PieceWork: Discover Needlework in Literature

Mary Polityka Bush's hem-stitched tray cloth inspired by the needlework done by the characters in Colleen McCullough's The Ladies of Missalonghi. (Photograph by Joe Coca.)  
Bookmarks to knit, cross-stitch, and crochet. Designed by Margaret Sies and Julia Baratta. (Photograph by Joe Coca.)  
Gloves that may be used in Brian Friel's play Dancing at Lughnasa or made for a special person designed by Elizabeth Cobbe. (Photograph by Joe Coca.)  

A note from Kathleen: True confessions: I'm a Jane Austen junkie. I've watched the 6-hour BBC production of Pride and Prejudice several times (once in one sitting!) and I have the Masterpiece Theater series of Austen productions saved forever on my Tivo. I enjoyed the newer 90-minute movie, too, but as my friend Molly said to me during one of the scenes featuring Mr. Darcy, "The real Mr. Darcy never would have done that!" Long live Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy!

And of course I love how the women sit around the parlor working on their needlework and chatting. It reminds me of knit nights with my girlfriends. I enjoy reading the books, too! Jane Austen's novels are so engrossing for me—they put me in a different time and place, which is such a welcome reprieve from our time of cell phones, TV, and generally fast-moving life.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that the newest issue of PieceWork celebrates needlework in literature! Here's editor Jeane Hutchins to tell you more.

Needlework in Literature

One of my fondest childhood memories is of the day my grandmother took me to the public library to get my very own library card. I've had a library card ever since.

I read voraciously, as often as I can find a spare moment. Reading is my stress reliever, my hobby, my joy. There's at least one book in every room in my house as well as others in the car and in my briefcase (I never know when I may be trapped somewhere).

So I'm really pleased to give you this preview of our first issue of PieceWork dedicated to needlework in literature!

When we first talked about this as a theme, I began to compile a list of literary works containing needlework references. In addition to the ones we chose for this issue, here are some of my other favorites: A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros (especially lyrical are the passages about a silk rebozo), William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, and Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.

Do you know of others? I'd love to hear from you.

Below are a few highlights from the September/October 2010 issue of PieceWork:

—Agatha Christie's Miss Marple sat in a corner knitting so she could eavesdrop and no one would know. Miss Marple's spirit lives on in many of today's knitting mysteries.

—If you know a child (from toddler to teen), introduce her or him to needlework by checking out Julia Baratta's "Needlework in Children's Literature" annotated list. Who would ever guess that the hero of Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball would be a knitter? The books span many time periods and cultures, and each is a delight.

—Discover the unique technique of netting in an excerpt from Jennifer Forest's delightful book, Jane Austen's Sewing Box: Craft Projects & Stories from Jane Austen's Novels.

—Knitting has a double meaning in the title of Elizabeth Cobbe's article, "Knitting Gloves in Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa," referring not only to the role that this activity plays in the lives of the characters in a play but also to the way in which it is accomplished, performance after performance, onstage.

—Plus 10 literary-inspired projects to net, knit, crochet, and stitch!

Aah, reading and needlework—I think it's the best combination. See for yourself with a free copy of this issue of PieceWork!


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