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A book review: Knitting Through It (Lela Nargi)

July 10, 2009

I am an avid reader and often a book comes across my path that encompasses a number of my passions. Knitting Through It: Inspiring stories for times of trouble is just one of these books. It speaks to the both my love of history and of knitting.

Knitting Through It

Knitting Through It: Inspiring stories for times of trouble
Edited by Lela Nargi

Review by Bonnie Zink

As knitters we are most aware of the therapeutic and soothing nature of knitting. Knitting calms us during stressful moments. Knitting distracts us during times of strife. Knitting provides comfort when gifted to those in the throws of sorrow. Knitting shares a distinct part of our self and soul with those in need – whether that need be a part of the knitter or the recipient. Knitting Through It: Inspiring stories for times of trouble brings these very qualities of knitting from the past to our present, providing us with a timeless sense of tradition, community, and comfort.

The writings collected by Lela Nargi are facinating and promise to speak wisdom to knitters of all ages. The collection is a sampling of the WPA’s (Works Progress Administration) Federal Writer’s Project, which Nargi came across while idly searching the Internet. The WPA Federal Writer’s Project was born of the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States. The US government hired some 6500 unemployed writers to compile a documentary of narratives that would form the base for a composite and comprehensive portrait of the American experience. Almost 10 000 “life stories” were collected from men and women, rural and urban, old and young, black and white. Nargi began collecting those shorts and essays discussing knitting. These narratives provided a lyrical, poignant, and rich window to the past of who we were as the base of Nargi’s collection.

Nargi contemplates the question “Who knits and why?” Reading the the excerpts of the past with modern essays by Donna Druchunas, Sherri Wood, and eleven other knitters of today, we can easily see that who we were is who we are. Why we knit is open for interpretation and discussion. Nargi asserts that we knit to “…see us thorugh adversity of one fasion or another. “ Whether we face hardships, nurture bonds with fellow knitters, work our way through times of strife, find ourselves in need of earning income, or discover a need to keep our hands busy knitters remain constant from past to present.

The pages are sprinkled with photos and information of historical value that mirror the inspiration and hope of generations past. Samplings of patterns show the multi-faceted nature of modern and past knitters. Each short, essay, or excerpt tells of a knitter’s own experience with knitting in times of strife, often marked with adversity. Although the question of why we knit may not be so easily answered, Nargi expertly pulled from the past and present and shows us who knits. Knitters remain constant no matter the time frame or the situation.

I recommend this collection to anyone who wishes to discover the who and the why of knitting with a bit of caution: you might find some of yourself in the who which may lead to the discovery of your why and this will certainly end up with needles in your hands and yarns strung through your fingers.

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