Don’t knit? Don’t write? It doesn’t matter. Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting is really a book about life. Yes, there are a few patterns in the book for anyone who wants them, but with passion and humor, a variety of writers share their stories of what knitting means to them.
What I love about this book is that these writers are, for the most part, not great knitters. Some have given up on the craft altogether. Others work hard to get to the “good beginner” level. Rather than conjuring images of contented grandmothers creating magic with some yarn and needles, these writer/knitters are often clumsy with a needle, reporting plenty of tears and dropped stitches. A rare exception is the writer who is a skilled knitter, but who discovers her perfectionism when teaching others, seeing how that perfectionism stifles joy.
Parents and grandparents, now gone, are remembered lovingly, along with tinges of regret for words left unsaid, thanks withheld. One writer/knitter makes endless sweaters for his dog, who is quite the fashionista. Another writer/knitter, a longtime lesbian, is surprised to fall in love with a man who knits. Each essay brings its own unique surprise.
My favorite essay is To Knit a Knot, or Not: A Beginner’s Yarn by John Dufresne. I love the way he knitted memories into the now, easing back and forth with the confidence of an experienced writer, much as an experienced knitter eases through a difficult project. Plus, he’s pretty darn funny.
Ann Hood came to knitting through grief when her young daughter died, and it’s no surprise that she would provide such a book, filled with everything from turbulence to joy. That’s been my experience with knitting; it has the power to show our lives to us, and to smooth the rough edges if we let it.