This is a crocheting in public story that takes place on a half empty tube from Covent Garden to Finsbury Park in the late afternoon. I have a scrap of a new project on the go with the yarn in the pocket of my laptop bag and the 3mm hook dipping and diving. It’s not a complex project but it’s been worked up and frogged a few times because, guess what, it’s my design and I’ve not been happy with it. Still I think it’s in final draft stage. (No no piccies yet. I’ll let you know when it’s done.)
So as I hook away happily I’m aware of the occasional glance from bored commuters but no extraordinary attention. As an aside, I find children and drunks to be the most likely to stare. Drunk men in particular become entirely fascinated with a woman’s hands as she crafts.
That is until an African gentleman of a certain age and no uncertain dress sense steps on and sits in the next seat but one. He gives me a big smile and leans in towards me.
“You are the best woman in the world.”
“I beg your pardon!”
“Because of this,” he indicates my crochet, “You are the best woman in the world! You don’t spend money, you entertain yourself, you can make things exactly to your own taste. Exactly! No going to the shops and getting something you don’t like you can make it just how you want.”
Now I had to have a chuckle to myself at the saving money part. My fibre addiction is not cheap. But he has a point on entertaining myself and making things exactly to my own taste. Well, if I wasn’t doing that then I wouldn’t just have frogged five times would I?
He seemed to realise that this was the part that struck the loudest chord with me and so he sat back and extended himself on this theme a little while. I could make things exactly how I want. Exactly. I mostly nodded and smiled and crocheted. When he paused for breath I asked whether he did any kind of craft.
“Ah yes…” He looked embarrassed. “I do… I do something like that.”
Well now that was intriguing. Also amusing that he should go from being so expansive to so retiring in an instant.
“Oh yes,” I asked innocently, “What do you do?”
Well, now, I was hoping he would be a secret knitter or spinner but sadly no. It was something at once more and less predictable.
“I bind books, you know?” I raised an eyebrow. Yes, I could see him slicing and sewing and gluing. He had that calm, steady-handed look. “Especially I bind Bibles.”
I tried not to wince at the expected onslaught of evangelism. Oh damn, that’s why he was chatting to a stranger on the tube, and I had given him the inroad he had been looking for like a hick!
“You know they bind them with loose pages and so I take them and I have found a way to bind them myself that I like. So when Jesus comes they will still be as good as new.”
“Ah..” I said thoughtfully. The book binding was interesting but if he was the preachy type I needed to stall him now.
But no, craft triumphs over faith. He looked again at my crochet.
“That is why this is good. You can do things just as you want. It is good to make things with your hands. Your husband…” he paused “Are you married?”
None of yours! My grumpy Londoner hackles rose. You’ve just been watching my hands. Did you notice a ring? These thoughts flashed through my mind and I dismissed them. I weighed him up a second. He was well-meaning and friendly and hadn’t stuck his faith down my throat.
“Nearly,” I lied. (What? I’m 32, I don’t need a lecture on marriage from a Christian stranger.)
“You tell your young man that because of this,” gestures at project again “You are the best woman in the world and will make a good wife. You can make things for yourself and for the children and you can teach the children and it will become a family business!”
I had to laugh at this. The idea of my telling any man that I am the best woman in the world and will make a good wife is… well… suffice to say I try to be a little more subtle in my approaches. Gasp! Maybe that’s why I’m 32 and unmarried! [WARNING: One or more statements in the last paragraph may contain irony.]
In addition I think any fella with any nous would look at yarn costs vs time taken to make any garments and come to the same conclusion I’ve come to about the business potential of crochet… That it’s a fine hobby. Still I laughed and said that my fella was sick of hearing about my craft. (That’s one reason why I have a blog, people!)
He smiled and explained that if I was ever stuck somewhere in the wilds I could spin fibre and still be useful with my work. I wryly murmured that I just needed to learn how to spin.
“Yes!” He agreed entirely, “In the developing world these skills, spinning and making clothes, are very important. That is why you are the best woman in the world”
Whatever my intellect was saying I couldn’t help smiling at this extraordinary assertion so casually repeated. Our conversation tailed off after this. He started to read and I carried on hooking until I got to my stop.
When I got off I wished him well. It was a friendly sort of conversation and for all it’s culture clashes I think revealed something of the goodwill that crafts generate. I truly hope his Bibles last him until Kingdom Come.