On knitting and writing

knitting yarnsKnitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting

Edited by Ann Hood

I picked up this little book because some of my favorite authors had contributed essays about their experiences and memories of knitting. It’s not as fluffy as you might imagine. The essays are by turns poignant, moving, and funny.

While I am not a knitter, I identified with many of the experiences related here. My grandmother taught me to crochet and I too find it calming and somewhat magical to create three-dimensional items from a two-dimensional length of yarn. I also appreciated the connections the authors made between their writing lives, their personal lives, and their knitting. Not to mention the life lessons.

Here’s a sampler from the collection.

“The lesson in all this, which I did not learn then, is that so much of the joy of knitting is not in the creation of a perfect product. Rather, it is in the act of using one’s own bodily skills to make something for someone else’s body.”

The Pretend Knitter by Elizabeth Berg


“We knitters love the reassuring, meditative pleasure of making things, but do others love the things we make? Is it possible that we need and like to knit so badly that we don’t really care if the recipients of our knitted goods find them aesthetically pleasing or even bearable?”

The Perfect Gift by Lan Samantha Chang

“And that’s where I learned to love stories: the knitting together of images, scenes, language, and plot. That turns out to be the fiction writer’s job: to attend to the gossip and spread it as far as he can.

To Knit a Knot, or Not: A Beginner’s Yarn by John Defresne

…knitting, like reading, is a form of meditation, offering a sense of privacy and soul-centeredness whether we’re alone or with others in a social setting.”

Teaching a Child to Knit by Sue Grafton


“I recently finished a first novel, nearly twelve years after I began it. It’s not that it took me twelve years to write the 280 pages that comprise the book. It’s that I had to write the story every possible way over the course of what was probably 2,000 pages spread out over more than a decade, to discover the way that best expressed what I was trying to say.”

“If I had one wish to impart on my children, I think it would be that: that they discover their own resilience, their own ability to recover from the mistakes they make directly, as well as from the messes that occur when life is cruel and unfair. That they have a growth mind-set. That their knitting, like learning to write their names, like learning to crawl and walk, and drive a car and attend college and get a job—that all of life becomes a place to learn, and that they embrace the fact that errors are not the end of the world.”

“The lessons I first learned from knitting keep showing me this truth: that a kind of radical acceptance of errors and an appreciation for our human capacity for resiliency—that’s what’s truly precious. And there’s no mistake about it.”

Failing Better by Bernadette Murphy

“And when I was at the bottom of the well, she threw down a length of yarn and told me to knit myself up. She didn’t care how long it took. She would be waiting there at the top, holding on to her end.”

How Knitting Saved My Lifer. Twice. by Ann Patchett

“Funny how we pick up things along the way, the elements of our outside selves that serve to define us. And how sometimes, too, those things pick us. Be it fate or some universal magnetic attraction, things coming together through affinity or a great and incomprehensible master plan. Either way, I get to knit elaborately cabled sweaters for my feisty, wry, and loving little four-pound Chihuahua.”

The Clothes Make the Dog by Taylor M. Polites


“I love writing novels and I enjoy playing solitaire. Both appeal to my pleasure in seeing how something turns out—I imagine a character, or even just a moment; I lay out my cards.”

“A novel, too, is always original. Even if it isn’t always interesting, it always reflects the idle connections the author’s thoughts happened to make on certain days, in certain moods, in certain places.”

“The author certainly comes back, certainly smooths and sorts those connections, but the randomness remains, the author’s unique handprint on the story.”

Why Bother? by Jane Smiley


“When I knit, everything else vanishes. Sadness, anxiety, anger, confusion. It is just me and the yarn and the lovely sound of my needles clicking together.”

Ten Things I Learned from Knitting by Ann Hood

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