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Knitting and Books? Why not!

In which I happily combine my love of books and knitting

The other day I saw a “challenge” going around the interweb called the Knitting Tag. Not sure why, exactly, but the idea is to take knitting terms as jumping-off points to talk about books. And about you.

I don’t do a lot of “get to know you posts” here, so this sounded like a fun post to do just that.

Say no more. I’m in! Just to get you in the mood, here’s a pic of the latest socks I made for myself. I wanted a pair to wear to my office job, hence the kinda boring colour, but the pattern was fun!

  1. Cast on: Getting the stitches on the needle. Prompt – the first place you visit in a bookstore. 

I always get sucked in by the Recently Published racks and tables at the front of the bookstore. And then I check out the sale tables. But the first section I visit once I’m past the front tables is Fantasy.

2. Knit: the act of joining yarn together using needles to make a fabric. Prompt: a super-hyped book that completely delivered for you. 

I’m not sure if Fonda Lee’s Jade City would be counted as “super-hyped” but it certainly got a lot of buzz. I really enjoyed this book – you can read my review of it here. This unique blend of urban fantasy that drew on both The Godfather and kung fu/The Matrix quickly got me interested. The great characters made it impossible to put down. The book won the World Fantasy Award and as well as an Aurora Award, and was shortlisted for many other prestigious awards. And, I’m happy to say, the author is Canadian. Yay! Always happy to promote my fellow Canadian writers!

3. Purl: A stich that takes a little more effort than a knit stitch and is sometimes avoided by knitting in the round. Prompt: A character that deserves more love.

Hmm. This one is tough. I enjoy it when authors take a secondary character and write a separate book or novella about them. For example, I loved Patrick Rothfuss’s The Slow Regard of Silent Things about Auri, a very interesting secondary character in The Kingslayer Chronicles. But it was a book I didn’t know I needed before I read it. So I’ll have to leave this one unanswered.

Any of you come across characters in books that you wish you knew more about, or had more “screen time”, so to speak, in a novel? Probably a secondary character of some sort?

4. Chart: a way of reading a knitting pattern using symbols, not words. Prompt: a book that you’ve wanted to read for a while. 

Oh, this one is easy. I’ve had Diana Gabaldon’s ninth book (!), Don’t Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, on my shelf since I got it for Christmas last year. Just this month I have finally cracked the spine and started reading it!

Second to that is Babel, by R.F. Kuang. I probably won’t get to it until after I finish Bees (I can only handle one huge tome at a time) but it’s definitely looming on the horizon.


5. Double-pointed needles: needles that have two points, used for knitting small-circumference items like socks. Prompt: A book series you can read out of order, AND a book series you shouldn’t read out of order. 

Out of order? What? Who does that?

6. Skein: a ball of yarn before it is wound into a ball. Prompt: a trope you can’t stand. (wait a minute, who is making these up, anyway? Skeins are not for HATE, they are for LOVE … anyway; I digress).

Another easy one. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I am oh so sick of the badass chick in fantasy fiction. I’m sorry, but no matter how much kung fu or fighting skills she has, an average-sized female is not taking down an average-sized male, never mind a group of men. I’m so sick of the tough-as-nails, independent, ya da ya da female. Look, ladies, I get it. We want to see characters that are not just foils or window dressing for the big strong man character. I’m all for that. But let’s not get so ridiculous, ok? Repeat after me: physical prowess and fighting skills are not the only way to be strong.

7. Gauge Swatch: a smaller piece of fabric knitted before starting the pattern in order to check if the garment will end up the right size. Prompt: an author who always does it for you.

You noticed I am currently reading the NINTH book of Diana Gabaldon’s series? Yup, she is obviously one of those. It’s not just (sigh) Jamie Fraser, the Scottish man who steals the heroine Claire’s heart (and the heart of every single other woman who reads the book) that is the attraction. Gabaldon has a wonderful way of making characters live on the page, and of drawing us into the historical setting they are living in. The time-travel aspect of the story is just icing on the cake. She makes these huge books work, and it’s a delight every time to dip back into her world and hang out with her characters.

But there are other authors who I can’t get enough of. C. S. Lewis, Tolkien (caveat, I have only read Lord of the Rings so I might change my mind if I ever get to the Simallarion), Susanna Clarke….plus a bunch more that are not fantasy writers but I’m trying to stick to fantasy, just to make it easier.

9. Stitch Markers: small rings you can slip on the needle between stitches as you are knitting to mark a spot in the pattern. Prompt: a book scene that’s stuck with you (no spoilers).

I cannot stop thinking about the climax of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. The climax was so perfect in so many ways that it brings me such delight to think about even now. What a perfect book that was for me. I’m so glad I finally read it last year.

10. Yarn weight: how many ounces or grams a skein or ball of yarn weighs. Prompt: someone who shares your taste in books.

I’d have to say my sisters. We all share similar tastes in books, which is great when it comes to recommending books to each other!

11. Cables: a knitting stitch that creates twisting, raised patterns on knitted fabric. It looks hard, but it isn’t! Prompt: A book you heard negative reviews for, but ended up loving/

Honestly, I don’t read too many books these days with negative reviews. I just don’t have time for reading books that don’t do it for me. I used to read every page of every book I started, even if I hated the book on page two. Not any more. I’ll give it a good shot, but if I don’t like it, I’m not finishing it.

12. That novelty yarn someone gifted you because they heard you like knitting, but it’s IMPOSSIBLE to work with. What’s a book that looked perfect for you on paper, but just didn’t work out?

Like many of you, I suspect I am part of a book club. A few years ago, I recommended we read Fifteen Dogs, by Andre Alexis. This book sounded perfect for me. A literary fable, it tells the story of the gods Hermes and Apollo, who grant human consciousness and speech to  fifteen dogs at a nearby humane shelter. This is because Apollo bets Hermes that any animal would be unhappier than humans are if they are given these gifts. Hermes accepts the bet, and thus the dogs are the beneficiaries.

It seemed like this book has everything I love. Beautifully written, a thoughtful plot that examines what it means to be human, and dogs with human consciousness. What could go wrong?

Well, let me count the ways. I don’t think I’ve loathed any book so much as I do this one. I still get mad about it when I think about it. Lest you think I’m an outlier, my whole book club hated it, too. It was after that book we all pledged that we wouldn’t finish a book if we weren’t enjoying it, even if it was the assigned book. You may read this book and love it. Many do! It’s won awards. But it was absolutely painful for me to read. If you want to know more, here’s my review of it.

13. Scarf: The perfect starter project. Recommend a good book to get into a genre or kind of book.

Probably many of you reading this blog enjoy historical fantasy, but if that is a genre that is new to you, I am very happy to recommend Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. The first book, HIs Majesty’s Dragon, is aptly described as “The Napoleonic War, with dragons.” Fabulous characters, stellar writing, wonderful world-building. I loved all the books in the series and am waiting impatiently for Peter Jackson to make these into a TV series or movie (as he has the rights to them).

Well, that was fun! If you have any books that came to mind as you read through these prompts, please share! I’d love to hear how you would answer these questions, too. And as a bonus, here’s the original video that started the knitting book tag!