One day, you might be out and about in Beeston’s pubs or cafes, and you might spot someone doing crochet. That someone is likely to be Frea Waninge, 30, who enjoys making little crochet owls with a difference…
I met Frea over tea and coffee, and it wasn’t long before she’d produced a bunch of multi-coloured crochet owls from her bag, and placed them on the table. This caught the attention of one of the baristas, who immediately said how cute they are.
However, these are not just any owls, they are pride owls. Frea uses a pattern that she found online by fellow crochet-lover Josephine Wu (a.k.a A Morning Cup of Jo Creations) but has adapted the colours of yarn she uses.
Frea bases her owls on the colours used for various pride flags which represent a range of different identities and sexualities. She has been doing crochet long before she began making the owls; she would make scarves, hats, and even phone covers for herself. One of her scarves was made using the colours representative of asexuality, as Frea identifies as ace. Once she discovered the owl pattern, she decided to use the yarn she had left from her ace scarf, and made an asexu-owl.
“I showed it to someone and they said ‘if you were to do more of them and sell them, I’d be happy to buy them’ so I started buying yarn and making lots of testers, and eventually put a couple of designs on Etsy,” she tells me.
Since then the owl family has grown to include a number of sexualities and identities including: bisexuowl, asexuowl, pansexuowl, arowlmantic (aromantic), polyamorous (polyamorowl?), agender owl, transgender owl, nonbinary owl, genderqueer owl, rainbowl, demisexuowl, graysexuowl.
One of Frea’s main reasons behind creating these owls is because she knows how amazing it feels when you find something that represents you. “It’s like a code,” she says. “that’s why I was looking to include more obscure ones that people may not have heard of. The demi (demi-sexual) one is new and it’s not often included in stuff so to find something that represents them is really cool.” Soon, she will be adding a gender fluid owl and a lesbian owl, and she often gets requests from people to do owls for identities she hasn’t heard of.
“There’s so many that I don’t know about,” she reveals. “Someone contacted me asking if I do Feminamoric ones. If you say ‘I’m lesbian’ that only really works if you identify as a woman, if you’re non-binary and you love women, there’s not really a good term for it so they invented Feminamoric,” she explains. “That kind of language can be really helpful.”
She adds, “When people ask for another one I’ll try and accommodate that.” But she admits that she was faced with a dilemma when someone asked her to make a straight pride owl. “I said to them, well that would be taking the time that I could put into minority orientations…so no.”
Frea works in admissions at the University of Nottingham and has recently completed a PhD in Linguistics at the uni, where she is also a member of the Gilbert & Sullivan society. She moved to the UK in 2011 from the Netherlands, and lived in Beeston for 5 years before moving to Dunkirk where she has been for a year. But it was Beeston’s friendly community that sparked Frea’s love for crochet up again, as she had originally learnt it from her mum as a child.
“I joined a church choir to meet people, because I knew nobody when I moved here, it was very awkward. So I joined the church choir here in Beeston St Johns, and people from there did Monday night knitting. Angie, one of the ladies from the church, helped me to learn to crochet and do a scarf. She gave me the needles and taught me how to do it, because I’d completely lost how it works.”
She started making the owls in April of this year, and sells them on Etsy at £4.50 per owl, and all the money from sales goes back into making more owls and buying yarn which she gets from the Beeston shop Yarn on Chilwell High Road. “Yarn is a lovely business and she’s really helpful and is always happy to order stuff in for me,” says Frea.
Each owl used to take her about an hour to make, but she’s since got the timing down to half an hour to 45 minutes, and she does them in batches because it’s a lot faster. “It puts me at about £6 an hour if I was doing it all the time,” she says. “It’s not very expensive, and I know it’s good stuff, and I know I can always get it.”
In future, she wants to start making other animals to help fly the pride flag. “I really wanna do an Octopride! You can do the legs with different colours. I wanna do unicorns with different coloured hair that comes out, and bi-icorns and pan-icorns.”
I ask her if she’s ever considered having a stall at Nottinghamshire Pride, “I was considering doing it this year but obviously I’d need to make lots of them and that was just at a time when it was really busy because it’s pride time,” she says. “The plan this year is to make a load, regardless of how many of them sell or not, because it’s fun. And whatever is left at the end of the year I’ll bring to pride.”
She points out that crochet isn’t something she wants to make a career out of, it’s just for fun and is her way of helping to raise awareness and give people something cute to identify with.
Our interview comes to a close with Frea saying “That one’s for you!” and handing me a bisexuowl, which I happily accept.
Frea’s owls are available at: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/prideandpunk
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