Monday, February 9, 2009

Her Knitting Was Already a Part of Her: Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard

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 Scottie sighed contentedly and sank deeper into her seat. The noise of all the girls' needles didn't exactly make music, but they coexisted comfortably. Tay's click-swishes were almost violent, tugging and snapping loudly. Bella's stitches were feather whispers. Amanda's flowed in fits and starts, faltering when she overthought it and recommencing when she took a deep breath and put her trust in her fingers.

And Scottie's own knitting music? That was like asking her what her face looked like when she wasn't looking in the mirror. Her knitting was already a part of her. She felt like she knew it as well as she knew her own body. But like her body, it had its own mysterious side.

Take your four-girls-with-a-schtick novel and tie it up with some funky rainbow homespun, and you've got Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing). Scottie's grieving the death of her favorite aunt, Amanda struggles with a learning disability whose existence threatens her social standing, Bella's having an identity crisis, and Tay just wants some stability. All are drawn to KnitWit, a haven of sunset colored furniture, knitting-crazed regulars, and Alice, curly-haired mentor to aspiring fiber artists who guides knitters to their perfect yarn. Though knitting looks like the magic answer to all of their problems, things fall apart in the way of clever YA novels, and Scottie is left questioning her new-found talent and friends. Will all the threads come together so she can enjoy both as she did in the past? Of course, it's YA--but some of the answers may surprise you.

I adored the Chicago spun by Lenhard and its slightly off-kilter inhabitants. Her writing is witty and colorful, with a knack for short but punchy description and scene-setting details. Knitwit is a haven that makes me want to pick up a pair of needles and join in:

Scottie found herself in a room dominated by a giant, round table laden with yarn. Skeins and hanks of the stuff spilled out of bowls and buckets and boxes. There was yarn that looked like cobwebs. Like eyelashes. Like paper. Fuzzy balls of undyed wool squished together like a family of sleeping hamsters. Yarn as deeply red as cherry juice. Yarn as translucently blue as watercolor painted on a pure-white page.

An Amazon.com reader described the series as "Betsy-Tacy for the Oughties," and I couldn't agree more. There's a comfortable feeling to the girl's little circle that even their real-world issues can't tear asunder--without minimalizing the real feelings of loss and fear. I loved Scottie's casual quirkiness and the real growth and change in her family, Amanda's insecurity and budding talent for fashion design, Bella's gregariousness (kudos to Lenhard for not writing another creepy antisocial homeschooled teen--one gets the feeling Bella would be the happy sort  no matter how she was educated) and the fact that the girls are so progressive that they can go from teasing Tay about John or Jocelyn without an after-school-special-moment in between. And the knitting? Oh, it's delightful, and I'm a paper artist--project descriptions and yarn porn abounds, and the book finishes up with four projects for the readers. This one's a joy for any crafty reader--and Elizabeth, please write a series for us paper crafters!

*Elizabeth Lenhard's official website has tons of info about the series, a Which Chick are You? quiz, a knit-along message board, and her blog--with lots of author interviews, photos of her cute daughters, and the tantalizing hint of a new book!

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*Knitty: the haven of all things knitted on the web. Unbelievable free patterns at all skill levels and gorgeous art direction

*Thomasina's Guide to Geeky Knitting breaks patterns down by scientific discipline; the infamous Knitty Uterus is under Anatomy, while a set of cute little nautilids comes under Paleontology.

*Not one for sickeningly cute amigarumi or yet another fuzzy scarf? AntiCraft offers bacon tiaras, wire-knitted beaded pasties, and crocheted headwear for opheliacs.

*Grrl+Dog runs with scissors, colors outside the lines and barks with her own voice. She commits random acts of guerilla knitting and other mixed up media. She is growing old disgracefully while attempting to bake the perfect cup cake. She loves to dance, collect pink plastic and dead things. She's a dedicated guerilla knitting blogger, and I love her posts!

*The Yarn Museum serves up galleries of handspun so beautiful that I get twitchy knitty fingers just looking at them. I totally need a scarf with peacock feathers woven in, right?

*Knitted Landscape shows off a new kind of guerilla knitting-mushrooms, flowers, leaves, and rocks in unexpected places.

Thank you, Amy, for your help compiling these links!

Handmade Nation's a documentary about contemporary crafting in America--keep an eye out for the guerilla knitters!

2 comments:

Penelope said...

Oh man, I can't tell you how appropriate this is right now. I've been knitting all week, non-stop, for no discernible reason. Thanks for channeling my inner-knitter and feeding my need for yarn...lots of yarn.

Always
Penelope ♥

Penny Lane said...

oh oh! i want to knit so very much! i am so excited about this!

 
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