Monday, October 24, 2011

Answers, answers, answers

I was asked some deliciously difficult questions by people who stopped by my book-signing table at Rhinebeck. Difficult, not because I didn't have any answers, but because I had too many. People who know me know, too, that I have a tendency to gush information. It's a clear indication that I am grappling with a preponderance of answers, which are fighting to make their way out of my mouth. This may be one reason I write; I can tackle answers in a logical,  non-gushing sort of way and present them on the page in an orderly fashion. On this virtual page over the next few weeks, I'll be presenting some questions and answers inspired by conversations I had with some of you at Sheep & Wool about my book, Knitting Around the World.

First, though, an answer that takes care of a small matter of business. Some of you wanted to know how I could sign copies of the book that you'd already purchased. Answer: email me your snail mail address and I will send out signed bookplates sometime in the next few weeks. And yes, of course, this goes for copies of Astounding Knits, Knitting Memories, and absolutely any other book I've ever written.

Now on to larger answers.

Fingering-weight wool mittens, of a design that's common in Finland. Photo by Tuulia Salmela

The above photo, which appears in KAW in the Finland chapter, is my jumping-off point for another answer. What, a super-smarty and engaging knitter wanted to know, were some of the threads that tied the book together? This was a terrific question, and after gushing at its asker for about 20 minutes, I proceeded to think about it for the whole rest of that day. And for many days to come.

One answer is the eight-pointed star that decorates the backs of these mittens. As most knitters know, it's a motif that turns up through the centuries in the knitting of many parts of the world. But for me, it's a symbol of the movement of people. How did the star get around Scandinavia, the Baltics, Russia, Scotland? There's no coincidence here. The star traveled with people - people who knit, or wore knitting, or both.  Fishermen, tradesmen and -women, migrant workers, conquerors, merchants. From this one simple design we can begin to intuit the whole history of knitting, which is really just another way to look at the history of people: how and where they've lived, what they've worn and why, how they've made money, how they've responded to social conditions both good and bad.

There are other answers, of course. And other questions. Stay tuned, and meanwhile, if you  have any questions of your own you'd like me to address, send word!


JafaBrit's Art said...

ooooooooooo, those questions can really take one off guard, but I like your answer.

Margaret said...

As a knitter who quilts, I want you to know that the star -- the one on the mittens as well as other forms thereof -- is a popular and well-travelled quilting motif too. :-)

Lela said...

Yes, Margaret, that's true, and an upcoming post will discuss the cross-referencing of influences. JafaBrit - it's true! But also part of the fun (and yes, exhaustion) of getting out there and chatting with people. Coffee definitely essential, to keep a person on her toes...