7/04/2006

Reviews and news

I'm almost finished a short visit to Canberra. I leave quite soon. The nice thing about Canberra is that it gives me access to a. my mother, and b. yarn shops that are not the ones at home, and have more yarn, and c. book shops. So I got to pick up my standing order at the comic shop, (yay for the latest issue of Fables, and who gets married in it!) and generally pick up some books. I thought I'd do a bit of a review of the two books that I've read in the last few days; Compassionate Knitting, by Tara Jon Manning, and At Knit's End: Meditations for Women who Knit too much, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

Both hinge on a similar theme; metaknitting, or the consideration of knitting not just as something done with pointy sticks and string, but as something more esoteric, or at the very least meditative in nature. Let's start with Manning's Compassionate Knitting.

Compassionate Knitting is the companion to/sequel to an earlier book called Mindful Knitting. I think that my appreciation of the techniques discussed in Compassionate Knitting would be more rounded if I had this earlier volume; basically, Manning advocates that we are mindful of our craft when we knit. This encompasses why we choose to do it, when we do it, the materials involved, mixed together with spirituality that is not unfamiliar to those of us who have done some study into Buddhism, or Neopaganism. This is not to say that Manning's approach is incompatible with Christianity by any means - part of the world view of anyone with a sense of spirituality is necessarily contemplating the wonder that is to be found in this amazing place that we inhabit.

That said, the focus of Compassionate Knitting is geared more towards projects than techniques. As far as I can gather (I only have Compassionate Knitting), Mindful Knitting sets out the techniques, Compassionate Knitting expands upon them. The projects are organised into sections corresponding to different elements; heaven, earth and knitter (spirit), and boy are there some wonderful projects in there. There's a number of things that I want to make already; from "Heaven", the cloud pillow, wisp of mist wrist warmers, angels and fairies, and if I ever have kids, they'll be wearing the heaven and stars baby set. From "Earth", there's a lovely Sea Aran cardigan (complete with descriptions of the meanings of the stitches), a stunning jacket called Sky Lake jacket, and walking meditation socks. From "Knitter", a padma jacket, and a feng shui charm that will be just dandy to send to a friend who is moving house. A word of warning, though - if you are a very small person, then it is unlikely that all of the projects will fit you. The Padma jacket has a finished chest measurement of 44 inches, or 112 cm. Makes a change from knitting magazines, and garments that only make it to a medium (I recently had my hopes for a lovely lacey cardigan-thing shot down by a magazine that shall remain nameless).

This is a lovely book, but if you're into the spiritual side of things, it might be worth trying to find Manning's first book, Mindful Knitting. I'd still get Compassionate Knitting - the depth of projects in there, and the hints at where one can find inspiration shouldn't be sold short. Or if you'd prefer a philosophical basis served with a generous serving of (occasionally self-deprecating) humour, pick up Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's At Knit's End.

To be honest, I avoided buying this book. I saw it once, ages ago, on a trip to Sydney, and thought "Who needs a book about meditations for women who knit too much? I knit, but I don't need to think about it." So I put it back. Maybe some things aren't meant to find you until the right time. I just spent a wonderful afternoon reading it in the sun, with the dog on my feet, laughing unabashedly at the often-accurate statements and thoughts, after picking it up at the yarn shop in Jameison, ACT.

You won't find a pattern in this book. Or instructions about how to knit (well, maybe some cautionary tales). It is instead a collection of stories, quotes, anecdotes and knitterly philosophy that invites you to examine yourself as a knitter, and encourages you to love all who knit (including yourself), with their quirks, stash-obsession, and ability to sniff out yarn at 60 paces. It's the sort of book that is - although I hesitate to use the word, because it's one I never use - heartwarming. It makes you feel good about your craft, about being a knitter, about knitters through the ages, about your stash, and even about knitting disasters. It's the papery equivalent of the friend who, when you do something totally, hideously embarrassing in public, says "Oh god, I do that too" and helps you away from the feeling that you want to crawl under a rock and die. Or else gets in under the rock with you and makes jokes until you're ready to come out. Highly recommended, and not just for afternoons in the sun.

And in breaking news, Team Aurora has announced a late substitution in her Knitting World Cup team. Apparently the red cardigan has strained its shoulder, from being knitted too much, and its place is quickly being usurped by another younger player. Early reports say that this new younger project is much closer to completion, although still poses a challenge to be finished by the 9th. More news next entry.

5 Comments:

Blogger Rain said...

The books both sound fantastic and i've enjoyed reading your reviews of them.

I can't wait to see the substitution for the World Cup.

5:52 pm  
Blogger cpurl17 said...

Your reviews were well thought out. I love Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's books. I haven't yet picked up Compassionate Knitting but it sounds interesting.

I hope your injured player heals quickly and didn't earn a red card over that shoulder move.

9:56 pm  
Blogger veritas said...

hey!! that's funny - i have mindful knitting! ... is there an easy way for me to lend it to you? it's an excellent book, btw. i really enjoyed it, and there is a fantasic scarf in there that helped me on the way to lace obsession :)

11:53 am  
Blogger Areli said...

Thanks for the great reviews. I love Stephanie's blog but I have yet to pick up one of her books. They look like they would be really fun reads.

12:01 pm  
Blogger Stefaneener said...

Thanks for the book reviews and I hope the red cardigan is feeling much better soon. I can't wait to see its (temporary, I hope) replacement.

2:14 pm  

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