Tag Archives: Crafts

30: Knitting Yarns

Knitting Yarns: Writers on KnittingKnitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting by Ann Hood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars*

Purchased new at Chapters on Robson

Read in December 2013

View all my reviews

*So, the first thing I want to say is that while I gave the anthology as a whole 3 stars (like!), I loved some of the essays in this collection. Other pieces I was less excited about. That’s the trouble with anthologies, right? But overall, this was an enjoyable book and a nice way to close out the year. Recommended to writers who like to make things.

I heard about Knitting Yarns when I ran across Ann Hood’s essay “Ten Things I Learned From Knitting” on my Tumblr dashboard. This essay, about knitting through grief, resonated so much with me, I was prompted to write my own. It also spurred me to try again to figure out how to knit (success).

Prior to purchasing the book, I also came across Bernadette Murphy’s essay “Failing Better,” about learning resilience through making mistakes. That was the clincher, really. If the rest of the book was as good as these two essays, I wanted to read it.

The book was shelved in the knitting section at Chapters, despite being clearly labeled ‘memoir’ on the jacket. Well, it turns out it does include patterns, so I guess the shelving wasn’t completely off the mark. There are five or six essays, then a pattern, and so on. Each essay is introduced with a brief abstract.

The essays are arranged in alphabetical order (by author’s last name). I think I’d have arranged it by theme, as there are clear themes that recur throughout, and juxtaposing the essays thematically would strengthen them individually and collectively.

One popular theme is the knitting version of “I can’t boil water,” which as you know I’m not that into as I’ve never really understood the attraction of the “I’m a smart person who can’t do a simple thing” trope. Anyway, apparently a lot of writers like to knit even though they are terrible at it.

Another popular theme is that of family, and the passing down of knitting as a skill (or not). I related to the tales of families of crafters and makers, as that’s the kind of family I came from. More than one writer mentioned they grew up with a rule that you could only watch TV if you were making something at the same time, which I found interesting. We never had a rule about it; it wasn’t necessary. You always did something else while watching TV! Maybe this is why I don’t have the TV-angst that so many people seem to have. For me, watching TV has always been synonymous with making things.

And there’s the aforementioned theme of grief. Many of the essays were in whole or part about knitting getting them through a a difficult time in their lives, a death or other loss. Again and again, writers spoke of the zone, the flow, the trance that knitting puts them into, a space that calms anxiety and a chattering mind.

In addition to Ann Hood’s essay, I especially loved: Andre Dubus III’s “Blood, Root, Knit, Purl” (this reads like a story), Kaylie Jones’s “Judite” (ditto), and Joyce Maynard’s “Straw Into Gold” (her mother sounds like she was amazing).

A few quotes:

But you couldn’t crochet or knit and read at the same time, and reading was all I wanted to do. (Marianne Leone, 161)

Yep, that pretty much sums up why my younger self didn’t take to knitting and the like. Reading! *Homer Simpson drool*

In nineteenth century literature it seems sometimes to be true that good women knit and bad women crochet or do fancy work. (Alison Lurie, 179)

I’ll have to keep that in mind 😉

No one pushes back from her desk to knit a few rows and contemplate the sentence on the page… (Ann Patchett, 207)

Oh, no…? >cough< Pretty sure I’ve done something along those lines. >cough<

Remodelista: an endless source of entertainment

Or, another overpriced item to add to my future Etsy shop.

$58 monkey’s fist knots. If you went to summer camp or are a sailor, you may have made these yourself. But, you know, these ones have a bit of paint on them. (This things-that-are-half-painted trend has to be nearly over, don’t you think?) So that clearly makes a knot (a knot!) worth nearly 60 bucks.

I think my future knot line will include a $27 bowline and a $5 reef knot 😉

I need to open an Etsy shop

First, it was these. A bag of “story stones”—aka 12 rocks each painted with a different simple image to use as storytelling prompts. Price? $42. Shipping unknown.

Then, it was this. A crocheted “pan mat”—aka six (6!) rounds of single crocheted hemp. Price? $59 + $9 shipping.

Apparently neither of these is a joke. The first one was mentioned at Apartment Therapy; the second at Remodelista.

I’m not protesting the concept of either of these items. I am gasping at the fact that people are apparently willing to pay outrageous amounts for items that can be DIYed in minutes with inexpensive and/or free materials.

This is the kind of thing that makes me kick myself for not pursuing crafting-as-a-career. If only Etsy had come along 5 years sooner, I could have skipped all this back-to-school business and made a fortune selling crafts. Although, I suppose it’s never too late. Forget writing! I need to open an Etsy shop.

WTF

So I’m scrolling through my feeds this morning and I see this (first photo). It’s a hot water bottle cover. Exciting, I know. So I would’ve just continued on my way except… wtf? $105?! Are you kidding me?

This gives me pause because I recently made this:

More Craftiness

Keep in mind, this was my first attempt at something like this and I freehanded it. (So far in my my crocheting adventure, I haven’t used any patterns. 100% winging it.) I thought it would be a bit of a challenge to figure out how to get around the angles and such. Cost? Maybe $5 for the yarn (100% wool, probably not organic), but I didn’t use the whole skein, so a little less than that. Time? I think it took me an afternoon. While watching movies.

So, basically on the $105 item above, we’re talking $100 profit. Assuming there are people who would actually pay $105 for a hot water bottle cover (who are you?), I clearly should give up this PhD thing and open up an Etsy store.

Making Stuff

All those years ago, I didn’t think it unusual to spend so much time making stuff. This had a lot to do with my grandmother, a woman who, when she was not preserving produce, was ceaselessly creating other kinds of goods. She spent her evenings at her handwork: The needlepoint and cross-stitch samplers she’d frame and hang on walls; she hooked rugs and sewed the odd quilt, made Christmas ornaments and wine cozies and doorstop covers. As a little kid, I followed her lead, pulling thick yarn through big-holed plastic patterns of butterflies and strawberries, later graduating to friendship bracelets, some small needlepoint and, briefly, origami.

Rebecca Traister