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All You Need(le) Is Love

Time and tide wait for no man, woman ... or pincushion.

For six decades, Jane Jonas Srivastava ’63 lovingly used a little lemon-yellow-and-green pincushion from her mother. When it began to leak sawdust, however, Srivastava decided it was time to compost it—and discovered something she’d never noticed before.

“There were 14 pins and 96 needles inside the pincushion,” she says. “About half of the needles had eyes so small, I knew I’d never be able to thread them.”

Ahead of a trip last year through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, Srivastava planned to knit cozy hats to give away to infants she would meet. Then she realized another way she could weave together new relationships. Creating colorful fabric packets of roughly five needles wrapped in ribbon, she brought the gifts along on her journey from British Columbia to Central Asia.

“When I travel, I want to truly connect with people, and sharing craftwork is a way of sharing your lives,” she says. “I want to have a better understanding of the world and the people in it, and I thought this would be a special way to reach out.”

Through markets and villages and even a 1-year-old’s birthday party—where the inevitable outcome of a magician’s dove flying over the dinner table left everyone in stitches—Srivastava talked and listened with an open heart.

Language barriers mattered little, after all, with her craftwork and needles to smooth the way, helping her spark new friendships with wool dyers, silk weavers, gold embroidery artisans, and even her airplane seatmates.

What she found was that any gesture of goodwill and generosity she made was matched—or exceeded—wherever she went.

“Every woman I gave a gift to gave me something she’d crafted, too: a handmade doll, a beautiful bag, an herb-stuffed amulet,” she says. “At first, I was bothered about this, but then I realized that accepting their gifts in exchange for mine was just being respectful.”

For Srivastava, the concept of being a gracious guest in other people’s countries and homes guides all she does—particularly when she can repay hospitality via her skill with a needle and thread. She’s been known to mend her hosts’ frayed placemats, bathroom curtains, and even a cherished quilt made from childhood pajama scraps.

Sewing and needlework are skills her mother taught her, and Srivastava’s proud to pass them on, teaching her 10-year-old grandson how to knit. (Although he may not have the patience to tackle a scarf yet, she chuckles, he can knit a fabulous bookmark.)

In addition to her crafting, she practices Taoist tai chi, swims, hikes, volunteers at the Vancouver Opera, and regularly kicks up her heels at contra and English country dances.

Travel, however, remains a big focus: She’s been a globetrotter since she was a child, when she accompanied her grandmother to Mexico. Her planned trips for 2018 alone include Oaxaca, the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, and, closer to home, California, Texas, the Northwest U.S. … and Swarthmore, for her 55th Reunion.

“I’m very lucky to be able to travel—it allows me to see and learn so much,” she says. “I’ve always said that, in my old age, I would rather live in one room on tea, toast, and good memories than in a fancy apartment eating caviar and wishing I’d traveled more.”