Passing her time Crocheting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2001


PHOTO: Elvira Laurent sits in her rocker in her apartment at Place Dubourg crocheting, a hobby that she has had for over eight decades. (Staff Photo by Amy Szpara) Her small apartment is full of proof of the talent in her 94-year-old hands. The furniture wears the delicately woven, white pieces she has put together over the years, and her lamps are dressed in multi-colored covers her fingers created. The tablecloths are her own handiwork, the little baskets are handmade, and the toilet paper even wears a hat to cover it which she constructed from her own skilled hands. Elvira Laurent has been crocheting for eight decades, and still enjoys making beautiful pieces for family and friends. She first learned to crochet at 10 years old, when her brother-in-law taught her. “He was just like a woman,” said Laurent. “He would sit by the window and sew.” Laurent spent a lot of time with her older sister and her husband as a child, and that is when she became interested in the skill. Laurent was born in Vacherie in her grandfather’s home, then moved to Wallace and went to school. She later moved to Reserve, met a boyfriend from Norco and married him, then moved to Norco to make a life. After learning to crochet as a child, Laurent would spend all her free time doing it. She said that when she went to school, there was no physical education period, so during her break she would crochet, embroider or do other delicate handiwork. “We were poor, cher,” she said. “When I sold my work, I made money. The money I made I could spend on clothes and shoes. I didn’t think my work was good enough, but my teacher said, Oh yes, your work is beautiful.'” Laurent’s school teacher found some people who wanted to buy what the young girl made, and Laurent earned money that way. “They would write and tell me what they wanted, and I would make it. Any fancywork they would throw at me, cher, I’d take it. One day they wrote and asked me if I could make an altar cloth for St. Joseph’s Church in Gretna. I had to embroider it and make crochet lace all around the cloth. It was a big one,” she said. Laurent said that when she was finished, she received a check. “I didn’t understand all that much about money,” she said. “I didn’t know what a check was. The mailman brought the mail one day, and he blew the whistle for me to come out. He said, I got something for you,’ and handed me the check.” Laurent received a check for $200. She didn’t know how to get to the bank, so she let the mailman take the check and cash it for her. “The mailman came with the money the next day, blew the whistle. When I saw the money, I started to cry. I had never seen that much money,” said Laurent. “I gave $50 of it to Mama.” Laurent said her mother earned that money. “She wouldn’t let me do the dishes when she knew I had crocheting to do. She’d say, You just sit down and crochet.'” Laurent also used to knit during the war. She made things for her children and husband. The three-year Place Dubourg resident now suffers from glaucoma, which she has to take drops for, but she is still crocheting. She can no longer read the directions for pieces that she wants to make, but she can decipher what to do by looking at the pictures in her pattern books. She can look at the picture and see where the work should begin. “Everyone says, How can she do it, not looking at the instructions. I’ve just been doing it so long,” she said. Laurent was always very proud of the beautiful bedspreads that she made. In all, she made nine of them, but has given them all away to family and friends. “They’re very difficult to make,” she said. Laurent remembered a time when a friend’s mother had died. The friend saw one of Laurent’s bedspreads and said, “I’d love to have a bedspread like that on my mama’s old bed.” “I just rolled it up and gave it to her. I’m that kind of person,” she said. She also just recently gave one to her daughter-in-law. Laurent has four sons, and she said she has taught some of her daughters-in-law to crochet. “I also taught a granddaughter,” she added. She has 11 grandchildren, and a lot of great-grandchildren, as well. “I don’t know if I can count them all,” she said. Now, Laurent sees her children who live in the area, and she has lots of friends at Place Dubourg. They call her Mama’ because she says she is like a mother to them. In the afternoons, she can usually be found sitting downstairs in the lobby working on a piece of crochet. “It’s there and every now and then I pick it up and work on it until I’m tired,” she said.