A group of East End women is keen to keep a special set of Cayman traditions alive.
The crafting ladies, all in their ‘60s and ‘70s, are keen sewers and knitters.
They love what they do, though they lament other generations are not showing an interest in learning the traditional skills they work to keep up.
In Cayman’s early days, making clothes and other household items from what was at hand, usually flour sacks and other material families scrounged to save up for, were a necessity of life. Shops were few and far between, and money was scarce.
These ladies, who meet every Monday at the East End MLA office, not only enjoy each other’s company. In showing off their skills, they offer lessons in Cayman cultural history and a taste of some of the best food on island. They welcome visitors and anyone wanting to join the club.
They also encourage others to bring any craft or hobby they are working on, and to share food, recipes and stories.
On a recent Monday morning, they were busy laying out snacks for the day and preparing material to make pot holders. They were also quick to point out what juicy bits of news were circulating around and outside the community.
“They making pot holders for me,” said Donna Connolly with a laugh.
“You think that is how it is?” Carmen Conolly replied.
Quick to offer her advice and letting it be known that she was “the governor,” Donna continued to needle the ladies with her jokes.
But Carmen had a few pins up her sleeve about Donna’s childhood days, sharing an observation with the group, all in the spirit of good fun.
“Donna’s mother was one of the best seamstresses in the district of East End, and her two daughter don’t even know how to thread a needle,” Carmen said and the group burst into laughter.
“Listen up ladies, Donna wants pot holders … we are going to show her how to make them, sell them and share them, because it’s all about sharing and love,” said Carmen, and the women got to work.
The atmosphere within the office is light and carefree. Knitter Vernett Bodden does not like to have her picture taken, but when it comes to sharing her talents with the knitting needles she is right on spot.
Waiting on the women to stitch the pot holders together, Ms. Bodden played quiet observer.
“Mind, we have to be careful with Vernett, she stitches up all the sides and you can’t get into it,” said Carol Rankin, nearly cracking up with laughter. “She made a pants and sewed up all the pants foot,” she added for emphasis.
This was all the other ladies needed to join in on the fun.
When it comes to teamwork, the group of crafters have got it down pat. One starts by selecting the type of material the group would be using for the day, while across the table from her, another lady freehandedly began cutting out the squares for the pot holders. After finishing, the pot holder, stuck together with pins, is handed to another sewer, who begins the process of sewing the pieces together.
Donna Connolly, figuring now was a good time as any to distract the ladies, interrupted the flow to say she would use her pot holder at home. Carmen Conolly countered by telling her if that was her hope, she had better stitch together her own.
There was only one problem, however. The pot holder pattern was not secretly tucked away. In fact, there was not one.
“Professionals don’t use patterns, and we don’t use recipes either, we just pour in a lot of love in what we do,” explained Carmen Conolly.
According to the group of ladies, they learned the basic crafts they take such pleasure from practicing from their parents and grandparents, but most credit their advanced skills to a certain teacher they had at school, Teacher Harrison.
For anyone whose interest is piqued by what these ladies do, it’s a sure thing that if you take the opportunity to spend even a short time with them, you will not only gain some useful knowledge, you’ll also get a warm embrace, some lessons in Cayman’s cultural history and maybe a taste of the best food on island.