When I graduation from my MFA program last January, my dear, sweet, fabulous-in-every-way mentor gifted me a copy of Knitting Yarns, a book edited by Ann Hood and in which my mentor Suzanne's essay "Crafty Critters" is included. When I got home from residency, being generally burnt out on reading and words in general, I added the book to the teetering pile of to-be-reads at the top of the stairs. I would get to it as soon as I was in the mood to read again.
I'm a winter knitter--from around Halloween to St. Patrick's Day is my knitting season--not by any conscious decision, but that's just how it seems to shake out. So by the time I was in the mood to read again, my knitting season was winding down and, so it seems, my desire to read about knitting. Again, not by any conscious thought, but whenever I've gone to grab a new book to read over the last year, that one just didn't rise to the top of the stack.
And then, when I got home from work on New Year's Eve, with a strong desire to sink into a hot bubble bath, and then, when my family chose a movie I wasn't interested in for our traditional New Year's Eve viewing, I went upstairs and turned on the water in the tub and perused the leaning tower of books at the top of the stairs.
The cover of Knitting Yarns grabbed my eye. The gorgeous balls of yarn, wound perfectly spherical and arranged in a rough wooden hod (I'm not sure if it is actually a hod--or what a hod even is--but it seems like the right word for those cubbies. Also, where can I get my hands on such a hod to house my partial balls of yarn?). I flipped open to the intro, the part where Ann Hood writes about coming to knitting out of grief after her five-year-old daughter died and I knew this was the book to read in the tub on the last day of 2014.
By the time the bathwater temperature dropped to frigid, I had finished half the book. On New Year's Day, I found time to loll on the couch reading another quarter (with breaks to knit several rows on a cabled, color-work hat, the perfect companion knit to this book), and I polished off the remaining essays over the weekend.
Knitting Yarns is the best kind of anthology--a simple, single starting point (knitting) that a wide range of writers riff on, all stitching together widely different, unique, and universal stories. There are stories of learning to knit and teaching to knit and failing to learn to knit. Of knitting well and knitting very, very badly. Of knitting daughters and mothers and aunts and grandmothers and nannies. Of the ways knitting weaves a thread through generations. Of buying yarn and books and unfinished projects. Of knitting and sex and sexuality. Of knitting into love and out of a bad marriage, knitting down blood pressure and knitting (or observing knitting) to quell nerves. Of knitting through grief. Heartfelt, heartening, heartbreaking stories, all threaded together with yarn and needles.
I don't know for sure that this book would appeal to those who do not knit, but as they often said in my MFA program, "Good writing is good writing." And the essays in this book are the very best, from writers you're familiar with (Ann Hood, Suzanne Strempek Shea, Andre Dubus III, Barbara Kingsolver, Hope Edelman) and writers you've never heard of but whose work you will want to search out. If you've ever knit or tried to knit or loved someone who knits--and I think that pretty much covers all of us--I think you will love this book.
Linking up with Yarn Along and Keep Calm Craft On.