We whooshed past the signboard with Elisa’s name on it, looking for the turn-off to her house. A few hundred metres later we realised we should have turned right before the sign, and we turned around.
When we stopped in front of her house a couple of minutes later, she was waiting for us on her porch.
“I saw you driving past and I knew you were coming here,” she smiled broadly, inviting us into her cool house, out of the October heat in Venda.
There was no furniture in her front room but the floor was covered in her colourful embroidery and beadwork.
This was why I had come to Venda – to meet the legendary wood carvers and to see if I could find something to use in my knitting.
I explained to her what I wanted to do and we started discussing designs, connecting on that deep and happy level of creating beauty out of textiles.
Years before, I had sat down in a carpet shop in Istanbul next to a woman knotting a carpet on a loom, the design next to her on graph paper. She could not speak English and I could not speak Turkish, yet she managed to explain to me how to do it and even allowed me to make a few knots myself. We were beaming.
The shop owner was standing in the background and commented: “Love meets love.”
I felt the same about Elisa.
We settled on a design of a beaded circle and I ordered ten that I would pick up a few days later. Elisa was very interested in the fact that I was going to use it in knitting and promised to take extra care to make sure the beads were securely worked onto the fabric so that they could withstand lots of handling.
It took a long time before I started working with her embroidery, because, frankly, I was scared of messing it up. And with good reason – when I eventually got around to it, none of my experiments worked out. I had to undo many attempts.
Elisa was true to her word: No matter how roughly I worked with her pieces, the beads withstood the onslaught.
Sometimes when an idea doesn’t work out, you have to give it some time to breathe.
I worked on some other designs and came back to Elisa’s embroidery a few months later.
By then I had realised that a jacket or pullover would be too short to give the effect I was trying to achieve. It would have to be a coat.
And instead of crocheting around the fabric to create a square shape, as I usually do, I opted for knitting only. After that, things started flowing.
The design process had another surprise for me: as I was working on the coat, I struggled to work out how to do the sleeves. No idea seemed to work. In a lightbulb moment I realised it did not want sleeves. It turned out to be a sleeveless gilet-type overcoat, very much shaped around the middle and the hips.
I am happy with the end result. I think I did Elisa’s work justice.
This exclusive, one-off garment is for sale. Price and garment details here.
If you are interested, please contact me via email. The address is under “contact” at the top of the blog page.