Knitter Master Arif

The Master Who Knits His Future With A Coincidence!
One Needle, One Man, One Big Life…

You bought your dress, shirt, jacket or trousers… And you love wearing them. And you paid a good amount of money. What a misfortune; you have caught onto something or injured your pretty precious. It looks like it can’t be fixed by sitting and sewing… Needs a master, needs an art to repair and bring it back to its previous situation. The fabric needs to be knitted elaborately… The name of the work is “Knitting”…Even though today knitting is one of the lost professions, he continues as a competent expert in Ankara. His Armenian boss whom he was his apprentice, one day tells Arif that he wants to train his son as a knitter… These words draw Arif’s attention.  He thinks, “Well, he is a big boss, if he wants to make his son a knitter, there is something he knows about it.” In the daytime, he continues with an apprenticeship at the cleaner and at night he learns about knitting. He left being a child, a young aside… A needle becomes the whole life of Master Arif. After that, he becomes the master of masters…

Master Arif starts his words as “I Arif Gungor was born in Karasar district of Beypazari, Ankara, in 1937”… He is telling that after finishing primary school, they left their village because of living conditions and they have migrated to Ankara.

Master Arif’s life in Ankara started with an apprenticeship. After working in a few places, his way falls to a cleaner with an origin of Armenian descent, and then the knitting mastery adventure of Master Arif begins. He explains the reason for deciding to be a knitter as:

“One day my boss told me, ‘Arif, there is a knitter in Ulus, take this dress and come back.’  I took the dress, I came. He had a son, Agop… I never forget that. One day he told me ‘When my son Agop grows up, I will raise him as a knitter I will give him as an apprentice to a knitter.’  These words gave me a thought, ‘I have to learn knitting’ I said”. Then he starts to try small parts by himself. Now his hand can hold a needle and In 1952, he started to work with Yusuf Örer, one of the well-known knitters of Ankara.

Master Yusuf was from Eyup, Istanbul He raised me as a fine artist. After military service, I told my master that I wanted to leave, and I left. I started knitting in Necatibey Street. The year 1960… I mean, I started this business in the 60 Revolution. I moved here in 64 and I’ve been here ever since. When I started this business, there were two knitting masters in Ankara. They’re first-generation knitters, I’m the second generation. We are raising the third generation. All of the knitters in Ankara were raised from me. There are about ten knitters, others except one, are the masters raised by me. I’m married; I have a daughter and a son. But they were not keen on knitting. .”

“I Don’t Know How To Use Sewing Machine”
Arif Usta emphasizes that knitting is a completely different profession than tailoring. “We only do our job using needles and thread,” he says and continues:

“I don’t know how to turn, use the sewing machine. Let’s say; you bought a precious dress and it had a cigarette burn. You can’t throw it, it can’t be worn in that situation. We take the thread from the sewing edge of the dress and re-knit the burned part. So we give life to the dress again. If you need a large piece, we get it from the fabric and we assemble it by knitting. We call it top work. Then we do a completely uncertain repair with the iron we do. So there are two types of repair in knitting. Knitting with needles for small ones and assembly of parts for big ones.”

When the late Turgut Ozal was prime minister, he sent his angora wool beige coat. The coat was eaten by the moth. We knitted the jacket, but they were late to pick it up. At that moment there was the presidential election. After Ozal was elected as President I told the person who came to pick the jacket up as: “His jacket came here as Prime Minister’s Jacket and now I am delivering it as President’s jacket.”

“Knitting Is Much More Known Nowadays”
Arif Usta, who is pleased that the work of knitting is now more known, considers the change in this context as follows:

“When I started the professions there were two or three knitters. Then the people did not know the knitter, they were patching or sewing their clothes themselves. We were knitting for high-income groups. Now we have ten knitters. And our people know about knitting. An important detail in our business is as follows; the product to be knitted must be silk or wool. It is a pity for the labor and money were given to knitting an injured nylon fabric. Sometimes the people can say, “I’ll throw away when it gets old.” But when they get old, there’s something to be thrown off, there’s something that can’t be thrown. A person bringing a tie, giving 30-40 lira to make it repaired. So the tie has value, which makes the repair. There are people giving the money in the same way to a pair of socks for their quality and who have made repairs.

Sometimes there are those who want to repair a very obsolete item, which doesn’t really need to be paid for labor, for its sentimental value. And more men’s stuff is coming for the repair. In the past, women’s clothes would come more, but the use of skirt, clothes is very low. We knit Woolen articles and sweaters more. We cut the long sleeves and bring it to the desired scale.”


I am doing this profession since 1952 if I come to the world again I would prefer the knitting again. In fact, it is a difficult and gentle work. But I love it. I am retired but I am intended to work until the end of my life.

Bargain with Ismet Pasa
He is telling that he made the works for the late Adnan Menderes, Celal Bayar while working next to his master in Ulus in 1954, Master Arif shares the memories as follows:  “But I could not deal with İsmet Pasa in a bargain I could not do his job. I asked Ismet Pasa for 25 Lira, but they gave us 17 Lira and we couldn’t agree. Except that, I did the work of many bureaucrats, presidents, and prime ministers. I made the work of the late Süleyman Demirel and Turgut Özal more often. We do the work of our current President. Some people ask: “Do they make repair too?” So now they wear 5 thousand Liras, 10 thousand Liras worth of precious goods. For a small cripple, the goods should not be thrown aside

“Necatibey Has Changed Too Much”
Master Arif comments on the change in Necatibey Street where he has lived for more than 50 years: “In my opinion, many things changed in Necatibey. There were buildings with a maximum of three floors, and gardens also. It was a very quiet street Even so; we could play football in the middle of the street at noon break. Now we’re waiting to cross the street. When I bought my car in 1980, I was parking right in front of the passage. Now it’s impossible to park on the street.”

By: S. Bahar Alban / Photo : Okan Sivri 

*This article was  published in the  January– February issue of Marmara Life. 

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