Deborah Bergman,
The Knitting Goddess
(Hyperion, 2000)

The Knitting Goddess is as much about the author's personal search for meaning in her life as it is about knitting. Knitting and fiber arts have helped her through various events in Deborah Bergman's life. Thinking about the stories of goddesses and women associated with fiber arts have helped her understand how and why her knitting soothes and recreates and teaches her about who she is.

The book also contains some simple patterns for projects a beginning knitter could tackle as learning tools and a more experienced knitter could work up just for fun. They include a stole, a scarf, a turtleneck pullover, a shrug, a round baby blanket and others. Interspersed with the patterns and tied to each of them are Deborah's versions of a variety of "goddess" stories, including tales of women from myth and folklore that she includes under the heading of "goddess," and her interpretation of how these "knitting goddesses" relate to the creative act knitters engage in.

Without the stories and personal interpretations this would be just a book of simple patterns. I would recommend it as such -- Deborah includes a variety of projects, good instructions and very nice illustrations. The stories, however, add an extra element of richness to this book.

I cut my reading teeth on volumes full of world mythology, and was at least familiar with the names of the characters here. What I found were familiar stories in unfamiliar settings. Deborah added her own "spin" to the tales and interpreted them in ways that have meaning to her own journey. I don't have to agree with the tales or the interpretations to appreciate them and use them as starting places for my own play of thought and interpretation. And they do make me think.

For instance, her discussion of Isis and the reasons she used the color red for the Isis stole made me want to grab a skein of red yarn from my stash and cast on, even though I rarely knit with or wear red.

It also got me thinking about the color red and why I have any in my knitting stash at all. Ten years ago I would not have been able to find find a skein of red in what was, even then, an extensive stash. I disliked working with red. It made me feel angry and I would not work with it until my grandmother requested that I knit her a vest in that color. On the way home from her house that day I stopped at the yarn store and bought sufficient skeins of the brightest, reddest red I could find.

For several weeks I worked on this vest and I learned to love that red yarn because it was expressing my love for my grandmother. When I presented the finished object to her she practically cried with joy. She wore that vest to every family gathering and for every special occasion until she died. I saw the pride in her eyes and heard it in her voice when she told people her granddaughter made it for her.

When she died the vest came back to me. Sometimes I wear it (with lots of blue or green or black) to honor the grandmother who helped me learn to love a color.

Memories like the red vest are the kind of thing Deborah's book encouraged me to think about as I read it. The memories and the experiences that made me the kind of knitter and the kind of person I am today are topics this book points to. My stories are different, but I can recognize them in her stories.

For those who are not knitters, but are interested in the craft, Deborah includes well illustrated instructions on how to begin. Her projects are presented in order of difficulty and would form the foundation for a well organized basic knitting course.

The book works well as just a general good read, even if you have no plans to knit. It will be less interesting to people who do not work with fiber, but it might spark an interest where none existed before.

[ by Jaeza Riley ]

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