Friday, September 08, 2006


For knitting, the row’s the thing; for poems, it’s the foot and the line.
But whether stitching or rhyming, don’t cast your purls before swine.
(all will become clear next week . . . )

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Knitting vs. Embroidery

I just finished reviewing a new novel by Morag Joss entitled Puccini's Ghosts. Who'd have thought that a suspense novel about a doomed theatrical production would have something interesting to say about knitting? But here it is:

"I fish out my counted cross-stitch. I never travel without it. . . . A lot of people in my business [opera singing] take it up, either that or knitting; it fills gaps in rehearsals and stops you eating. Knitting's not for me. I always feel there's something improbable about a single strand of yarn evolving into a garment. Trusting balls of wool to become cardigans leaves too much to chance. By contrast, there is no leeway in cross-stitch. A piece of cross-stitch is a transparent promise. There are rules. The pattern is counted out and waiting. The threads are coded, a symbol for each colour. No interpretation is required and nothing is hidden."

Interestingly enough, at Knitsmiths last week, Thea and I agreed that we don't much care for embroidery, that it is too much open to interpretation. I guess counted cross-stitch is radically different from, say, embroidering daisies on a sweater or smiley faces on a dinosaur, but coming across this passage in my book has got me thinking. Is there a fundamental difference in personality between those who are drawn to embroidery and those who enjoy knitting?

My grandmother made amazing needlepoint designs, but never cared to learn how to knit beyond scarves. I recently met another woman who spends whole days doing extremely intricate counted cross-stitch but expressed genuine admiration of my ability to knit a sock. Meanwhile, I've got The New Crewel book sitting on my shelf. It really appeals to my aesthetic sense, and I'd love to try the designs--in theory--but I have yet to take the plunge and start one (or even to order the necessary wools and fabric).

So, what's the difference? Is it just different strokes for different folks? Or is there some kind of knitting personality type that necessarily precludes enjoying embroidery as well? I haven't figured it out yet--but maybe if when I actually try one of those crewel designs, I'll have some more insight.