Earlier today, as I rode the bus home, I was thrilled to see a young girl of around 8 years old, deep in concentration as she tackled the tiny square she was knitting. The tip of her pink tongue poked between her front teeth as she frowned at her matching pink, plastic needles, determined not to drop a stitch. I must say, I was pretty impressed, as the Island roads are a tad bumpy at the best of times.
Mixed in with the joy of seeing a fresh generation learning this wonderful craft, was a twinge of nostalgia as I remembered how, at around the same age as that youngster, I first fell in love with yarning. In my case it was crochet. I could already knit a little and had made valiant attempts at, ‘well ventilated’, blankets for my brothers Action Man but it was somewhat later that my love for knitting grew.
However, that is a story to tell some other time…
Rather depressingly, most of the things that coloured my childhood are now considered ‘Retro’, or even worse …’Vintage’!
One of the many wonderful things about crochet, and knitting too, is that despite ‘new’ techniques, fabulous yarns and prettier hooks and needles; the fundamental basics stay the same. That little girl on the bus, was knitting and purling the exact same way that generations have knit and purled before her and when the day comes that she may have children of her own, then she will hopefully pass on those skills and they will while away many happy hours knitting and purling too… and so it continues.
Poncho’s you ask? … Well, my love of yarning was triggered when I was around 9 years old. I attended a rather nice little school called Paston Ridings in Cambridgeshire. It was a brand new school and I was amongst the very first intake of pupils. This meant that for the whole of our first year, we had the entire school to ourselves. Having a September birthday, I was also always the oldest girl in the school too, which I liked at the time, funny how there is a turning point half way through our lives when this doesn’t feel quite as desirable.
One break time, I was wandering through the very empty grounds and I happened across another pupil sitting cross-legged on the paving slabs on one of the schools patios. (Patio sounds posh but that’s just what they were called, despite being just a couple of white painted metal poles supporting a corrugated plastic roof!). In the girls lap was a beautiful heap of rapidly growing stitches. I leant against one of the poles and watched her intently. She seemed to have a metal hook of some kind in her hand and was wrapping and twisting and pulling the soft yarn in ways I’d never seen before. To this day, I remember the fascination of it, I can even remember the exact colours she was using, a beautiful soft turquoise blue and creamy white.
Not long after I’d stumbled across this vision, the lesson bell rang and she quickly bundled her work into a hessian bag and wandered off. We never spoke that day. But the next, I deliberately sought her out again and found her in her favourite spot. Again, I stood and watched, not daring to speak in case she told me to go away. But as the bell rang again, I plucked up the courage to ask her what she was making. ‘A poncho’, is all she said.
Over the next few school days I hovered over this poor girl, each time asking a poignant question when she began to pack away. I learnt that this ‘thing’ was crochet, that her grandmother had taught her when she was six and, one day she even popped the almost finished poncho over her head to show me how it fitted … I thought it was beautiful.
Half term came and went and when we returned I wandered off yet again to the ‘crochet patio’ and, Michele, as I now knew her to be called, was sitting in her usual spot. This day was different though. She had obviously been beavering away over the holiday and she was wearing her finished poncho proudly. On her lap were two balls of fresh yarn, each one with a shiny crochet hook poked through the top strands. ‘Come and sit down’ she said. I did, and to my surprise and delight, she handed me one of the precious balls of yarn.
It was primrose yellow.
Over the next few weeks, every break was spent cross-legged on that concrete patio (how resilient we are at 9 years old) and Michele patiently taught me to crochet a poncho of my very own. I truly believed I could never be happier..
But, time passed, in that sneaky way it has, and poncho’s were quickly replaced by ‘Clackers’, French Skipping, Two-Bally, Boys and Pop Stars. I Don’t know what became of Michele, but I will always remember her and will forever be grateful for her teaching me with such generosity and grace.
I hope she is happy somewhere, perhaps teaching her own children or even grand-children, the joy of crocheting. After all, poncho’s are all the rage again.
Beautiful Poncho by the very talented Attic 24
In case your appetite has been whetted to crochet your own work of poncho art, this free pattern would make a nice starter project.
Happy Hooking ….