The Knitter’s Life List

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



13 thoughts on “The Knitter’s Life List

  1. rainbowgreyowl

    Happy New Year!! I always feel that letting others see a page or three from a new book is really thoughful. Don’t sweat about the spindle…. maybe try another one? I shared the same frustration until I tried the one I have now; it’s so lightweight and small that I can now spin nice fine yarn! Yippee…. I’ll bring it along to the next guild for you to try if you like.

    Shadow ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. kate Post author

      Grr – that’s to the spindle, not you. Maybe it’s my hands that are making it difficult? It’s an interesting book, I’ll bring it along if I can have a go on your spindle, wheedle, wheedle…

  2. Guzzisue

    the book sounds interesting, I can think of someone who would appreciate it ๐Ÿ™‚ as for mastering the spindle….practise, practise, practise…so much easier to produce a spindle from your bag than drag your wheel with you although I must admit to dragging my wheel pretty much everywhere!!

    have a great new year x

    1. kate Post author

      It is – perfect for wasting time when you should be doing something else, like the washing up… hmmmm.

      That’s one of the reasons why I want to get spindling, the ease of doing it anywhere. Plus it’s a bit like riding a bike – everyone else can do it, why can’t I? Grrrrr. I expect there’ll be more spindle-related chuntering to follow!

  3. heikeknits

    This looks a very interesting book to while away the time with. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it and also letting us see some snap shots of the pages.
    Wishing you everything you wish for yourself, may 2012 bring you only good things. Hugs..xx

  4. Annie

    Happy list free New Year Kate! May 2012 bring health, wealth and mastery of that spindle!

    I’ve often wondered about the book review thing. Part of me would be hugely excited to receive a book to share my thoughts on, but I would worry terribly about what to say if I didn’t like it. Not a problem so far though, no one’s sought my opinion!

    Pablo Neruda, my kind of guy!

    1. kate Post author

      Nearly threw spindle through window yesterday. GRRRRRR.

      You’re right, reviewing is awkward if you really don’t like something, but I think you have to ‘fess up. Or bury it in weasel words, I suppose, like ‘interesting’ and ‘challenging’ and anything else people can read in two ways, but that’s a bit sneaky. I did originally think I was going to be in that position with this one, but fortunately I wasn’t!

  5. del

    Is the publishing house in the US? Maybe that’s why it’s so US-centric. Ah well…I’m always interested in hearing about other places, so maybe I’m the odd American out.

    I am SO over lists, though; this time of year is rife with lists for everything and I find myself tuning out.

    1. kate Post author

      Yes, you’re right, it is. I know from working in the States that you’re not the odd American out – hooray – so it does surprise me a bit when you get something like this being sent out for international review. Maybe the author hadn’t travelled very widely? In the end it was a minor irritation though…

      I think the whole list thing is worse than ever this year… the other night there were THREE ‘greatest ever’ list programmes on straight after each other on one of our major TV channels. And they were all rubbish. Time to turn off and get out the board games! (Or the knitting…)

  6. Annie

    Funny how something you are not looking forward to doing turns out better than you thought it would ๐Ÿ˜‰ Sounds like some interesting reading after all !!
    As others have said re spindling its all down to most importantly the right spindle and practice. I have quite a spindle collection if you would like to peruse them ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Blwyddyn Newydd Dda x

    1. kate Post author

      I think it was a lesson in not making instant assumptions (one I will doubtless forget)… hm…

      I’m busy growling at my own spindle at the moment – I wouldn’t want to shock yours with my unladylike language. I’m sure they’d never have heard the like before (well, probably because you’d be swearing at them in the old language, not because you’re so proper). A blwyddyn newid dda i chi hefid!

  7. Marilyn Raphael-Mathews

    perhaps the spindling will go more smoothly if you trade position of your hands. have the left hand take the right’s place. I embroider right handed but hand sew a hem with my left hand when i have a skill problem changing direction or hand position often helps ๐Ÿ™‚


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