[amazon_link id="1603420622" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is really, really funny, and really, really insightful. No, that's not the beginning and end of the review, though it could be. The two books in question are: Things I Learned from Knitting Whether I Wanted to Or Not, and Free-Range Knitter.
I started with Things I Learned..., and read it every night at bedtime for several nights. And every single night I was reading it, I startled my husband out of a light sleep with my laughing at least once. (Fortunately, he's one of those lucky souls that goes right back to sleep and doesn't remember the disruption...)
I didn't plan to become a knitter. As a little girl, my mother tried to teach me to knit, and I knit a square or two, maybe even a scarf (I distinctly remember learning to purl and being frustrated by the process, but I was six or seven, how do I remember that?) then gave the whole thing up as a bad habit. My mother was ultra, super, mega domestic. She was a college educated woman who was a stay at home mom who cooked, cleaned, was a gifted seamstress, a decent knitter, designed the house we lived in during my childhood, and never seemed to run out of energy.
To say I ran away from that is an understatement. My mother made the mistake of leaving Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique where I could find it when I was about twelve, and I never looked back. Housework? Not problem. Cooking? Only when I feel like it. Sewing? Only buttons or hems, and only if I had to. Knitting? You gotta be kidding me!
So I ran away from domesticity, right into … gardening and social work. Hmmm. Two marriages and twenty years later, I still won't clean house until under duress, but cooking is something I do without a shotgun pointed at me on occasion, and I invested in a very nice Janome sewing machine last year that I still under-utilize.
Knitting. We were talking about knitting. Anyhow, back in 2008, I picked up some squeaky yarn and a bunch of crochet hooks, vaguely thinking I needed a new hobby. On a whim, I grabbed a couple of aluminum knitting needles, too. I also grabbed Debbie Stoller's Stitch and Bitch and Stitch and Bitch Crochet: the Happy Hooker. I still recommend both of them as nearly ideal beginning knitting and crochet books.
[amazon_link id="B0041T4QL0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]A whole season and a lot of crocheted scarves later, I decided to pick up that second book and tackle knitting. I hated it. Hated it. Every time I made a mistake, I frogged my work all the way back and started over. Crochet was so much easier for me! But there was this one scarf I really wanted to make, and it was knit, soooo.... I persevered. And I spent the time I needed to learn to un-knit. Once I could pretty easily fix my mistakes, I accidentally discovered the joys of knitting... and haven't looked back.
Pearl-McPhee acknowledges the addictive nature of knitting in both books. Heck, she revels in it. Yarn stashing, needle hoarding, UFO creation (unfinished objects, in knit-speak). All of the classic signs of addiction. She also discusses the benefits of knitting with regard to the nearly meditative state one can achieve while knitting. She points out its many uses, not least of which are the prevention of violence against husband and children.
In the second book, Free-Range Knitting, she delves into other peoples' stories more and brings the knit community into the mix. Her stories are warm and loving and sometimes gut-bustingly funny, and each is worth reading on its own terms. And for those of us who found our knit community after finding knitting, the love of our fellow knitters rings true. We develop deep friendships, true friendships, over balls of yarn and knots and a table scattered with tools and books and UFOs. Both joy and tragedy happen.
One of the best things about the Yarn Harlot books is that there is no meanness in them anywhere. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is clearly a generous soul, light hearted even in her self-depreciating humor. And the best thing of all? In addition to the two books I reviewed, (which you really, really should read, if you love knitting or knitters or both) is that she has not only written several more books, she also keeps a blog which is just as gentle and loving and gut-bustingly funny as her books.
Buy the books and share them with your knit group. Keep one in your knit bag for those unfortunate moments when you run out of yarn or worse, don't have the right needles with you. You'll be glad you did.