By BEVERLY PETER
WITH six children, 20 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren under her wings, Aileen Mitveo, 68, is putting in everything into her pastime as a cross-stitcher.
“I didn’t know I have the potential to portray such beautiful image of our unique cultural symbols onto a piece of material – until I started doing it myself.”
Aileen is from Hula in Central. She dropped out of Grade Eight after she was forced by her parents to get married in the late 60s. Her husband from New Ireland passed away in 2010.
She believes that not having a good education should never be used as an excuse to not supporting one’s family.
“I was down at some point in life but was not out completely. I believe other mothers in the country have hidden potential that they may not be able to see yet, until they start using it.
“Being a mother, our children are the motivation that drives us to do the best of our ability in what we do to support and provide for them.”
She used to supply lunch packs for employees of the Bank South Pacific and Australia New Zealand bank in Waigani, Port Moresby. From the income she earned, she bought a 15-seater bus to transport her around.
But the business eventually closed down, before her husband sold the bus.
In 2004, she was taught the art of cross-stitching by a Filipino lady she was introduced to by a relative.
After one lesson, the Filipino lady gave Aileen a piece of fabric and told her to stitch a cotton design on it.
It took Aileen seven months to complete it. But she never threw in the towel.
“ I didn’t know I have the potential to portray such beautiful image of our unique cultural symbols onto a piece of material – until I started doing it myself.”
“It is really complicated as it requires time, focus and involves a lot of calculations. But due to my interest in learning how to cross stitch, I never gave up.
“I made mistakes which I corrected and tried my best to get things right. It helped me improve.”
She took the completed design back to the Filipino lady who was very impressed with the outcome.
The lady gave Aileen more fabric and cotton to do more images and designs.
“Now one design or image can take me only three to four weeks to complete.”
But the challenge she faced was buying the special fabric to work on. She usually buys the material from the Filipino lady but needed to get her own.
So in 2014 and 2017, she went to the Philippines to buy her own material. Today, she has enough stock.
She spends K600 to put one-piece fabric with cross-stitched images in a glass frame. She sells each frame for between K6,000 and K8,000.
Most of the portraits she stitches, especially the Bird of Paradise, are bought by business houses, organisations, departments and ministers for gifts and decorations.
Some are placed in offices and two grace the walls of Parliament.
In the past two years, business has been slow because of the Coronavirus.
She wants to teach women around the country to stitch their provincial flags and designs in portraits, and sell them.
“It will also help them earn an income to support them and their families.
With the recognition of the government and the right group of people to help me, I am able to take on volunteers to teach women.
The widow and Grade Eight dropout is happy where she is at.
“Being engaged in small business has helped me a lot. I use my income to support and provide for my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. As a grandmother, I like to play a part in supporting every one of them in whatever small way it may be.”