Saturday, July 30, 2011



As a child I was intrigued by the intricate work... her crochet hook worked quickly, and seemingly with a rhythm of it's own. She seemed to barely look at her hands, all the while holding a conversation with one of her family or a friend who may be visiting. She used no patterns, and yet each piece seemed to be quite different from the last. While she was this engrossed, she always seemed so content, as if the repetition had a pulse of it's own, that calmed her.. gave her an escape from her daily chores.

To a small child, watching my Nona crochet was something magical. I longed to be able to create as she did, but I was told I was too little. I watched carefully as a ball of cotton thread became a doiley or perhaps a cloth for the tea tray. It was by her mother's side, as a child on Kythera, that my Nona leaned to crochet. Like so many Greek women, it was considered essential that she pass on the knowledge to her daughters so that they, too, could carry on the tradition of crocheting, and embroidering for their prika, which broadly speaking, means dowry or trousseau. I was too young to ask my grandmother what she had brought from Greece. I just knew that she had quite a collection of cloths and doileys, tablecloths and a few quilts, or paploma.

The women of the villages would often gather to exchange ideas and compare their handiwork, but mostly simply to enjoy each other's company as they worked. Some of the early quilts were filled with raw cotton. I don't know if my grandmother actually made her quilts, though she was adept at sewing and skilled at transforming old clothes into something useable. Often, quilts in Greece would be made by the village quilt maker, usually a male, who would be called to the house to assemble and quilt a bedcover for a newly engaged young girl. Though these quilts were always filled with cotton, I do recall one of my Nona's quilts being filled with feathers... it was so cosy and my brother and I loved to snuggle under it. Even more fun was to shake it to resettle the feathers... it made a lovely soft, whooshing sound as it fell back on the bed.

My grandmother was proud of the weaving that she had done as a young girl and it is only recently that I have been given a cotton rug that she had made. The colours are vibrant still and make me wonder how old she was... how long it took her to make.

I have a few other pieces of her work... such fine embroidery, intricate lace... was it from her I inherited my love of embroidery and the skills that led me to becoming an embroidery teacher for some years? As most Greek women didn't work outside the home, they took great pride in creating beautiful pieces for their home... practical, yes, but always created with such care. I love the traditional patterns used for generations, like the Greek key design. I'm fascinated by the depiction of ancient mythology on woven cotton bags, mostly in the beautiful blue and white that signifies Greek tradition. Many of the figures or emblems used in the embroidery can also be seen on urns or ceramics.

As I grew older, an Aunt taught me to crochet a little, though I never did achieve the elegant intricacies of my grandmother's work. She tatted, embroidered, wove, crocheted.. all with such finesse and all with such nimble fingers.

Crissouli (c) 2007

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