You probably don't know this if you're not a knitter (or a bookseller), but the craft of knitting has a long tradition of literature. Not only how-to books, although there are certainly plenty of those. But even the most basic learn-to-knit book contains rumination on the craft, the art, the tradition. Most knitting books don't merely tell you how to knit: they also examine why we knit and what it means. No silly, not what the knitted product means; there are only so many ways to dissect a muffler or a sweater or a pair of mittens. Rather, knitters love to chew over what it means that we knit, the near-universality of the craft (Do you know how many cultures make garments by weaving threads together with the use of two sticks? Do you know how long humanity has been clothing itself in this manner? How's this for an answer: a way, way lot of them and since the days of yore. So there.)
And not only is knitting a near-universal among cultures, there is also something so, well, so zen about the whole thing. It's a meditative, be-here-now kind of activity, one which soothes and calms (when it's not inciting and infuriating, that is).
No wonder knitters write so much about knitting!
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the creator--she would probably say the perpetrator--of the Yarn Harlot blog, is one of the brightest, most original voices currently writing about knitting. All of her books contain stories, anecdotes and light philosophical musings; her latest, Free-Range Knitter is no exception. The essays in this collection are grouped loosely by subject matter, gathered together into chapters with headings such as "Yarn Over: Stories of Challenging People, Projects, and Knitters," and "Cast Off: Stories of Ends, Giving Up, and Living to Knit Another Day."
Pearl-McPhee is at her best and funniest when telling stories of her own failures. Sweaters with arms long enough to make a straitjacket, mufflers that are 6 inches wide at one end and 12 at the other, hats that start life as a ski cap and end as a three foot long stocking cap because she didn't know when to finish. She's also wonderful when giving knitting instruction--the one thing missing from this collection; her patterns are simple, easy-to-follow, and--of course--hilarious.
Definitely recommended for knitters...and who knows, if you're not a knitter this collection might make you want to pick up needles and start.