This book. I’m not sure which is more beautiful: the words or the pictures. Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois (written by Amy Novesky; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault) was published a couple of years ago, but my appreciation for its cross-hatched reds and blues hasn’t abated, nor has my admiration for its quiet telling about an emerging artist.
For me, the illustration’s delicate inky stitches brought to mind sashiko, a Japanese form of embroidery that I’ve been spotting online a lot lately.
Sashiko is usually a running stitch; the word sashiko translates to “little stabs.” My attempt at sashiko was my own improvised version. I used fabric scraps I had on hand, denim pieces from old jeans and worn cotton patches I rescued a while back from a disintegrating quilt. I grabbed embroidery floss for thread and the sharpest needle I could find.
I didn’t make anything in particular. I’m not sure I will. But I found the stitching meditative and love the way the stitches & patches look: imperfect, wobbly, delicate, salvaged. I think the simplicity and improvisation would appeal to kids, too (although I’d probably use thinner cotton so that the “little stabs” are easier to make). I’m going to try it out in my school library after reading Cloth Lullaby aloud–I’ll let you know how it goes . . .
January is a wooly time of year. And if you can’t knit (like me) some mittens for your kittens, the least you can do is read those kittens some knitting-themed books. Hand-knit hats will keep your keppie toasty according to Mrs. Goldman in A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This warm story will remind readers to look for ways to practice good deeds (and accept interesting gifts graciously).
In my experience as designated reader, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett is a perfectly paced fable that packs a lot of drama (and humor) into very few words. Jon Klassen’s yarn-textured illustrations are droll and wonderful. In this story, knitting is a gentle act of generosity with the power to transform a drab, chilled world.
Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosnol fits my wintry mood exactly. A person will go to great lengths for a little space (in this story, space as in outer space)–only to want to return to the warm heart of home and family (armed with woolens for everyone).
For middle-grade readers (knitters and non-knitters alike), Danielle Davis’s Zinnia and the Bees is a quirky, sweet yarn-bomb of a book (see my earlier review here).
I still can’t knit, but I did recently attempt some French knitting/spool knitting (I found some good instructional photos at Lion Brand Yarns). It’s pleasantly addictive to do while watching Netflix although I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the long ropes of yarn I was creating. Captain Wonderpaws seemed to like his rainbow collar . . .
I’m not a knitter. Nor a crocheter (besides some basics, which I learned just last winter). But the charming middle-grade novel Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis made me want to be both. Zinnia is a seventh-grade yarn bomber intent on putting an “exuberant sweater on the whole world.”
But when her yarn habit gets her into trouble, she finds that her beloved older brother and frequent accomplice has gone MIA. And her mother, Philomena Flossdrop, D.D.S., seems more devoted to dental hygiene and do-gooder community activism than to Zinnia.
Things unravel further when a swarm of runaway bees take up residence in the messy nest of curls atop Z’s head. She manages to disguise her beehive from most eyes but a boy named Birch takes notice. The story tangles and twists in unexpected ways before Zinnia, with a little help from her friends, comes to a new understanding of hive and home.
(By the way, these magical, sweater-clad trees can be found in a grove along the Minuteman Bikeway in Arlington, Massachusetts thanks to a community art project and a gaggle of nimble makers known at the Arlington Knitters Brigade (which includes a few of my friends–you know who you are, Jennifer and Janet–and Holly!)