Most knitters know that knitting can be comforting in itself beyond the production of knit garments that can themselves be a comfort. Lela Nargi delves deeper into this idea in her essay collection Knitting Through It: Inspiring Stories for Times of Trouble.
Incorporating modern-day essays and historic documents from the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project undertaken during the Great Depression, the book explores how knitting can help us get through bad days, bad breakups and unfortunate economic and political circumstances.
Knitting in Adversity
The 28 essays in Knitting Through It cover a range of hard times that the authors of the essays and subjects of the interviews endured through the help of knitting, including recuperating from illness or dealing with an ailing loved one, giving up smoking, dealing with grief, unemployment, being in prison, war, poverty and changing families and relationships.
There's an essay about knitting a scarf while watching the election returns come through in 2004, a piece about knitting socks for a husband instead of filing for divorce and musing on knitting as a way to be different from the cookie-cutter women of Orange County, California.
The less-contemporary selections include stories about knitting through World War II and the Great Depression, knitting while dealing with a difficult husband and knitting to earn a little money when in dire financial circumstances.
There are also historic pictures of people knitting, from First Lady Grace Coolidge -- who helped encourage knitting by taking part in knitting contests in the 1920s -- to men imprisoned in Sing Sing in 1915.
The book also includes five patterns: a Hammer Rose Vest, inspired by the knit shoe insoles found in traditional Icelandic shoes; a basic scarf suitable for election night knitting; a self-guided crocheted hat based on those knit by women imprisoned in North Carolina; a glove pattern used by the Canadian Red Cross; and a Butterfly Lace panel seen in the projects worked by native Alaskan knitters.
While this isn't a book you'd buy for the projects, these patterns add another dimension to the essays and might give you ideas for projects of your own incorporating the motifs or design ideas.
Knitting Through It, by the title, sounds like it would be a sad book, full of the tragedies of other people's existences and something that wouldn't really make you feel better if you were going through your own hardship. But it isn't really that way at all. The book is much more a way of looking at knitting as something that endures, and helps us endure, through hard times and through the regular problems and challenges of our everyday lives.
Publication date: March 2008.