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Archive for hmong

close knit

< by JHK >

Why is she staring at me? I thought as I knitted.

Across the bus aisle, an elderly Hmong woman stalked my hands, tracking as I stitched from left to right. The needles sparred each time they closed in to exchange a loop. I kept grinding and avoiding her stare.

An hour later, I glanced up, and our eyes met. She opened her hands and waved inward.

“Give to me,” she said.
I glanced around, who me?
She repeated the motion. “Give to me.”

Tentatively, I handed over the 6-inch scarf that had taken six hours to create. She laid the free needle across her right palm, loosely clinging it between her thumb and forefinger. With the left, she did the same.

In the next three minutes, she added 10 rows — about two inches — and held out the scarf. “Now you,” she said.

I took the needles, hands down, and went back to grinding. “No, no, no,” she said, repositioning my hands. “Like this.”

She flipped my hands up, and guided my fingers through a row. The needles rolled from loop to loop with smooth uniformity. She continued to guide me until I found the rhythm. Then, she withdrew her hands and watched.

A while later, she reached into her bag and pulled out a needlework project. “I stitch,” she said, exposing a broad smile. She turned out to be a master of hmong needlework — a 5,000-year-old craft that takes decades to learn.

For the rest of the ride, we worked in tandem, palms up, master and apprentice.

By having open hands, she opened my eyes and my heart.