Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Review - Follow the Yarn

I recently found myself saying yes to the opportunity to review an as-yet unpublished book called Follow the Yarn by Reba Linker which chronicles the writer’s experiences while taking a beginner knitting class at the Central Queen’s Y from teacher Ann Sokolowski.  Part philosophy, part technical manual, part biography and part autobiography, the book started as a means to preserve the knitting wisdom passed onto students but morphed into so much more.

As a knitting book, it isn’t a comprehensive “how-to” like many of the other big name books on the subject and the author freely admits that there are gaps in the content.  For example, there is almost no discussion of how to cast on and only a passing discussion of blocking; the reader is instead pointed to the internet to consult online tutorials. In contrast, there are whole sections dedicated to the technique of working a handful of different stitches.  The book goes on to cover such topics as increasing and decreasing, binding off, the sources and properties of various fibres, a discussion of different needles and my personal favourite, why you should pull yarn from the middle of the ball.

One of the things I found most interesting is that Ann taught Continental style knitting rather than the English style (called American style in the text) which is more common in North America.  As a result, the text and graphics around how to work the basic knit and purl stitch support this Continental style and I think would be of limited use to the average North American, English style knitter.  That being said, there is no reason not to learn another technique and in fact, many good reasons to at least have a nodding acquaintance with “the other” style.   

But if you already know how to knit; if you already have a foundation in the mechanics of sticks and string there is a surprising wealth of information in this book.  In many cases, I already knew the tip being presented.  In some cases, I was aware but hadn’t really verbalized it.  Others were totally new – something exciting for me after 13 years of knitting!  There is a good section on working seams and how to engineer the edges of your knitting to lie flat and therefore to have a better seam, a discussion of what should be in your knitting bag and an interesting exploration of the theme and variations of a simple basket weave stitch.

Knitting however, is only part of the story.  A great deal of this book is Ann’s story; her life and the events that made her who she was as told by Reba.  It isn’t a biography in the traditional sense.  There is no examination of her childhood, though there are a few photos.  There is a brief mention of her professional life that left me wanting to know more.  This is really about Ann’s knitting life which spilled over into her professional life and coloured everything. 

The real surprise though is what the book did for the author.   What started as a project to tell Ann’s story became a means to allow Reba to work through some long-standing issues of her own.  Sometimes painfully raw, you can see the hurt and the healing happening.  Some of what I came to think of as “Reba’s Story” becomes repetitive but by the end of the book, you don’t remember the repetition.  You remember a gift of healing, a gift of being seen, of being heard and of being valued.  You have a sense that you know Ann, a gruff New Yorker with a heart of gold. Finally, there is a great sense of peace, and you just know that your knitting is going to get better.

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Follow the Yarn will be published in paperback this fall, and will be available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com 

Until then, readers can get a pdf copy of Follow the Yarn by donating as little as $5 to our Indiegogo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/follow-the-yarn/x/3505993 (campaign ends July 9), or they can get a FREE CHAPTER of Follow the Yarn by signing up at: http://eepurl.com/A6w8v   (emails will be kept strictly confidential - they will NEVER be given to a third party)

Last but not least, readers can learn more at http://www.RebaLinker.com

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