25 January 2009

Book review: Knittishisms, by Rebel Knitter


I walked into Romni Wools the other day and searched their large wall of knitting books for a good ten minutes without finding what I wanted. Finally I walked up to the counter and told the clerk I was looking for a book.

Before I could go on, she prompted, "Is it about a specific technique, or is it by a certain designer?"

"Not exactly," I said. "It's about the intersection of Judaism, yoga, and knitting."

The clerk started to mumble something apologetic, so I added, "It has a knitted picture of Che Guevera on the front."

"Oh, Che!" she said. "Yeah, that should be on the right-hand side. I have to tend cash, but ask someone on the floor if you need more help."

In a nutshell, that's Knittishisms. For all the "hip" pattern books that are still coming out, for all the punk posings of various bloggers, knitting is still trying to get itself out of that evil mire known as "hobby," in the sense of something one does because one has too much leisure time and not enough imagination. People forget that at its heart, it's both a craft and a folk art, "folk" being in the sense that it belongs to everyone.

Knittishisms: the Zen of Jewish Knitting shows how knitting gets expressed by Rosanne Bernard (aka Rebel Knitter). She writes about how knitting fits in with her personal history, culture, spirituality, motherhood. She includes patterns for Righteous Lids, and charts for a Star of David, the famous Emma Goldman quote "If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution," and of course that magnificently-rendered Che. There's also a pattern for a knitted engineer's ring — to be worn by knitters so they remember to make their creations well-crafted in the full sense of the term.

Along the way we get to see photos of the ever-flexible Beryl Tsang striking yoga poses with knitting materials, a good working definition of trayf yarn, and a crash course in Yiddish.

The whole conglomeration is joyous, celebratory, and infectious enough that when I showed it to some of my non-knitting friends, they got smiles out of it too.

I just wish the title was on the spine. It would have saved me twenty minutes of floundering around at Romni. I could have had time to browse the bargain bin! Maybe The Society for the Propagation of Fibre P*rnography can start an ongoing action of rearranging the copies on sale so that they face cover-out from the shelf.

Rebel Knitter has a Knittishishms blog if you want to learn how to find the book in real life.

Disclaimer: I belong to the same knitting group the author does — The Society for the Propagation of Fibre P*rnography.

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