Sunday, January 30, 2011

Swimming Out Of Solitude

As writers, we spend most of our writing lives in solitude, working alone, lost in imaginary worlds that take us far from our homes, our friends, our communities.

It can be daunting, not just the work itself, but the intense solitude that comes with the work, despite the pleasure that the words bring and despite the satisfaction that comes with telling a story, if only to one’s self.

But sometimes words and stories aren’t enough. We need to seek out the company of others to support and sustain us, not just for relief from our work and the solitude that comes with it, but for the pleasure of conversations, and for the delight that comes from sharing common interests with friends.

Some writers take up painting and search for classes to learn a new art. Others sign up for photography classes. And some writers, like Michelle Edwards, seek out the companionship and community that can be found in the company of knitters.

It was Edwards’ love of knitting and her desire to find a nurturing community that led to her newest book, A Knitter’s Home Companion, which is a love-song that she’s written to knitting and the process of forming a community around her life-long passion of shaping strands of wool into hats, scarves, sweaters, socks, mittens, and even egg warmers.

An award-winning picture book writer and illustrator, Edwards comes from a family of knitters, and she inherited the gift of “magic hands” from her mother and aunt. She began knitting as a child, and no matter where she’s lived during her life– whether in upstate New York, on a kibbutz in Israel, or in her current home in Iowa–she’s always managed to create a community for herself through her love of knitting.

At times she loves to knit so much, it seems, she can’t stop:
Many, many times, I have knit, as my good friend Esther likes to say, my mouth shut.

I have knit just to see the colors change. Just to feel the movement of my needles.

I have knit while walking, talking, reading, stopping at train crossings, waiting in checkout lanes, traveling on planes, and riding in cars.

I have knit by candlelight. By flashlight. During snowstorms. Tornadoes. Floods. I have knit thinking about the big questions. And I have knit thinking about what to make for dinner.
You’ll find that A Knitter’s Home Companion is more than a collection of stories that Edwards has written about her love of knitting.

She includes knitting patterns, cooking recipes, and books to read, and the structure and layout of the book offers readers an intimate sense of what it might actually feel like to sit in a room with other knitters and listen as they share the stories of their lives, along with favorite recipes, books to read, and patterns to knit.

In the process of knitting these stories, recipes, and patterns together, Edwards manages to show us how she’s knitted a life for herself around knitting, and how other writers might find a way to swim out of solitude, knitting for ourselves a nurturing, supportive community of friends out of our own interests and passions.

For more information about A Knitter’s Home Companion, visit:

If you'd like more information about Edwards and her work, visit:

And to read an interview with Edwards (on wordswimmer a few years ago), visit:

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