This group of crochet queens is breaking world records one by one
There’s a quiet coup underway in the world of global crochet records. If you listen carefully, you can hear the needless clicking.
A group called Mother India’s Crochet Queens (MICQ), set up by an ambitious 49-year-old CEO from Chennai, has dethroned a group from South Africa and two groups from the UK, while setting a total of four Guinness world records over the past four years.
MICQ has 6,000 members spread across India and 13 other countries, from Poland to Australia and the Emirates. Their work isn’t subversive or political, as a lot of crochet tends to be these days. Instead, members — some are 6, some are 86 (a few are also men) — help create record-setting and non-record-setting blankets, caps, toys and other woven goods that are then donated to the poor and to sick children. MICQ also uses needlework time to do what it’s always done — help women bond, listen, share stories.
Subashri Natarajan, CEO at Vaigai Engineering, manufacturers of electrical distribution and panel boards, says she had always wanted to be recognised for something. Entering the Guinness book, she decided, would make that dream come true. So she trawled the internet for ideas, checked existing world records, and decided she would set a record in crochet. After all, she’d been crocheting since she was 10.
The existing record for world’s largest crochet blanket at the time was 3,377 sq metres, set by a group in South Africa in April 2015. “I realised I would need help,” she says. So Subashri posted on Facebook and invited friends and family to join her mission. Women from all over the world started asking if they could join too. Anyone from anywhere could join, Subashri told them, as long as they were Indian.
Within months, local branches had formed in different cities, each with its own WhatsApp group, and an elected goodwill ambassador.
By January 31, 2016, MICQ had broken its first record, with a blanket measuring 11,148 sq metres, stitched by about 1,000 women. Fuelled by this win, in May 2017, the group set a second record — for the world’s longest scarf (14.09 km). “We started with a target of 5 km but with more than 700 women putting in four months of effort, it became very much longer,” Subashri says. The goodwill ambassadors typically assign tasks to branch members, collect the items made and send them on to Subashri, who — particularly with record-setting attempts — oversees the crocheting together of items like the giant blanket and shawl.
In 2018 came the third record — the largest display of crochet sculptures, with 58,917 pieces, smashing by about 4.5 times the existing record set by a group in the UK. Last year, MICQ set its fourth Guinness world record, for largest display of crochet Christmas decorations (66,158 items). The previous record had been 4,416 decorations, set by another group from the UK.
“Some women have set up their own business after joining and learning with us,” says Charu Trehan, 42, an art director and event planner who heads the Mumbai division of over 300 members. She joined, she says, because the initial Facebook post said the massive blanket would be divided up and donated to the poor. “It was something so heart-warming and unusual.”
“It changed my life,” adds Riddhi Chheda, 29, who joined in June 2019 to take her mind off troubles in her personal life. “Crochet became the thing that made me happy. In February, we donated crocheted caps to a children’s hospital in Navi Mumbai. I now sell my own work online.”
Hemalata Subhedar, 83, the seniormost member in Mumbai, says joining MICQ has improved her confidence and made her feel like she can still contribute. “The best part is that the things we make help people,” she says. “But also, I like that whenever I need to talk, Charu is just a phone call away.”