I had a nice surprise before Christmas – a parcel I wasn’t expecting was waiting for me in the greenhouse (nobody leaves ‘cards to collect parcels’ here; they know everything goes in the greenhouse).
I opened it up, and found a book for review: The Knitter’s Life List by Gwen Steege. But it was jolly festive seasonal chaos, and I only flicked through it. I worked in book-publishing publicity for a while, and I had a flashback: me saying ‘let’s send this out to some bloggers, see what they make of it,’ and then being less than pleased with the results.
I have to admit that my initial impressions weren’t thrilling. It seemed a bit of a hotchpotch, very US-centred, and I wasn’t entranced by the idea of lists. I’ve developed an allergy to them, and there seem to be more of them around this year than ever (most annoying people / 100 greatest toys / favourite Bee Gee hits of all time – I’ve not made any of those up). So I put it to one side.
And then I picked it up over Christmas. I was wrong.
Yes, there are parts which, for readers this side of the pond, are a bit irritating. The list of yarn-friendly cities, for instance, are all in the USA, except for one in Canada – I’d nominate Lerwick, it may not be as big as New York, but boy is it a knitting-friendly place – and things like the examples of textile tours are irrelevant for us.
But that’s quibbling, really, because this is a deeply eccentric book, and I like that.
It’s got plenty of practical information and tips, sometimes from knitters who specialise in particular fields; it’s got features on particular people – again, with a US tendency (there are lots of interesting people working elsewhere and I’m sure we could all come up with our own lists), but here that means some of them are new and interesting to me. And then there is that eccentricity: you can find a feature on Amy Singer, the founder of Knitty, next to a piece on Andean hats; a piece on the magic loop next to lots of information on knitting for a cause.
Did you know, for instance, that guests at the 2006 NATO summit in Riga received hand-knitted mittens? Latvian knitters made 4,500 pairs, featuring traditional designs and colours specific to various parts of the country. I didn’t know about that, but I do now. I found a lovely quote from Pablo Neruda, and the next thing I read was a piece about knitters and gardening, followed by a double-page spread on films in which knitting crops up. See? Eccentric. Good!
In short, I found this an ideal book for dipping into over a mug of tea and a piece of Christmas cake. Yes, there was some stuff in it I didn’t find particularly interesting or relevant, but there was plenty that did pique my interest, and what doesn’t appeal to me will appeal to others. Lots of people love lists, and will find them useful, a way of prompting them into new discoveries and skills.
Given that I’m allergic to lists, I’ve only got one thing on a list for the next year (well, apart from the usual: finish some of my UFOs, don’t buy more yarn until I’ve used some of the stash). Master the ********* spindle. Grrrrrr.
And the Neruda? I nearly forgot:
‘The moral of my ode is this: beauty is twice beauty, and what is good is doubly good when it is a matter of two socks made of wool in winter.’
From Ode to My Socks, translated by Robert Bly
The Knitter’s Life List, by Gwen W Steege, published by Storey Publishing