Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art

Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art

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by Susan M. Strawn, Melanie Falick
     
 

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“Susan has placed the history of knitting within the context of American history, so we can clearly see how knitting is intertwined with such subjects as geography, migration, politics, economics, female emancipation, and evolving social mores. She has traced how a melting pot of knitting traditions found their way into American culture via vast waves

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Overview

“Susan has placed the history of knitting within the context of American history, so we can clearly see how knitting is intertwined with such subjects as geography, migration, politics, economics, female emancipation, and evolving social mores. She has traced how a melting pot of knitting traditions found their way into American culture via vast waves of immigration, expanded opportunity for travel, and technology.” —Melanie Falick This is the history that Knitting America celebrates. Beautifully illustrated with vintage pattern booklets, posters, postcards, black-and-white historical photographs, and contemporary color photographs of knitted pieces in private collections and in museums, this book is an exquisite view of America through the handiwork of its knitters.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Spin-Off, Winter 2007

“Susan has successfully balanced both broad picture and details … Her comprehensive overview assembles a vast collection of ideas for enjoyment now and for deeper exploration in the future.”

“This meticulously researched look at knitting America, from Colonial times to the present, earns an honored place on the bookshelf next to A History of Hand Knitting and No Idle hands. Thing is, it’s so visually interesting, you’re going to want to leave it out on the coffee table instead. The illustrations tell the story as vividly as the text…..It’s a must-have for fiber historians.”
Yarn Market News

Creative Knitting, March 2008
"Part picture book, part social history, part entertainment and all fun, Knitting America places the ordinary task of knitting into the larger context of American history. Beginning with the first American knitters and working her way through the decades to the present, historian and avid knitter Susan Strawn shares a wealth of information about how knitters have supported our troops during wartime, clothed their families, founded businesses and expressed their creativity...There are images of beautiful knitted items, and examples of printed patterns and knitting posters. The text is fascinating and well-researched; if you are looking for a topic for your next master's thesis, you'll find one here. Whether you read it for the history, or look at it for the delightful illustrations, you'll find yourself engrossed in this captivating book".

Bookwormsez syndicated column, December 2007

“This comprehensive book includes some fascinating pictures of knitter past and includes 20 patterns to try. Hint: knitting isn’t just for Moms! Dads and brothers love it, too.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781610602495
Publisher:
Voyageur Press
Publication date:
05/13/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
833,040
File size:
20 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

Read an Excerpt

When I began to knit as an adult - after several false starts during childhood - I was immediately curious about the lives of knitters and how I could study history, in particular women's history, by way of knitting. At the time - this was in the late 1980s - there were fewer knitters (certainly fewer knitters who were "outed") and definitely fewer books about knitting being published than there are today. While I was curious about the history of knitting in the United States, I found it easier to explore its history in countries outside of it, in places like the Shetland Islands in Scotland and the Orenburg region of Russia. In part, this was because I had a fairly serious case of wanderlust at that time and was always eager to travel abroad, and in part because information about these foreign knitting traditions was more readily available. I loved to knit but I had the feeling that most of our society regarded it as inconsequential, as not having any significant impact on American lives.

I distinctly remember lying on my bed in my small New York City apartment searching for stories about knitters in the United States in Richard Rutt's 1987 book, A History of Hand Knitting - only to be faced with this statement: "Information about the history of hand knitting in the United States is hard to find." A few years later I happened upon a paperback copy of No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne Macdonald (first published in 1988); this book gave me my initial glimpse into domestic knitting history, was certainly more helpful than Rutt's book, and whetted my appetite for more. But more was slow in coming.

Having been asked to write a foreword forKnitting America, I have had the opportunity to review this comprehensive text before publication. While it doesn't surprise me that Susan Strawn has created such a fascinating book - when I first met her, when we both worked for Interweave Press (she as an illustrator and stylist and I as an editor), she immediately impressed me with her commitment to excellence and her eagerness to take on new challenges - I am still in awe of the scope of her accomplishment here. After leaving Interweave, she earned her Ph.D. and clearly honed her research skills.

What I find most fascinating about this book is how Susan has placed the history of knitting within the context of American history, so we can clearly see how knitting is intertwined with such subjects as geography, migration, politics, economics, female emancipation, and evolving social mores. She has traced how a melting pot of knitting traditions found their way into American culture via vast waves of immigration, expanded opportunity for travel, and technology. She has shown how knitting has provided solace during difficult times, from the Great Depression to the days following September 11. She has documented the significant contributions knitters have made during periods of war, especially the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. She has demonstrated how the first American knitters created clothing that was crucial for survival, how knitting evolved into a symbol of feminine propriety and then later into a symbol of rebellion, how some American women used knitting as a means of earning income at times when other types of employment were not open to them, and how today, while it can still be a method of earning a living, it has become primarily a mode of creative expression. Along the way she illustrates this history with a plentiful supply of visual imagery (much of it rarely seen before), including reproductions of paintings, photographs, and/or advertisements on nearly every page.

I know that in the years to come I will refer back to this book many times, rereading certain passages and marveling over images - maybe the Pacific Northwest Tulalip Indian on page 50 or Grace Coolidge, the only first lady known to have entered her knitting in county fairs, on page 111, or the song lyrics for the musical sensation of the 1910s "Listen to the Knocking at the Knitting Club" on page 74, or the advertisement from 1918 on page 87 for the newest invention (and one of my favored tools), the circular knitting needle. I know that Susan, now a committed and generous scholar, hopes that her book will inspire other writers to delve even deeper into the rich topic of American knitting history. I believe that will happen. But first we must take a bit of time to appreciate her validating work and to thank her for sharing it with us.

Melanie Falick

Editorial director of STC Craft; author of Knitting in America, Kids Knitting, Weekend Knitting, and Handknit Holidays, and co-author of Knitting for Baby; former editor-in chief of Interweave Knits magazine

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Spin-Off,  Winter 2007

“Susan has successfully balanced both broad picture and details … Her comprehensive overview assembles a vast collection of ideas for enjoyment now and for deeper exploration in the future.”

“This meticulously researched look at knitting America, from Colonial times to the present, earns an honored place on the bookshelf next to A History of Hand Knitting and No Idle hands.  Thing is, it’s so visually interesting, you’re going to want to leave it out on the coffee table instead. The illustrations tell the story as vividly as the text…..It’s a must-have for fiber historians.”
—Yarn Market News

Creative Knitting, March 2008
"Part picture book, part social history, part entertainment and all fun, Knitting America places the ordinary task of knitting into the larger context of American history. Beginning with the first American knitters and working her way through the decades to the present, historian and avid knitter Susan Strawn shares a wealth of information about how knitters have supported our troops during wartime, clothed their families, founded businesses and expressed their creativity...There are images of beautiful knitted items, and examples of printed patterns and knitting posters.  The text is fascinating and well-researched; if you are looking for a topic for your next master's thesis, you'll find one here.  Whether you read it for the history, or look at it for the delightful illustrations, you'll find yourself engrossed in this captivating book".

 

Bookwormsez syndicated column, December 2007

“This comprehensive book includes some fascinating pictures of knitter past and includes 20 patterns to try.  Hint: knitting isn’t just for Moms!  Dads and brothers love it, too.”

Read More

Meet the Author

 

Susan Strawn teaches history of costume and various other textiles courses as an assistant professor in the Apparel Design and Merchandising Department at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Before entering academic life, she was an illustrator, photostylist, and sometimes writer at Interweave Press in Loveland, Colorado. When she was eight years old, her grandmother taught her knitting basics, and she has never since been without a knitting project. During the summer, she knits in Seattle.

 

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Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr. Strawn has written and compiled a wonderful book on knitting history. It's exciting to read that, over 300 years ago women and their knitting groups behaved much the same as myself and my group. This new awareness makes me KNOW that I'm part of something big. Now I can use history to justify the time and money I spend on knitting. For that, I thank Susan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enlightening.
amkon More than 1 year ago
The book is well researched and is an enjoyable read. It expertly guides the reader on a tour of the history of this art. Please read it, it will give you a new respect for this art and cherish the people who have insured it continuence.
Anonymous 9 months ago
I have just finished the preview, and while I am very interested in the history of knitting, I am having trouble trusting an author who in the beginning of her book identifies Jamestown, Virginia as a failed colony. Jamestown did struggle in the beginning, but ultimately it was the first successful English settlement in what eventually became the United States. A history writer who makes such an error casts doubt upon the rest of her work.
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