knitting in literature

I am a knitter by hobby and profession, occasionally. I’ve sold a few hats to friends and family. But this week’s adventure in yarn is strictly pro bono. My dear little sister is turning twelve and I’ve promised her a hat, scarf and wristlet [“texting gloves” as she calls them, kids these days] forever. But I didn’t want to do a solid color because it would a little matchy-matchy old lady on a sprightly twelve year old. And I thought variegated would suit the simple ribbing hat and scarf I was doing but I wanted to do a cabled wristlet to be more secure on her hands and I think anything that is not tone-on-tone or solid in cabling looks severely jumbled.

So I happened upon this lovely self striping yarn that will make narrow stripes on the hat, thick stripes on the scarf and really chunky, almost just a variant fade on each wristlet.

I’ve been furiously knitting, which I rarely do. I quickly knit, haphazardly knit, and even adeptly knit, but rarely furiously knit. But as I was furiously counting stitches, picking up stitches, realizing I should’ve done a 1×1 rib instead of 2×2 and starting over, I thought about how some of my favorite books feature knitting as a act of a character.

Most famously, the villain of  A Tale of Two Cities, Madame DeFarge, “knits” names of those who she will have killed or led to their death. She creepily echos the Greek image of the Fates spinning life threads only to cut them short.

Knitting’s sinister nature can be more direct too. In The Lorax, the environmental crises is causes by the want for the wool [not to far from “wood”] that some trees provide.

In The Adventures of Homer Price, a woman who knits and collects yarn in a ball arranges a contest between her two suitors and her self to see her has the long ball of yarn. The suitors agree that who loses must step aside for the other to marry the woman. Of course, the woman wins [by unraveling the bottom of her skirt no less!]

Anne of Green Gables in on of her finest and silliest predicaments spills milk I believe, or soup, into a basket of yarn because she was pretending to be a nun in prayer. Ironically, she gets scolded more for pretending to be Catholic than ruining the yarn.

Of course sometimes, knitting is just for amusement, as Mrs. Smith cites in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.


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Filed under British, Literature

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