Tuesday, March 10, 2009

REVIEW: Knitting The Threads of Time

Knitting The Threads of Time: Casting Back to the Heart of Our Craft
by Nora Murphy
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: New World Library (February 10, 2009)


While I do love to read, knitting usually takes priority over my time and I do not read anywhere near as often - or as fast - as I would like. However, there are times when certain books come along and they truly capture you. Knitting the Threads of Time is one of those books.

I received Knitting the Threads of Time in January and its been sitting in my ever growing "to be reviewed" pile, just waiting for me to get to it. Opportunity struck when I grabbed it on the go to a hair appointment and I've had a hard time putting it down ever since!

These days, you simply just have to take a look around or pull out your current work in progress in public to be instantly be reminded of just how many lives our craft touches. I've had complete strangers approach me while knitting in public to ask what I'm working on, thus striking up conversations of handmade gifts, fiber arts, local yarn shops and more. I've also often had many non-knitting friends stop to ask about what I'm doing and get a closer look, only to open up about a favorite handknit item gifted to them long ago by a beloved Grandmother or to tell me about their relative or other friend who knits that I simply must meet.

In our current era of uncertainty over the economy, war, global warming and violence, one thing seems certain. Across the country, more and more people are picking up needles and creating handmade gifts for their loved ones. Its not out of necessity, as it was many years ago when Mothers had no other means to provide socks and garmets for their families, but more out of longing for some other meaning. Perhaps for some its a spiritual connection, for others its routed in deep family traditions and for others still, its simply something fun and hip to do.

Knitting the Threads of Time begins with a request from the author's young son for a handknit sweater and continues, taking the reading on a journey through the entire process - complete with all the frustrations, joys and tears. The book is creativley organized into four sections: The Back, The Sleeves, The Front and The Neck. Through these four sections, readers will watch the sweater - and more - evolve through one amazing fall and winter season.

I could go on and on telling you what a wonderful tale is being told in Knitting the Threads of Time New and that you should run right out to get it, but instead I will share with you the following excerpt which New World Library has graciously allowed me to print. Enjoy it... I know you'll be hooked and longing to read more!

Knitting the Threads of Time
by Nora Murphy

A woman sits in her comfy chair. Two needles and a ball of yarn keep her company. She’s knitting away at something. Maybe a scarf? Socks? She enjoys the sound of her needles beating like a soft drum. She inhales the smell of the waxy yarn. She exhales the satisfaction of watching a single strand transform into an object of beauty. She is perfectly present, in perfect bliss.

This is not a revolutionary act. It is not a moment to record in the history books. All the same, this woman is a revolutionary. She, and millions of women around the globe like her, are making history in their homes. They are creating clothing for loved ones. They are the grandmother who knits a Christmas stocking for her grandchild, the young mother who stitches a star quilt to honor an elder, the two seventh graders who crochet a baby blanket for a teacher’s newborn.

Their craft often has to be wedged into the harried schedules and nonstop demands of modern life. The grandmother knits in the hospital waiting room while she awaits the results of her husband’s surgery, his third. The young mother penny-pinches time and money to piece together the dozens of diamonds that will become a star. The preteens’ work competes with homework, pimples, and text messages from boys they haven’t yet kissed.

What these modern artists often don’t see are the remnants of an ancient lineage to which they belong. The grandmother, the young mother, and the girls are all descendants of the women around the globe who have transformed fibers into clothing to protect their families for tens of thousands of years. They are the heirs to goddesses who understood that human survival depends on the cloth. These ancients — from China to Egypt, from Peru to the Pacific Northwest — understood that clothing contains the power of creation. The modern knitter is no different. She too, replicates the act of creation; she too keeps the child, the clan, the community alive.

In North America, most of today’s needle artists don’t have to worry that our children will go cold if we don’t finish the sock, the quilt, or the blanket. We have the luxury of buying most of our clothes at big chain stores at the local mall.

We choose freely to make garments. Yet by this choice, contemporary crafters keep the ancient tradition going — a tradition that reminds us of our primal existence on this precious earth, that reminds us where we’ve come from and who we are.

Inside a stitch, just a single knitted stitch, lies the paradox of the ordinary, everyday textile hero. Her simple stitch helps keep the story of humanity alive; her work casts on stitches for the next generation.

I am a modern-day knitter, though I admit this hesitantly. The domestic sciences have never been my strong suit. I nearly flunked home economics in high school. We started with cooking, but my assignments resulted in burned objects destined more often for the trash can than the table. I didn’t fare much better when we started sewing. I loved the idea of making my own clothes, but I couldn’t figure out how to thread the bobbin without swearing or slicing my finger. I couldn’t cut fabric on the bias. Lacking domestic skills didn’t much matter until I had children of my own — children who need three meals a day, every day, who need clothes to keep them warm in the long winter months.

Despite my domestic demerits, I’m the one in charge of my household, which includes middle schooler Andrew, first grader Evan, and my partner and the boys’ good friend, Diego. Everyone pitches in: Evan takes out the recycling, Andrew cleans the downstairs bathroom, Diego folds the laundry. Still, under my management, the house is often cluttered, and dinner rarely gets four stars. There’s just one domestic art that doesn’t stump me — knitting. It’s not that I’m very good at it. It just doesn’t scare me the way cooking and cleaning do.

Last winter I managed to make wool socks for Evan and Andrew. It had been years since I had knit. I was surprised that none of the basic dance steps with the yarn and two knitting needles had left me. I remembered how to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off without having to think — a bicycle kind of thing. Plus knitting, unlike sewing, has no bias. Knitting welcomes everyone, and the yarn goes any direction you tell it to.

From the book, Knitting the Threads of Time © Copyright 2009 by Nora Murphy. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.

About the Author: Nora Murphy is a freelance writer who specializes in writing for nonprofit organizations in the urban communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Her stories and essays have appeared in such places as the anthology Twelve Branches (Coffee House Press, 2003). She holds an MFA degree in writing from Hamline University. She lives in St. Paul.


Turtle said...

interesting read....may have to put it on my library list!

gypsyknits said...

Thank you for the review. Going on my list of reads-to-be.

SissySees said...

Thanks for that! It sounds interesting...

Sue said...

Sound like something I need to move to the top of the list.

Nancy @ the Jersey Shore said...

Thank you! What a great review. I will look for this book at the libray. Like you, knitting has taken over my reading time. This might be one I can read. The author sounded like me in high school home ec and sewing...it was not my forte at all.

Joanne said...

Thanks, you just cemented my decision, I am running run up to the library to put my name on a list of "waiters"! There are more Knitters out there than we think!!!! Horay!!

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