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Discovering knitters in fiction

April 10, 2012

My favorite “lists” in The Knitter’s Life List may be those about books. There are, of course, the classic knitting books, including favorites by Elizabeth Zimmermann and Mary Thomas, and the many treasures that focus on a particular technique or ethnic tradition. But it was just as much fun to put together lists of books in which knitters and knitting turn up as a surprise — in novels, short stories, and even (especially!) children’s books.

I’ve recently discovered two more to add to those lists: a novel and a picture book. The novel is Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise, a haunting book set in France in the early years of World War II. I read this several months ago, but the fictional characters are so vividly portrayed that I think of them often and even find myself wondering what happened to them. The author frequently describes one or the other of them knitting; I was particularly intrigued by the spinning wheel that had been brought down out of the attic of a French farmhouse because all the women in the village were learning to spin since they couldn’t easily get wool during the war.

My new favorite children’s book is Mac Barnett’s Extra Yarn, with its delightful illustrations by Jon Klassen. It made me smile! It may seem odd to pair these two books: one set during a very dark period in recent history and the other, a lighthearted children’s fantasy. But I’m struck by their common threads: both give us pictures of people in community, some folks nice and some not so nice — the generous spirits and the selfish ones. (Who could forget the aesthete in Suite Francaise, whose beautiful possessions mattered more to him than people — could the archduke in Extra Yarn be his soul brother?)
Although my book lists are already pretty long, I know they’re not comprehensive and would love to have any and all suggestions for adding those of your special reads that I missed. Consider it a treasure hunt!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2012 5:39 pm

    Hi Gwen,
    One of my favorite children’s books about knitting and other fiber arts is _Woolbur_ by Leslie Helakoski and _Knitting Nell_ by Julie Jersild Roth. Both impart wonderful messages to children and have very endearing illustrations, also! _Extra Yarn_ is also wonderful, so I’m glad you mentioned it!

  2. June 4, 2012 5:59 pm

    Hi Julie, Thanks so much for letting me know about these books. Even though I have no young kids around just now, I love children’s books and these sound perfect! ~ Gwen

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