Most of us get into knitting because we like making things and hope that the soothing rhythm of forming stitches will be soothing and calming.
But at least when you're a new knitter or trying a new skill, knitting can actually be kind of stressful. We all could use reminders now and then that, as the Mason-Dixon Knitters say, knitting is 'spose to be fun. Knitters Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza aim to do just that in their book, 10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters: A Guide to Holistic Knitting, Yarn, and Life.
The Secrets of Knitting Easy
Stiefel and Souza weren't always what you'd call laidback about their knitting. They were "tense, uptight, competitive, obsessive" when it came to their projects, but through the years they changed into more go-with-the-flow types.
Lots of things and people contributed to that change, some of which are shared in the book.
The 10 secrets cover things like finding a wise woman mentor who can teach you and also push you to be the best knitter you can be, knitting for others, embracing color, learning about fiber, knitting without patterns and (gasp!) even taking up hooks and trying crochet.
This isn't meant to be a book that teaches you how to knit or helps you increase your skills, other than in the sense that its encouragement will cause you to reach higher with your knitting than you might have before.
It is, as the title says, a holistic approach to knitting and to life that encourages readers to be kinder to themselves, to slow down, enjoy the work and build their skills at the same time.
The book offers essays, sidebars and 32 patterns (with chair types for skill levels; 6 each are recliner and rocking chair, 10 are wing chair and 6 dining chair) that are full of tips and inspiration that will make you want to pick up your needles and take a gentle ride through the knitting world.
Patterns are arranged throughout the book and are associated with different secrets. The wise woman chapter, for instance, has a shawl designed by Anne Hennessy, who Stiefel considers her wise woman and who is a legendary spinner in New England.
In the color knitting chapter there's a cardigan decorated with more than 100 little tabs knit from a bunch of different years sewn to the hem, cuffs and pockets (and the effect is not quite as crazy as it sounds).
There are lots of pretty patterns here that suit a range of skill levels, just as the book aims to speak to knitters new and more experienced who might need to take a more laidback approach to their craft.
Some of my favorite patterns include the Solvang Weekend Vest, a ribbed wrap the curves over the shoulders and buttons in the front; the Peasant-Bread Tunic, a mostly simple Stockinette shirt with deep lace borders at the bottom and cuffs; the simple Frilled Mitts, which add a bit of mohair flair to a basic handwarmer design; and the Jive Sweater, another pullover with a lace and Stockinette combo.
I wouldn't pick this book up just for the patterns but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of projects here and would be happy to knit a few of them.
If your knitting life is stressing you out, if you feel like your hobby is not really all that much fun, if you intend to knit to relax but end up more wound up than before after putting down your project, this book is for you. It will encourage you to think about knitting more deeply, to choose projects more deliberately and to be more open to experiences that come your way as a knitter and lover of fiber.
Whether you're a new knitter still feeling the strain of learning the basics or a more seasoned knitter who's fallen into the trap of trying to complete the most complex projects just to show that you could, this book will gently remind you that knitting is not a contest to be won but instead a process and a journey that we all can and should take at our own pace. Use these secrets as way markers on your knitting travels and enjoy the ride.