First, the facts:
Title: Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Published by: Sono Nis Press, 2014
Type: Essays, with some patterns
A Simple Shell
The Second Time I Learned to Knit
Mount Newton Indian Sweaters
Both Sides of Difficult
If You Stumble
I Just Know
Myths About Motifs
My Mother’s Granny Square Afghan
Knitters Are Multi-Taskers
Knitting for the Soul
The Old Knitters Would Say
The Third Time I Learned to Knit
Am I Knitting Stories or Writing Sweaters?
The In-Depth Look:
There are a number of different kinds of knitting books that I love–really great pattern collections, explorations of new techniques, creative looks at old classics …
And then, books like this–stories about why we love knitting.
Essays, really, exploring her personal history of knitting. This is inextricably entwined with the Coast Salish knitters. She talks about learning to knit … three times. (Sometimes you learn different lessons from different teachers.) She talks about buying sweaters from knitters and understanding that it’s not the money or even the pattern that matters–but the spirit that goes into it. I love the idea that the patterns that Coast Salish knits are so famous for can be as mysterious to the knitters as to the person who buys the sweater–that knitting is as much about instinct and feel for what’s right as it is about the garment you’re making.
There are so many cultural truths about knitting. People knit to be creative, to make something warm for their family. They knit out of love, and out of need. It’s easy to forget that, for many, still, it’s a means of supporting their family. That the cultural roots behind the patterns and techniques mean more than just a way of making fabric.
It’s easy to forget that knitting is more than just loops of yarn on a needle. It can be as simple or as meaningful as you want it to be, and when you read stories like these, you are reminded that knitting–all knitting–has its roots in generations of tradition.
To be honest, I hadn’t planned on reading every essay in this book before writing this review. I thought I would dip in and read some of them, but then save the rest for later, after getting the review posted in a timely manner … and then I found myself just sitting at my desk, reading, unable to stop.
The stories are good, and the fact that they are illustrated by traditional (or inspired-by-tradition) patterns that you can make for yourself makes them even better.
The author writes:
“By the time we wear what we’ve made or give it away, every knitted thing has acquired its own meaning and its own story. I think that’s one reason knitting has become so popular again. Logos are cheap substitutes for something unique. Owning a dozen designer t-shirts, one in every colour, can never replace the immensely satisfying experience of wearing something that’s one of a kind. More and more people are rediscovering the wonderful flourish and flair of making something themselves–and of telling the stories that go with it.”
All in all, a book I enjoyed more than I expected to–but why this comes as a surprise, I couldn’t tell you. Like I said, I love hearing how knitting affects people’s lives–and I’m betting you do, too.
This book, published in Canada, can be purchased directly from the publisher.
This review copy was kindly donated by Sono Nis Press. Thank you!