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Book Review: In the Loop: Knitting Now edited by Jessica Hemmings

In the Loop: Knitting Now ed by Jessica Hemmings, Black Dog Publishing, 2010. 192 pp.

In the Loop is a collection of essays regarding knitting and its applications in current culture, drawn from the In The Loop conference in 2008.

This isn’t a pattern or how-to book;  rather, it provides thoughtful snapshots of different opinions on knitting and why it can mean more than simply creating fabric with string and sticks.

The book is divided into four different sections:

  • Rethinking Knitting
  • Narrative Knits
  • Site and Sight:  Activist Knitting
  • Progress: Looking Back

Each section has 4-6 essays written by different contributors.

This isn’t a book that one is meant to read, cover to cover, in a couple sittings.  Rather, it seems best to skim and browse, stopping to read in depth when a particular essay grabs you.  Some of the essays rely heavily on accompanying images; others, such as the essay “Spinning Straw Into Gold:  The ‘New’ Woman in Contemporary Knit Lit”, focusing on, obviously, knitting and the written word, lack any illustrations.

That essay was one of my favorites.  Jo Turney begins by contrasting the use of knitting by characters in older mysteries (Agatha Christie, etc) with the more overt, central, and even aggressive use of knitting, knitting needles, etc in current ‘Knit Lit’ mysteries such as those by Maggie Sefton, Mary Kruger, and Monica Ferris.  Though Turney does say these particular mysteries are lighthearted rather hardboiled  or gritty, she never refers to them as “Cosies“, which is the particular mystery subgenre to which I’d consider these books belonging.  She next discusses what she terms ‘Chick Knit Lit’, Chick Lit with a knitting theme, which she considers having  a more youthful audience than the mystery books.

Another essay I particularly enjoyed was Jeannette Sendler’s “Finding Your Way Home”, in which she shows images from her knitted installation of the same name, using the concept of knitting as timekeeping.  She used shetland wool in what appears to either be natural colors or subtle dyed colors.  The images of her knitting are lovely, reminding me of sea creatures and kelp that would surround the Shetland Islands.

In “Keep & Share”, Amy Twigger Holroyd discusses her company of the same name.  She does more than simply design knitwear;  she’s hoping to inspire an awareness of sustainability and self-sufficiency.  In 2009 she traveled to various festivals with her ‘knitting tent’ where they “got hundreds of people knitting”.  Most of the accompanying images are of garments from her company, but she also has a few from the knitting tent.

This is an interesting and thought-provoking book, recommended if you want to see knitting as more than just a craft.

I received this book from the publisher.

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