Monday, 25 March 2013

Textile Gifts

After always admiring the many knitted outfits made by my Romanian student Floarea, she insisted on treating me to this knitted top, similar to the one she proudly wore to college during the week leading up to the half- term break.

Floarea, though young in age, has embraced old-fashioned values – she appears to share the mentality and personality of the traditional ‘Victorian’ housewife, who prides herself on cooking, cleaning, looking after the family and of course, spending copious time KNITTING for her friends and family.

Although I come from a West Indian background where it was cost effective for friends and family to knit and make their own dresses, I somehow never really developed a passion for knitting. Several years ago a friend of mine gave me a few knitting lessons and I must confess that at first I was excited at being able to use both hands simultaneously. Later, I attempted to knit the odd scarf but realised how soon my patience would wane; besides, in my mind I always thought that the end product would probably never look as good as the ones advertised in shops. So I gave up! Yes, I gave up on knitting but not on admiring the intricate details of a knitted garment.

Here is my hand-made top and as you can see, this beautiful, bright red top can be worn on its own or as a ‘throw on’ over another top. It is warm to the touch and I know the love that went into making it. I know Floarea had spent the half term shopping for the right colour and using her time to knit me this blouse when really she should have been working on assignments.

When Floarea presented the top to me, I gasped! I couldn’t contain my delight and the thrill of having my first knitted top added to my wardrobe. There is something very special about having a gift that is ‘home-grown’; that personal touch weaved into the top means a lot to me and it is with deep appreciation that I cherish it and now it hangs freely in my wardrobe, awaiting springtime when it will blend in with all the budding colourful flowers.

Looking back, I realise how a knitted top managed to open a wonderful window for me to get to know Floarea better both as a student and to some extent on a more personal level. I’m always interested in the culture of other countries and now I know a touch more about Romania; suffice to say, I was smiling like a Cheshire cat when I shared my account on meeting with the Romanian essayist and novelist Norman Manea, whose book, The Black Envelope, is a brilliant read! 

Well, thanks to knitting, other students have expressed interest and moreover, I’m hoping that Floarea will set aside her somewhat modest nature and perhaps one day, showcase her finery online!


Elizabeth Negus, Head of English at Barking and Dagenham College, London

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