beautiful sweaters for men, women, and movie stars. Style icon Lupita Nyong’o owns two of her creations and wore one for a Marie Claire photo shoot alongside threads by Gucci, Chloé, Givenchy and more.

“There’s so much stress in the world,” she smiles, “[Knitting sweaters] makes makes your day so much smoother.”

I believe her. But I think I’d find just as much smoothness in letting her knit one for me.

  • Lupita Nyong'o on wearing a Xoli sweater.
  • Lupita Nyong'o in one of Xoli's creations.
  • Xoli Ngcoza
  • Knitting a sweater while wearing a sweater.
  • Beautiful Xoli creations.