Fiction for knitters (and quilters)

Today’s New York Times featured an Op-ed by Ann Hood on knitting and crafting and recovery from grief and loss. It was a nice piece and it reminded me instantly of the novel Ann wrote THE KNITTING CIRCLE.

This was clearly a somewhat autobiographically inspired book quite unlike most of Ann Hood’s fiction. As Ann relates in the New York Times piece, she came to knitting as a solace and haven having lost her young daughter suddenly and tragically. In THE KNITTING CIRCLE the protagonist turns to knitting to deal with the loss of her own daughter. She is helped both by the zen-like past-time of knitting and the community of women she encounters at her lys (local yarn store for those not in the know).

Ann’s op-ed reminded me how much I enjoy reading fiction about my favorite hobbies. Not only does it extend the pleasure I get from the craft itself, reading crafting fiction surrounds me with a feeling of community. Reading about characters who share many of the same interests–interests not always shared by those around one in real life–presents much the same emotional satisfaction as hanging out in a favorite knitting haunt. 

 Community is a key aspect to all fiction which deals with crafting. While many crafts are practiced individually, they need not be practiced alone. While quilting is well known as a potentially communal activity, gathering to share lives and information while crafting is a long-time tradition. Not everyone has a crafting community, crafting fiction can take the place of the physical community.

Debbie Macomber and Kate Jacobs rank as two queens of knitting literature, but there are many other novels about knitting. And I must confess, some I have enjoyed more than those of the doyennes of the genre. A great reading list is featured on Good Reads http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/knitting-fiction.

THE BEACH TREE STREET KNITTING SOCIETY AND YARN CLUB by Gil McNeil was a great read set in the U.K. about a woman rebuilding her life after her marriage ends unexpectedly and irrevocably. Again, the book features the key themes of a woman finding her way after great loss, finding a community to support her and discovering happiness.

Two other novels I greatly enjoyed are part of a series by Beth Pattillo. THE SWEETGUM KNIT LIT SOCIETY and KNIT FOR LOVE. While these novels are technically considered Christian fiction, it doesn’t really matter. None of the fiction about crafting gets too edgy, that’s not why one reads these novels and the characters and plots are satisfying. There is enough tension to make the happy resolution welcome. The other great aspect to reading series fiction in crafting is that you get to know the characters and encounter them again in the next book. What’s community without continuity?  

One other author I have enjoyed for many years doesn’t write about knitting, but quilting. Jennifer Chiaverini has written 23 novels in her Elm Creek Quilts series. I don’t do much quilting, but I enjoy the books for many of the same reasons I enjoy the knitting fiction noted above–great stories and community and just enough “trouble at home” to make a happy resolution. I have to admire any author who can carry a series for 23 books and to carry a series on quilting that long is an even greater accomplishment.

This is the season and the weather for curling up with a good read and for those who need a break from needles–any kind– these novels continue the crafting pleasure.

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