Thursday, May 28, 2009
Men Doing Needlework
A young man recently passed away and his obituary stirred memories I thought some might find interesting. This bearded, nearly 7-footer, discovered a love and talent for knitting. Having learned the basics from a friend, he took off running. He became so adept that he taught others knitting tricks and wrote books about the art. Roosevelt "Rosie" Greer was a bear of a football player for the L.A. Rams in the 60s. He took up needlework as a hobby to help him relax after games. He also became an actor and entertainer. Talk show hosts light-heartedly teased him about his needlepoint hobby, but his artistic talent was also acknowledged. During the 1970s, the organization I worked for implemented an anti-crime campaign. It kicked-off with a national workshop here in D.C. An injury forced Rosie to retire from football by then and, among his many interests, he became a crime fighter. He also agreed to be a special guest at the workshop. A co-worker and I were asked to greet Rosie when he arrived. At well over six feet and nearly that in circumference, we easily spotted him. He was wearing a light blue denim pants suit, tastefully decorated with embroidery, front and back. He gave both of us bear hugs -- my arms could only reach his sides. When a photographer asked to take our picture, we women stood at his sides. His arms were draped over our shoulders and our arms weren't long enough to meet in the middle his back. This guy is HUGE! When I think about him, I have to admit to a silent giggle picturing this giant-of-a-man with hands like hams delicately stitching a pattern with needle and embroidery floss. But then I remember an exhibit Mom and I visited last winter at Ann Marie Gardens in Solomons, Maryland. Woolies were created by 19th century sailors on long sea voyages to help fill the weeks and months at sea. When I first heard the term woolies, I thought it referred to long underwear. It doesn't. Using scraps of yarn, thread and anything else they could scrounge onboard and during shore leave, men wove and stitched elaborate likenesses of their ships and other scenes. My photos cannot come close to illustrating the fine and detailed work in these woolies, but I think you'll get the idea. Click on each picture to see more detail.