Wow. I met Karen Kullgren at the Gaithersburg Book Festival last summer, and now she’s written a lovely profile of yours truly for Washington Parent magazine. Thanks, Karen!
1. What did you discover in researching this book that readers will be excited to learn?
The power of groups: working together seems to amplify knitters’ enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm is infectious. I found several examples of a group, working together, achieving something that no individual knitter could imagine producing–such as a knitted Ferrari!
2. What differentiates this book from any other book on this subject?
Group Projects. 99.9% of knitting patterns are written for an individual knitter. All the patterns in this book are intended to be knitted by groups, ranging from two or three buddies, to groups of twenty or more. For example, the Striped Kimono is made of “strips” of knitted material, all from different hands, that are pieced together to make a jacket with no shaping. The Odds and Ends Hats are made by pooling everyone’s leftovers to come up with exciting combinations of textures and colors. And the Friendship Scarves are like a drinking game – except that you end up with no hangover and a warm neck!
3. What is the thing that the media will find most interesting about the book?
Hmmm… How it became a wildly popular bestseller??? (fingers crossed!)
I think that people will be interested in the many angles on “knitting circles.” It’s not just about upper-middle-class American women congregating in coffee shops. There is a story about the work that FINCA Peru is doing using microfinance to help handcrafters in South American lift themselves out of poverty (Fighting Poverty with Art by Suzyn Jackson). There is the story of the “Knit a River” campaign that produced over a mile of knitted fabric which was carried through the streets of London to promote awareness of water poverty (A Knitted River by Graham Turnbull). And there’s the moving account of how one writer’s interest in knitting allowed her to forge a bond with her emotionally remote grandmother (My Bubbie, My Barbie by Meira Drazin).
4. Tell me about the photography in the book.
Many of my favorite photographs, such as the one of the ladies laughing on the back cover, are by my husband, Alvaro J. Gonzalez. There is a mix of photography throughout the book, mostly coming from the subjects of the essays themselves.
5. How long have knitting circles been part of a nationwide trend?
Longer than there has been a nation! In my essay, A Stroll through Knitting Circles Past, I talk about the role that knitting circles played in the American Revolution – let’s just say they helped our young patriots believe that they could exist as an independent nation. There’s also the story of the very different role that some knitters played in the French Revolution, the bloodlust of Les Tricoteuses.
6. Where within the United States is the heaviest concentration of knitting circles?
There are knitters everywhere, around the globe. And as Jacque Landry points out in her essay, Knit’s a Small World After All, they are connecting more than ever over the internet. While knitting circles have a history dating back to the Elizabethan age, they are firmly situated in our Web 2.0 world.
7. What is your personal involvement with the subject?
I have been knitting since I was eight, but mainly as a solitary pursuit. In my 20s, a friend asked me to teach her how to knit, and I began to realize how my solo hobby could open the door to a whole community.
8. What is your favorite part of the book?
Every part!! Oh, if I have to choose, there are three bits that really stand out for me. The first is a poem (My Friend’s Song by Sue Hawley) that was written for my mother. It still makes me choke up a bit. Then there’s Doug Brandt’s A Knitter’s Tale, a funny story of his misadventures on the path to finding his “knitting circle of two.” finally there’s the Tree of Life. I came up with the idea of a knitted tree to complement the knitted river, but my first attempt looked more like a knitted bonsai. I ended up enlisting the help of knitters around North America, who sent me beautiful knitted leaves. I worked up the trunk, and appliquéd the whole thing to a burlap panel – and the result is spectacular, if I do say so myself.
9. Is there anything else that you would like to add about the subject or the book?
You can contact me via this website, suzynjackson.com, or on Ravelry (I’m “knitsurf.”) I can’t wait to hear how people are using the ideas in the book!