I have always admired people that had a natural talent and could create art. My grandmother was a very gifted artisan and teacher of economics. I remember watching her for hours creating the most amazing butterflies from feathers, flowers from organza or silk – and what a process that was! From starching to cutting and ironing the petals, then creating the delicate pistils using corn flour. In our town, she was known for the beauty of the headpieces she crafted for brides.
I wish I could tell you that I learnt everything from my grandmother and now I am a prolific crafter. The truth is that I was a bit of a spoiled trouble maker when I was young and although I loved watching her make things, I wasn’t really that keen on using my two hands. Watching her for hours is a bit of a stretch as well! It was more like I was in and out of her room for hours. But I still admired what she was creating and wished I had paid more attention!
It took a stormy summer night while vacationing at my uncle’s place at the seaside to start actually learning a craft. I was probably 10, bored and really, a pain in then butt, moaning and complaining about the awful weather keeping us away from the sea and the beach. We were four adults and 2 children crammed in a 1 bedroom tiny communist apartment with not much to do. My little brother, probably as bored and annoyed as I was but less vocal and more action-oriented started doing laps around the apartment, on the scaffolding left behind after the painting of the building. He was well into his 6th lap when my aunt accidentally saw him passing by the kitchen window being almost blown away by the wind. She fainted. My mom started crying. My dad was trying to decide between opening the window to let him in and looking for his belt to teach him a lesson. Have I mentioned that my uncle and aunt were living on the last floor of a ten storey building?
That night, after my brother was rescued from both the storm and my father’s wrath and was resting safely between my uncle and my aunt, the adults decided to turn their full attention towards us: I was to learn to knit and my brother was… well, he needed to rest after such an adrenaline filled afternoon. In their very flawed thinking, they concluded that my brother’s adventure was my fault! All was good in the end as I proved to be extremely talented and started knitted my first scarf. And that’s a lie! I was beyond hope, as my aunt and mother said, and it was a good thing I liked to read! Earning my living using my hands would have led to bankruptcy and starvation, they predicted!
I picked up knitting a few good years after, more out of necessity than anything else. Growing up in a communist country, shopping was not that exciting because choices in style or colour were extremely limited. There were two ways to update and feminize your look: have your clothes sewn by a tailor/seamstress or make your own accessories to add to the sad looking austere uniforms sold in the stores. The tailors were not only sewing clothes together but they had become really skilled fashion designers. We would look through older Neckermann catalogues smuggled into the country, pick a dress or a suit and present it to the tailor. I don’t remember one single time when the final product was an exact copy of the picture presented but, they usually fitted perfectly, were more on the classic look than ultra fashionable, and lasted forever.
Once I became a student, the pressure to update my wardrobe, was even higher but, at the same time, the budget was very much diminished. Although there was no tuition to attend the university, the card for the very light lunch buffet and the accommodations were not cheap. Add the train tickets every two weeks to go back home visit family and get stocked with nutritious food and there was not much left for discretionary expenses. This is when my knitting skills came really handy and provided me with a small income too! It was also calming and provided a well needed “me-time” that otherwise, in a room full of girls could not have happened.
30 many years and I am still knitting. Only now, I knit and bead! I tried beading a few years ago while taking time to figure out my professional life. Every time I finished a bracelet or necklace, I was more inspired and had more self confidence in what was to come and how to make my dreams happen. Beading helped me see the big picture one bead at a time!