Conversation Starter

I had an unexpected conversation with a taxi driver from Algeria after I got into his taxi with a clear plastic bag full of yarn. This prompted him to ask if I… (he made a knitting motion with his hands as he didn’t know the English word for it). I replied yes and he started telling me about his ‘old sister’ back home in Algeria who is always knitting. She makes hats, scarves, mittens, socks, jumpers… anything that you might want, you just have to ask. He said he never had a bought knitted item growing up, they were always made by her (although he was quick to point out that it was because she wanted to, not because she had to). Now she mainly makes smaller items for babies, celebrating family and friends’ new arrivals.

Everyone* in his family could knit and sew, and he remembers seeing them gathered around together talking and making, or working collaboratively on a bigger piece (he gave an example of them embroidering a table cloth, or nappe in French, each working on a section of it).

Apparently his sister did a course in sewing and knitting earlier in life, although she never made items to sell. Her work has always been focussed on her family. During the ’60s and ’70s she would embroider the haik they wore for modesty.

Example of Algerian women wearing the haik

It looks like his sister’s love of knitting has rubbed off on him, as he was sporting a lovely navy knitted hat with white and lime green highlights, and he was obviously very proud of his sister, her skill and the items she produces. All this from from a ten-minute journey with a bag of wool!

*When he said ‘everyone’, it was implied they were all female. He made no mention of men being involved in these activities and referred to aunts, sisters, mothers, cousins; everyone.


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