Insta-grannies in Russia learn knitting skills online

Marina Koreneva –
Elderly women across Russia are often seen selling their hand-knitted wares on pavement corners for a few roubles to supplement meagre pensions.
Now a new Instagram project aims to change the public perception of their homely skills by promoting “granny chic” and help the women sell their knitted mittens, socks and other items online.
Grandmother and participant Nina Lozhkova said she’d long wanted to sell her knits.
“But it’s a bit humiliating to sell things by the metro. Here, I feel like I am a creator and not a poor person,” the 58-year-old said of the Instagram initiative, Granny’s.
Lozhkova, who has a six-year-old grandson, is one of around 40 retirees to have so far joined Granny’s, which is based in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg.
More than 5,000 people follow the project’s Instagram account, @russiangrannies, which displays a sleek selection of stylish photos of adults and children in knitted clothing.
“By buying our wares you are supporting someone’s grandmother,” it says, revealing, too, some heart-warming details about the knitters themselves, their lives, families and past careers.
Aged between 55 and 87, its enterprising pensioners can earn between $450 and $1,000 a month. An average monthly pension in Russia is about $200.
Behind the Instagram account is Yulia Aliyeva, a 27-year-old who recently quit a job working for the city administration to launch Granny’s.
“Of course, the fact that grandmothers can make money online smashes stereotypes,” said Aliyeva, whose 85-year-old grandmother is one of the knitters.
“All of them say that if it was not for the project, they would not be able to do this by themselves,” she said.
Many Russians have to work past the state pension age to afford living costs, or rely on financial help from their children.
Last year, President Vladimir Putin sparked a huge outburst of public anger by opting to gradually raise the state pension age by five years, to 60 for women and 65 for men.
Yelena Tretyakova, the first pensioner to join Granny’s, is already retired so the state pension age changes will not affect her. But she said the knitting project was still crucial to keeping her afloat. — AFP