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Review: A Life in Stitches

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First, the facts:

Title: A Life in Stitches: Knitting My Way Through Love, Loss, and Laughter

Author: Rachael Herron

Published by: Chronicle Books, 2011

Pages: 144

Type: Memoir.

Chapters:

20 essays, followed by one pattern.

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The In-Depth Look:

Rachael really is a lovely writer, and this book of pieces about her own life is the perfect illustration. This book tells 20 stories, all with the common theme of how knitting is a vital, burning part of her life–one that has kept her warm, sane, and comforted through some of the most difficult (and joyous) times of her life.

Now, there’s no question that knitting is a popular literary theme lately, or that “knitting memoirs” are all the rage. So, Rachael’s isn’t exactly on its own in this category, but what makes it stand out are the stories themselves. It’s easy to get caught up in life’s truly dramatic moments, like a raging hurricane, or the death of your mother–and she does tell those stories. But life happens in it’s quiet, sublime, and ridiculous moments also, and those are here, too. Trying to knit her first sweater, spinning in the airport, acknowledging good friends.

The truth of the matter is that knitters mark moments in their lives by what they were knitting at the time–much the same way that I can tell you what book I was reading the first time I went to Martha’s Vineyard with my mother, on the way to my grandfather’s funeral, or the day we brought Chappy home as a puppy. They were all pre-knitting events for me, but it’s the same idea. Rachael begins,

“People measure their lives by many things. Some measure their days by how many races they’ve run. Some mark turning points by the songs they’ve loved…. My life can be measured in lenghts of yarn: what kind I held, at what time. Always, as far back as I can remember, I’ve had a knitting project somewhere close by, and no matter what emotion I’m feeling, I put some of it into the stitches I make. Grief translates into tighter stitches more likely to stand up to wear, while happiness makes my knitting a looser gauge. It’s more likely to pill later, but I think pills show character. Luckily, more of my knitting is the happy, pilly kind.”

Ultimately, this isn’t a book to rush through. It’s a book to savor. It sat on the pile of current books next to my bed for a couple of weeks because I didn’t want it to end too quickly. (And if you know me at all, you know that I’m a read-it-quickly kind of girl.) I can’t force myself to read slower, but I can at least force myself to stop between chapters–especially when it’s worth my while by making something last longer. Some of these stories make me laugh out loud, some made me cry, but all of them made me feel like I knew Rachael better, and that we have more in common than I’d realized. Like this paragraph:

“I mean, sometimes I trip out just driving my car. Oh, heavens… what a commute–how weary I am of sitting in a comfortable seat and pushing a pedal with the muscles of my big toe. Even as a kid, I’d look out the car windows and pretend that Laura Ingalls Wilder had just teleported through time to sit next to me–what would she do? Scream? Faint? I’d point out the wonders of traveling at sixty miles per hour in a closed environment, and she’d be my best friend forever. Our world would fry her lid.”

And here I thought I was the only kid who used to imagine just exactly this thing!

Ultimately, this is a delight of a book. The writing is witty, wonderful, and wise, and the stories are the kind that speak right to your heart, with a tug at the funny bone or a nudge at the tear ducts as they whisper through. There’s even a knitting pattern to go with the story of how she discovered the beauties of hot water bottles. (In central-heated U.S.A., they’re not as common as you might think.)

Yep. Highly recommended. DO check it out–you won’t be disappointed!

My Gush: Lovely and poignant.

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