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Overview

Most knitters know: Getting through a difficult time often means knitting through it. Its this home truth--and all the homespun wisdom behind it--that comes through clearly in the writings gathered in this book.

These pieces--some by contemporary writers like Donna Druchunas and Sherri Wood, others excerpted from the WPAs Federal Writers Project--tell stories of knitting through adversity as widespread as war or the Great Depression, as ...
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Knitting Through it

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Overview

Most knitters know: Getting through a difficult time often means knitting through it. Its this home truth--and all the homespun wisdom behind it--that comes through clearly in the writings gathered in this book.

These pieces--some by contemporary writers like Donna Druchunas and Sherri Wood, others excerpted from the WPAs Federal Writers Project--tell stories of knitting through adversity as widespread as war or the Great Depression, as personal as political anxiety, as unyielding as a prison term, and as tenacious as the hardships endured by the Native American community over centuries.

Men and women, young and old, rural and urban, white and black--their knitting narratives are poignant, often lyrical, rich with personal and cultural history and vivid imagery. They conjure hardscrabble lives and immigrant experience, the work of anxious hands kept busy creating warmth and beauty or earning desperately needed money. Along with the stories from the WPA project, the book features black and white photographs from the Library of Congress archives, as well as a sampling of patterns to help knitters through their own difficult times.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610600583
  • Publisher: Voyageur Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,231,146
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Lela Nargi is a knitter, author, and former journalist who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her book Knitting Lessons: Tales from the Knitting Path documented her own adventures in learning to knit, and also featured dozens of interviews with knitters around the country, as a means to understanding what it is about the practice of knitting that draws people in and keeps them returning, sometimes obsessively, to their yarn. A recent essay about knitting, “Knitting Is Work and the Widows of Sant’Arsenio” is included in Knitting Yarns and Spinning Tales. Lela is also the editor of Knitting Memories: Reflections on the Knitter's Life, published by Voyageur Press.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Knitting Through . . .
. . . Charity
"Weaving the Past into the Future" by Christy Breedlove
Excerpts from an interview with Miss Emma Willis
Photo of Knitting Class, Henry Street Settlement
. . . Illness
"Sofia's Hands" by Alexandra Halpin
Photo of Woman Knitting, Washington, D.C.
Excerpt from "Knitting Sale Socks"
. . . Smoke
Photo of Hélène Magnússon wearing her Hammer Rose Pattern Vest
"Three Stitches per Second" by Hélène Magnússon
Photo of soft Icelandic shoes with knitted insoles
Pattern: Hammer Rose Vest
. . . Grief
"Knitting Life, Knitting Love" by Margaret Blank
Photo of Russian knitting bag and glass candle sticks
. . . Work
Photo of a girl at the London (Loudon) Hosiery Mills
Excerpts from an interview with Alice Candle
Photo of Sylvain Dornon, last of the Tchangkats
. . . Unemployment
"The Rising Tide" by Amy Holman
Excerpts from an interview at Abyssinia Baptist Church
Photo of Sojourner Truth
. . . Politics
"Knitting Through Red States vs. Blue States" by Erica Pearson
Pattern: Beginner's Scarf (a.k.a. Election Night Scarf Redux)
Four letters from the Abraham Lincoln Papers
Photo of Grace Coolidge knitting
. . . Prison
Excerpts from an interview with Mrs. I.E. Doane
Photo of "1,200 Hats"
"1,200 Hats: Art and Healing in the Making" by Sherri Wood
Pattern: Crocheted Hat
Photo of Sing Sing convicts knitting
. . . War
"All New York in Big Knitting Bee," 1918
Excerptfrom "No News for Me" by John Ross Dix
"Knitting In Times of War and Peace" by Vera Vivante
Two Photos:
Uintah Red Cross
Berlin
. . . Poverty
Photo of Eliza blocking lace in the Oomingmak shop
"Knitting Softens the Impact as Worlds Collide" by Donna Druchunas
Pattern: Butterfly lace pattern
Photo of a Snohomish couple in temporary summer house
Excerpts from an interview with Mrs. Elizabeth E. Miller
. . . Industrial Development
"Knitting: My Urban Escape" by Barbara DeMarco Barrett
Excerpt from "An Unfinished Stocking, New England, 1837"
. . . Families in Motion
Excerpts from "A Greek Mother"
Photo of a Greek peasant woman spinning yarn by hand
Excerpts from an interview with J.L. Tarter
Excerpts from an interview with Mrs. Mary E. Burleson
Excerpt from "The Banks of the Ohio," 1876
Photo of a family on ranch in Cherry County, Nebraska
. . . Relationships
Him and Her
Excerpts from an interview with Carrie Sain
Photo of A typical Irish home
"Frogging my Engagement" by Dania Rajendra
Photo of "End of the Day"
"Believing in Socks" by Lela Nargi
Mothers, Daughters & Granddaughters
"The Castle of Our Dreams" by Katie Benedict
Stereocard of two women
"Patches" by Janet Engle
Notes on the Contributors
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Introduction

Introduction

Before I started to write books, I was a journalist for fifteen years. My love for the profession had nothing at all to do with a Woodward-and-Bernstein drive to unearth politics' Big Story; with a veteran war correspondent's itch to find the world's hot spots; or with a gossip columnist's fascination with celebrity. Rather, I was drawn, always, to stories about so-called "regular" people, and the small details of their lives seemed to tell me so much about what was relevant and poignant in the way that we all go about living our lives, every day. I liked the process of tracking down people with stories to tell and, most of all, I liked sitting in a room with them and listening to them talk.

This proclivity of mine for the small story did not disappear when I left journalism. It infuses the books that I write and compile now. It began with Knitting Lessons: Tales from the Knitting Path (Tarcher/Penguin 2001), in which I interviewed knitters around the country in order to at least marginally attempt to answer the question: "Who knits, and why?" And it continues with the volume you now hold in your hands.

This collection was born from the vaguest research pursuit. One idle morning, as I sat browsing the Internet, I stumbled upon the Library of Congress's American Memory project-a vast collection of every sort of picture and document pertaining to the American experience. Needing a word to plug into the search engine so that I could test the site and its scope, I typed "knitting," and up came several hundred photographs, letters, newspaper articles, records, and reports, all including some reference to knitting. Most compelling were thephotographs of myriad and varied knitters-some of them rare and their subjects wholly unexpected-spanning almost 200 years. There were certain life histories drawn up under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which were so vividly constructed that to read them was like sitting in a room and listening to fascinating people reminisce. Considered together, the photos, these histories, and a number of other, odd-ball papers, created a new template against which to contemplate the question: "Who knits, and why?"

Many people are at least aware of the WPA's Federal Writers' Project. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States government hired some 6,500 unemployed writers to, among other things, compile a "documentary" of narratives and lore that would "be used as the basis for anthologies which would form a composite and comprehensive portrait of various groups of people in America," according to the Library of Congress. Working throughout the decade, the writers, some of them working under the narrower umbrella of the Folklore Project, collected almost 10,000 "life stories" from men and women, rural and urban, old and young, black and white. As Ann Banks notes in her book First Person America, many of these Americans "remembered the nineteenth century as vividly as some people now recall the Depression years." Their words, documented straight, verbatim, or curled around accompanying text by their interviewers, are often lyrical, poignant, and rich with information and imagery. Included in this collection are a number of historical excerpts that go a long way toward showing who ordinary knitters were, not just in the early half of the twentieth century, but back to immigrant landings on this soil. When read in conjunction with contemporary essays by Donna Druchunas, Sherri Wood, and eleven other knitters of today, they also show that who we were is who we are.

As for why we knit, this collection aims to illustrate only one of the whys-to see us through adversity of one fashion or another. Some of the subjects of the life histories knit as they recite litanies of hardship; others speak of their mothers and sisters and grandmothers knitting; still others-the majority-tell of their own experience with knitting in times of strife, either as a means to make money, or as a way to give hands that were accustomed to working something to do. In some instances, adversity is as deep and resonant as a prison term (Sherri Wood's "1,200 Hats: Art and Healing in the Making"); in others, it revolves around the more personal and subjective ("Knitting Through Red States vs. Blue States" by Erica Pearson; "Knitting: My Urban Escape" by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett). In one instance-Donna Druchunas's "Knitting Softens the Impact as Worlds Collide"-it picks up a current thread in a long history of hardship and poverty among Native Americans that began, it can be argued, with European arrivals here. And always, it is about relationships: with friends and husbands, the world at large, and ourselves.

It is my hope that this book will not be seen to attempt to provide a definitive conclusion on Knitting Through It, but that it will lead to further thought and discussion of the subject-and for anyone who has ever knit through it themselves, it can offer a glimmer of hope.
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