Russian Grannies Knit their Way Out of Poverty with Instagram Project

A new Instagram project is helping Russian elderly women showcase their knitting skills and earn money by promoting “granny chic”, AFP writes.

Elderly women across Russia are often seen selling their hand-knitted mittens, socks and other items on pavement corners for a few rubles to supplement meagre pensions.

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.

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 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.

The enterprising pensioners are aged between 55 and 87. They can earn between $450 and $1,000 a month, two to four times the average monthly pension in Russia ($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 told AFP.

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 that the knitting project was still crucial to keeping her afloat.

“If you are retired it is nearly impossible to find a job,” said the 56-year-old, who helps her daughter raise a 14-year-old disabled son.

“And my situation is even more complicated — I can only work from home,” said Tretyakova, whose monthly pension is around $150.