Indiana Daily Student

Local artist makes connections crocheting

Rafael Diggs crochets a jacket for a high school friend in his house Monday. Diggs has been crocheting since he was 12 years old when his mom taught him the skill to make presents for his siblings.
Rafael Diggs crochets a jacket for a high school friend in his house Monday. Diggs has been crocheting since he was 12 years old when his mom taught him the skill to make presents for his siblings.

There was a knock on the front door. Bloomington resident Trevor Doud answered.

On the other side stood a man, wearing handmade crocheted clothes, asking to bum a cigarette.

Doud didn’t have a cigarette for the stranger, so he watched the man return to the house across the street and come back with two crocheted koozies in hand, one for Doud and another for his roommate.

The three started talking, and Doud told the man, Rafael “Stitch” Diggs, he liked his vibe. Diggs, he found out, sells his crocheted pieces to customers in Bloomington through his business, “New Diggs.”

“He carried a musical tune and he was wearing his crochet stuff,” Doud said. “I genuinely connected with him and we talked a lot.”

Not long after, Diggs moved in with Doud and his three other roommates. He didn’t pay $200 a month for rent, though. Rather, Diggs offered his crochet work in exchange for a place to live.

Diggs said although most people are not entirely appreciative of his art, the four guys living in the house believe he works hard to accomplish everything he has done.

“They realized how cool it was and how passionate I was about doing it and so it was an easy sell,” he said.

His new roommates suggested the idea to trade crochet work when he was moving in.

“I always saw it as a fair trade,” Doud said. “It was a rare experience for someone to really care about what they’re doing. I always thought he was bringing in as much as he was getting.”

Diggs made each roommate a jacket, valued at about $500 because of the time he spent on each piece. He said he is still overworking while getting underpaid for the
exchange, but that the money is not important to him.

Money takes away from the main point of his crocheting, which is the art and self-expression that accompanies each piece, Diggs said.

“That’s kind of lost when you appraise it or assign it a value in green pieces of paper that were invented,” he said.

Diggs employs this philosophy when he runs his crochet operation.

“My customers design what they buy, and the point of it isn’t money,” he said.

The main point of crocheting is to promote intuition about art in others.

“Even if they don’t realize it, the fact that they can appreciate what I’ve done for myself is valuable,” he said. “If you appreciate good art, you’re an artist.”

Diggs doesn’t add his logo to each item of clothing to allow his customers to put themselves into his pieces, so it shows their own personality.

Despite the desire to avoid money, Diggs can’t evade it entirely.

To combat this, he tries to promote awareness by asking questions about the validity of money.

“I have to pretend that money means as much as my art, or it’s equivalent,” Diggs said. “I have to make up a number.”

He first learned to crochet from his mom when he was 12 years old.

“One Christmas we were too poor to buy presents, so she taught us to crochet to make each other things instead,” he said.

Diggs has now been crocheting for about 20 years, and has learned to create jackets, overalls, hats, koozies and bags without using a single pattern.

“The potential of things I can create is pretty much limitless,” he said.

Diggs is also a DJ. He said that he found the dancing and music cool and had a really personal experience with it.

Both DJ-ing and crocheting remind Diggs of his mom and the hard work she always put into her children’s lives.

Diggs remembers his mom staying up late at night braiding his and his siblings’ hair, working on projects and crocheting. His mom started college two separate times after having five children.

“Growing up she gave us everything and nothing,” Diggs said. “We were poor so she gave us the skills of crocheting. We were not rich after my dad got fired from his rich job, and we moved to the ghetto. But we were still rich in our heads. We were poor, but we hid it well.”

Currently, Diggs sells his crochet work and DJs smaller events around Bloomington.

“It’d always be fun making a living off of what I love, but it’s easy to forget that if it’s not one thing it’s another,” he said. “Rich people have their problems, too. I’d rather be a happy poor guy than an angry millionaire.”

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