Knit one. Purl two. Repeat. Repeat.

Published 9:23 am Friday, July 21, 2017

By TJ Ray

In time the strand of yarn will become a soft, lovely piece of cloth. When I was growing up, several of the women in my family practiced this craft. Crochet and knitting were popular then. For some reason, the knack of these pastimes never worked for me. But I was not left out of the sewing circle.

Many Sunday afternoons saw me sitting under Grandma’s oak tree with some folks. I took to embroidery easily. In later years needlepoint interested me. And that, of course, led to fortunes spent [wasted?] on canvas and yarns. Somehow I even built a decent library of sewing books. The yarn and canvas were always far less costly than having something framed or made into a pillow.

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This essay might have begun on a very different subject. When I was little, my big brother used to glue pieces of orange crates together and then carve things from it. He even did some pistols, which looked very very real when carefully painted. We both made balsa model kits. As an adult, I found making scale model planes and ships were very soothing.  When our house burned in 1975, my “man cave” probably had a hundred planes hanging from the ceiling and another hundred still to be made.

As I said, I might have taken either of those lines to start what I want to say. It’s this: I find it incredibly sad that kids have little or no exposure to crafts such as models or sewing. Oh, they’re very quick to adopt the latest digital device, but they are wholly missing the satisfaction of putting something together with their own hands. They miss that possible “Joey, you did a wonderful job!” from Aunt Jane or Grandma.

On my bookcase are two scale model World War II tanks that were assembled and painted by Jim Cooke, my friend who taught history at the University. And, yes, I still have a couch covered with needlepoint pillows and a wall festooned with needlepoint butterflies.

When I donated my wife’s sewing machine to the high school for home ec, I also offered all the yarn and sewing books I have, but there were no takers. That’s sad. Someday soon there are going to be many parents seeing their kids leaving for college with a single artifact made by their hands to be seen. One of my favorite treasures is a little leather thing my boy made at Scout camp one summer.  I should have it insured because it is so valuable.

Of course, they will leave a trail of old digital devices and games they no longer play because a newer, neater, brighter and louder one just came out. They’ll look good on your what-not shelf.

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.