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Knitterly Authors…

February 18, 2011

I have often wondered if Knitting Literature ought to be an official sub-genre under Fiction. The number of authors using knitting within their work is growing at a steady pace. Fiction and non-fiction both have a plethora of sub-genres beneath them that house many written works. Is there room for just one more: Knitting Fiction.

I am an avid reader and will read almost anything that is set in front of me. My favourite works are those where knitting plays a large role in both the plot and character formation. Knitting is a central theme or motif, it influences the formation characters, has lent itself to the development of scene and local colour, has served to strengthen a plot, and has even been placed in the starring role of the book on the whole. This is how I would define this new genre – should it ever exist.

I have begun to wonder if the pool of authors who use knitting in their fiction are actually knitters themselves and whether these works belong in a designation all to themselves. I have discovered that many of the knitterly authors I am highlighting here are indeed knitters. This is an exciting and unexpected added bonus of information gleaned from my searching for authors who could belong to this new genre.

I began my quest to answer these questions with the internet: Google knows all, Twitter reaches all, Facebook connects us all and email groups inform us all. I first queries Google to find out if Knitting Fiction as a genre actually existed; it doesn’t. I then queried my Tweeps and wondered openly amongst my Facebook friends and family if knitting fiction was deserving of its own place in the grand organization of literature. I even posed the question to the largest knitting email list there is: The KnitList.

Google told me of at least 24 authors who actively produce works within the mystery, cozy mystery, contemporary fiction, paranormal fiction, and humour genres. I expanded my search to include any books that included needlework as a key component of their fiction and found the number of working authors at least triple. (However, I’d like to stick with those dealing only with knitting in this particular post.)The one constant my searches made me aware of is the number of authors dealing with knitting in this manner is continually growing and their works are many. Most authors have several works in print and knitting plays a large role in each of them. Google was unable to provide a satisfactory answer to my original question, so…

I spent some time with my Tweeps and posed the question of whether or not they felt knitting deserves its own genre. The result is torn. Approximately 50% voted for yes and for no. Facebook brought only a few answer to my query and those that replied were undecided or didn’t care about genre at all they just wanted to read well written stories. Opinions varied and a conclusive answer was not found, so…

I distributed my question to The Knitlist’s 10, 228 members (as of the time of this writing). My knitterly cohorts responded well to my query. I also asked them to name their favourite knitterly author as well as explain why they enjoyed this author. Of course, the Yarnharlot (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) topped many knitter’s Humour Writing List. But, Debbie Macomber, Anne Hood, Adrienne Martini, and Kate Jacobs took their place of honour on many a reader’s Favourite List.

Other authors working in the knitting sub-genre include: Mary Kruger (mystery), Franklin Habit (humour cartoonist), Michelle Edwards (non-fiction), Jessica Hemmings (non-fiction), Maggie Sefton (mystery), Monica Ferris (mystery), Sally Goldenbaum (fiction), Beth Patillo (fiction), Elizabeth Lenhard (fiction), Anne MacDonald (non-fiction; history), Lela Nargi (essays about knitting), Leanne Dyck (fiction), Anne Bartlett (fiction), Gil McNeil (fiction), Barbara Bretton (mystery), Mary Ellen Hughes (mystery), and Anne Canadeo (mystery) – to name only a few. Most authors have a blog, a website, and can be found on a number of social media sites. It seems, though, that all of these authors are indeed knitters.

My brief adventure into the land of knitting, authorship, and genre has only partially answered my original question, “Should Knitting Literature have its own sub-genre within the two main genres of fiction and non-fiction?” I have, though, found myself with more questions to ponder:

I have a number of books to read that I consider worthy of being housed within a Knitting Literature genre. Where do I begin?

Many knitters are also writers. Is there a strong correlation between the two activities? Do all authors of Knitting Literature also knit?

Are you a fan of works that may fall under the Knitting Literature genre?

Who is your favourite knitting author (and why)?

I remain undecided on this issue, but am heartened by the number of knitters who have become authors and use knitting within their works. I remain undecided if there are enough authors writing with knitting in mind to even create a new genre. But I will always hope that knitting and authorship will continue to grow and one become a literary genre worthy of official placement within the literary world’s organization of authors and their works.

Happy stitching!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Diana Hirsch permalink
    February 20, 2011 5:55 pm

    Mysteries, primarily about a topic other than knitting but which contain knitting content (varying from some to significant), are often described as “cosy.” This subgroup includes quilting, cooking, and various arts or crafts. That sounds like a great description to me. Other books may have a line or two about knitting (Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, for instance), but don’t seem to have sufficient knitting content to make a difference. I am not well acquainted with too many other genres. But I don’t believe it pays to get too detailed.

    • February 21, 2011 11:04 am

      Hi Diana!

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment on the “cozy mystery.”

      It seems that this genre usually involves a wholesome main character who is complete with “quirks” or eccentricities that bring them to life. Amateur sleuthing usually leads to resolution where the crime is solved by someone readers can easily relate to – a knitter, quilter, etc. In the end, the criminal is punished and order is restored to the quaint and picturesque community that the story is set within.

      Maybe knitting literature does belong here. Although, not all knitting literature that I’ve read involves a mystery of sorts. Where do these works belong?

  2. June 4, 2011 9:22 am

    Great post Bonnie! Knitting can be a very useful metaphor in fiction, especially for knitting together the strands of a mystery. I like weaving too – and braiding. They’re all “yarns” of one kind or another!

    • June 4, 2011 10:02 am

      Thanks, Marie. So many writers/authors use knitting (and food) as a way to enhance characters, plots, and action in their work. Many knitters are also authors and many authors also knit, weave, spin, crochet… I’ve often wondered about the connection and have concluded that creative personalities find outlets for this energy in everyday pursuits…like the fibre arts!

      Thanks for stopping by and happy stitching/writing.

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