All things literacy — Authors, Books, Connections . . .

Friday, September 09, 2011

Michelle Edwards - A Knitter's Home Companion

I don't even knit and certainly don't need a companion while I'm NOT doing any knitting.  But despite that there I was at Barnes and Noble (Cedar Rapids [Iowa]) store to hear one of my favorite authors, Michelle Edwards.  A Knitter's Home Companion (Steward, Tabori & Chang, 2011) is a book for adults, but I had really come because I love Michelle's children's books.

If you haven't read any of Michelle Edward's children's books,
head to your local library (or favorite book store), grab a child or two and begin reading. A great shared reading adventure.

So Michelle, cup of Java in hand was ready to talk to us.  Well, really it turned into the most comfortable conversation with a group of friends -- all knitting away (except for me it seemed).  She told us about the journal and writing instruments she shows children when she makes school appearances.

Then she began to tell us about her stories -- the vignettes, the patterns, the friends, the recipes - and then she read us a story from her book, "The Mitten Ladies."  Immediately I thought of my friend Carolyn who not only knits mittens but has knitted dozens of little hats and booties for new born babies at Mercy Medical Center, and who now sews children's clothes for her church to send to their sister church in Brazil.  Carolyn will be remembered "for what [she] has given others."  (more...)

Back home I feel compelled to read more.  "The Mitten Ladies" have hooked me.  There is comfort in knowing that even without being a knitter, there are connections here for me.
I begin by leafing through the book and the first thing I spot is a recipe for "Aunt Charlotte's 'You Won't Believe How Easy It is to Make' Jam" (144-45).  It is a recipe that has been passed to the third generation but I decide I will rename it.  From this day forward it will be, "Michelle's Family Apricot Jam Recipe."  I LOVE apricot jam, syrup, pie, kolaches -- all things apricot. I am guessing that this recipe will make a scrumptious filling for my grandmother's kolaches.  So my third generation kolache recipe married to Michelle's Family Apricot Jam recipe.  I am anxious to try it.
But there is more I go back now to the beginning.  First the introduction.
It is clear that knitting is part of her family, her community.  I find that she has three daughters -- Meera, Flory, and Leila.  It's not often that I see the name "Leila" (my family pronounces Leila as Lee I lah).  It was my great-grandmother Elnora Graham's (nee' Lampman) middle name, my grandmother Clarice Miller's  (nee' Graham) middle name, it's my middle name, and the middle name of my very youngest granddaughter.  I already feel like family -- and I haven't picked up a knitting needle yet.
Michelle talks about learning to knit from her Russian Jewish mother who taught her to knit with her "yarn in her left hand, wrapped around the second finger, picking open the stitch and pulling the yarn through with her right-hand needle."  If she had said "crochet" instead of knit, the description might have been describing the way my beloved Aunt Bernice (my father's sister) had taught me to crochet when I was very young.  Later I learned that the way she taught me is how most crocheters crochet heavy rugs, but I crocheted doilies, and fine lace edges for pillow cases.
Her description of her and her mother's joint project -- a last project for her mother, involved crocheting an afghan "crocheted so tightly" that it continues to bring warmth to her grandchildren flooded my brain with memories of my mother-in-law learning to crochet so she could crochet a baby blanket for our expected baby (#4).  It took her nearly 5 months to master and complete the blanket  -- she finished it 2 months before the baby was due.  One week later the BABIES were born (unexpected twins born unexpectedly early).  Despite her misgivings about her ability to make another blanket, she managed to show up at the christening 3 weeks later with a second white blanket in hand.  We could always tell Steve's blanket from Matt's  blanket as despite the fact that she used the same pattern, the second one is much more loosely crocheted.
I could go on but suffice it to say that each of Michelle's stories brings some flood of memories, connections to people in my life.
Throughout the book I felt as if Michelle was sitting at my kitchen table talking with me about old friends, memories, and stories.
She was sharing recipes that beg to be tried -- especially "Sis Gessner's Mandel Bread."  I think I can do it.  Makes me think of the biscotti (at least that  is what I remember it being called) that my friend Jacqueline Briggs Martin brought me one Christmas holiday.  It was so good. I think the Mandel Bread might be similar.

You won't want to share this book as I'm thinking each time the stories are read readers will find a new connection.  It's not a book that you will want to go back to the library.  But however, you get your hands on this book, get it and read it.  You may want to have a blank notebook nearby as I'm betting you will have some stories to  write—stories triggered by those Michelle shares with her readers.  Perhaps my journal will be titled "The Crocheter's Home Companion" or simply - "Memories of a Farmer's Daughter."  The writing won't be as soulful as Michelle's, or as universally interesting but I'll bet my children (and grandchildren) might find the stories to be something they might like to put in their box of family stories.

Thank you Michelle -- thank you for sharing your stories —and making me think it is possible to share mine.

Addendum to original blog entry:  I found this blog entry on the editor's blog and fell in love with the photographs of the egg warmers -- not sure I'm interested in them as egg warmers but what fun decorative ideas show in the photographs.  Take a look at:

And I failed to mention that the fabric bags that hold Michelle's knitting projects when she travels are made from fabric designed by her oldest daughter, Meera, who designs for Camelot Cottons (fabric).  Check out her designs at and search for those fabrics designed by "Meera."  Interestingly beautiful.  Much talent in this family.

No comments:

Post a Comment