Review

Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting

edited by Ann Hood

When the weather cools and the leaves fall from the trees, many hands reach for yarn and knitting needles, just as they do for warm drinks and extra blankets. An ancient craft, knitting means different things to different people --- from family traditions to the assertion of independence, from comfort and joy to frustration and disappointment. KNITTING YARNS, edited by Ann Hood, explores the happiness and even the irritation of making scarves, sweaters, hats and other handcrafted goods simply with fiber and sticks.

"KNITTING YARNS is thoughtful and entertaining. The voices of these beloved writers are personal and engaging, and the book is being published just in time to give to your favorite knitter --- the one who always makes you such thoughtful knitted gifts."

Hood gathered essays (and one poem) from 27 popular authors, including Elizabeth Berg, Andre Dubus III, Ann Patchett and Anita Shreve. Many of the pieces relate how the writer began knitting, learning from grandmothers, friends, mothers or partners.  Knitting, for several of the essayists, is about connection to the past and memory. But for others, it’s about learning something new, conquering a new skill and meeting new challenges. Knitters knit for themselves and for others, to soothe and heal, or for the excitement of finishing a project.  For each of the writers in this collection, the craft arouses an emotional response, and thus most of these essays are poignant and touching.

Lan Samantha Chang, in “The Perfect Gift,” writes about the age-old knitter’s dilemma of making gifts for other people who may not really want the hand-knit item, no matter how much work it entailed. But, she shares, when the recipient of one’s knitted gift loves it, it is the best type of gift-giving there is. In “Teaching a Child to Knit,” Sue Grafton offers solid (and witty) advice for teaching the craft to kids. Kaylie Jones’s contribution, “Judite,” is a heart-tugging recollection of the Portuguese nanny who raised her and showed her love with knitted items. “The Clothes Make the Dog,” one of the best selections in the book, is a hilarious and honest essay about Taylor M. Polites’s relationship with his tiny chihuahua, Clovis, and how he learned to knit just to make sweaters for the dog who taught him to “love more broadly.”

The most beautiful and literary of all the essays is Barbara Kingsolver’s “Where to Begin,” a lovely and slightly philosophical exploration of knitting. Working back from the seasonal change in light and weather toward the desire to create and then the selection of pattern, texture and color, and going all the way back to the grass on which the woolly sheep graze, Kingsolver writes of knitting as rhythmic and holistic.

Not all the essays are great, and there are no pictures to accompany the six included knitting patterns, but overall, KNITTING YARNS is thoughtful and entertaining. The voices of these beloved writers are personal and engaging, and the book is being published just in time to give to your favorite knitter --- the one who always makes you such thoughtful knitted gifts.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on November 15, 2013

Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting
edited by Ann Hood

  • Publication Date: November 11, 2013
  • Genres: Essays, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • ISBN-10: 0393239497
  • ISBN-13: 9780393239492