I realized the other day that I've been doing a great deal of (mostly) non-fiction reading lately, generally in two areas: knitting, and food. And in so doing, I've acquired a number of books, all of which I am very pleased with and am delighted to have in my permanent library (assuming that Tilly doesn't re-enter the book-chewing phase; so far, so good -- knock on wood for me, please). So, I thought that it might be fun to talk about them here once in a while (when, for example, I am knitting lace which is increasingly unphotogenic), and to hear what you all think of them if you have them or have read them, and to get more suggestions for books that I "need". (This last bit could be dangerous, I realize.)
Last week, I got a package (hooray for packages!), which contained a copy of Knitting the Threads of Time: Casting Back to the Heart of Our Craft, by Nora Murphy. I decided that even though it was the middle of the day, I could call it "research" and promptly made myself a cup of tea and sat down to read. I'd rather thought that this might be my kind of book, based on the back cover and the descriptions I'd read, but by page four, she had me hooked. One of the things that I'm most looking forward to when I finally do the knitting survey and get to read everyone's answers is to hear why people knit. And because I've been anticipating that, I've been thinking about why I knit, and about what drew me to knitting (and, I should mention, to spinning and cooking as well). And Nora Murphy pretty much said it for me:
"What these modern artists [that would be us] often don't see are the remnants of an ancient lineage to which they belong. The grandmother, the young mother, and the girls are all descendants of the women around the globe who have transformed fibers into clothing to protect their families for tens of thousands of years. They are the heirs to goddesses who understood that human survival depends on the cloth. These ancients -- from China to Egypt, from Peru to the Pacific Northwest -- understood that clothing contains the power of creation. The modern knitter is no different." (4)
That sense of connection, of reaching back through time as well as across modern space, has always been one of the most compelling aspects of knitting for me. What Murphy does is to weave her research about knitting and weaving and spinning communities across time and space into her own story about knitting a sweater for her son. She faces all of the hurdles that we've all faced at some point in knitting (and heck, in life): techniques that are difficult, parts of the project that don't work out and have to be redone, successes that are sweet. And each of these hurdles becomes an opportunity for her story to reach out to other communities of women working with fiber. Her research has covered communities ranging from the Hmong to the Dakota to women in South America, and more. I love her inclusion of the "New World", which is so often disregarded in more Euro-centric discussions (including a food book that I read recently that had me foaming at the mouth; more on that another time). The fact that she's a grant-writer for, among other communities, several Native American communities local to her home, and that she weaves their stories into this book, just makes it that much more synchronous for me.
I should also mention that the book includes a wonderful bibliography of references. I am a sucker for references, and she cites some of my old favorites, but also mentions a slew of books that I haven't read, and will now have to look for. In that way, this book is like a good knitting project: there is all kinds of fun to be had in the project itself, as in the reading of this book, plus the opportunity to think about where to go next. It was also a peaceful read; Murphy's writing is quiet and contemplative, and it's the kind of book that can be read in small chunks, and then thought about until the next time. So I would say that if anyone is looking for a nice non-fiction book about knitting that reads a lot like fiction and that contains many gems that are food for thought, this is a good one.
Next time it's time for a book post, I'll talk about the lovely book that my brother and brother-in-law sent to me for my birthday (thanks, guys!). It's been on my list for a while, and is an excellent reference book.
Meanwhile, in the interests of honesty, I should mention that my acquisition of books has not, somehow, precluded my acquisition of yarn. This is true in spite of the fact that I've been trying not to bring in more yarn than I knit up. It's not entirely my fault, though (wow, am I pitiful or what?). For example, yesterday I was up at UCLA for a lunchtime talk and as I was leaving, my colleague there (a fellow knitter) told me that I absolutely had to visit her new favorite LYS, which is walking distance from her house. Now, I couldn't disappoint a friend, right? I mean, how do you say no to a thoughtful and enthusiastic suggestion like that? So I swung off the freeway on my way home, and popped into Twist: Yarns of Intrigue (seriously, is that a great name or what?). All I can say is, wow.
It's a tiny little shop absolutely crammed with the most astonishing range of gorgeous yarns I have seen in a long time. I had no idea that lines like Malabrigo and HandMaiden had that many different kinds of yarn (it was probably better that I not know, but there's no putting that genie back in the bottle). And spinning fiber. And Cathy, the wonderfully kind and attentive shop owner, dyes her own fiber and yarn. Wow. I managed to slide out with only two bumps of spinning fiber (one a merino/silk blend, the other a camel/silk blend) and a skein of SeaSilk. Oh, and a button. I'll post pictures next time. But was that not tremendously disciplined? I mean, it's not like I could just walk away without doing my bit to support a wonderful shop like that, right? (Imagine me wearing my self-congratulatory face now.)
But what this means is that there are now two small sweater/shell-like objects that I'm dying to cast on for (since one of those would be a wing-it design, that would involve swatching, which might be the way I soothe the craving for the time being). Plus at least two pairs of socks. Plus the two pairs of socks already OTN. And the Autumn Mantle shawl (which is ticking along quite nicely). Oh, and a baby sweater that I should really finish before the baby in question goes to college. Have I mentioned that this work thing really gets in the way of my knitting time?