Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting, edited by Ann Hood - book review: Emotional and beautifully crafted stories of stitching

When Ann Hood learnt to knit, she wasn't jumping on the cool "Stitch 'n Bitch" bandwagon – it was a desperate attempt to assuage her grief in the aftermath of the sudden and unexpected death of her five-year-old daughter. No longer able to read or write, she instead found solace in the act of knitting and the communities offered by knitting groups – an experience she then turned into her bestselling novel, The Knitting Circle (soon to be an HBO movie). Knitting Yarns – a collection of original essays (and one poem, Elinor Lipman's "I Bought This Pattern Book Last Spring") about what knitting has meant to the writers, whether they are able practitioners of the craft or not – is thus an apt editorial project for an author who found her way back to the written word through "the magical powers of yarn and needles".

Alison Lurie provides a history of knitting, Barbara Kingsolver describes shearing a sheep, Sue Grafton's piece is about teaching a child to knit – and also included are six knitting patterns designed by Helen Bingham (Hood's "knitting guru"). But this is less a practical guide than an anthology about the emotional terrain of these authors' wool-strewn lives. Most of the contributions are deeply personal: clearly, Hood's wounds weren't the only ones healed by the gentle click, click of needles. There are tales about a best friend lost to a cult, a failed marriage, and the loss of a nanny who was more like a mother to her than the author's own.

Three of the contributors are men. Andre Dubus III remembers his girlfriend teaching him to knit so that he could make his aunt a scarf for Christmas, something she, with her fast failing eyesight, could "touch". The vast majority, however, are women – knitting, after all, is "the women's legacy, passed down through the ladder of generations". Watching her daughters learn to knit, Hope Edelman sees a connection between them and the grandmother they never knew. Joyce Maynard tells the poignant story of how her high-achieving mother, trapped by the social conventions of the 1950s, channeled her "big, wild talents and burning ambitions" into beautiful knitting projects. Ann Patchett writes about the scarf that "holds together" the women she has loved and lost.

I am not a knitter, but that didn't make these stories any less moving or interesting. Indeed, as I read, all the cardigans, scarfs, hats and mittens my mother, a talented and generous knitter, has lovingly made for me over the years came flooding back into my mind's eye, and I knew exactly what these authors were writing about.

WW Norton & Company £14.99. Order for £13.99 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before