What Jane Austen Left Us

I've spent a bit of time lately feeling very blessed and lucky to have the life I have. When I consider what's going on in distant parts of the world, and not-so-distant, for that matter—I'm so very thankful for the comforts and luxuries in my life. I do my best to pay it forward, but I know I'm very lucky.

I deal with stress and problems, too, of course, and some days I wish I could do nothing but knit all the time. Then I think back on the women of Jane Austen's time (and many other periods in history!), who had no options but to spend their time knitting, doing needlepoint, weaving fabric, and so forth, and I'm thankful for the options I have in the workplace as well as at home.

Barton Cottage Shrug,
from The Best of Jane Austen Knits

Jane Austen made the most of her short life, leaving us with her wonderful novels, which are so meaningful and evergreen.

Amy Clarke Moore, the editor of The Best of Jane Austen Knits, wrote an essay about Jane that I think wonderfully portrays the time when she lived, and how her novels have touched us since then. I loved it, and I think you will too!

Jane Austen's Lasting Legacy

Literature and knitting seem to be a perfect pairing—especially when you consider the work of Jane Austen. Perhaps this is because knitting, like reading, has a meditative, quiet quality. Jane Austen's novels resonate with knitters for the same reason they have resonated with readers around the world for centuries—Jane Austen captures the essence of humanity: quietly, succinctly, and with rich humor.

Her stories are timeless. Through them we gain insight into a world (specifically the Regency era, 1795–1837, in England) that was governed by social class and strict rules of decorum. But at the same time, Jane Austen weaves narratives about people pursuing happiness despite obstacles; remaining true to themselves while still being loyal to their family and friends; and struggling to know themselves—stories that transcend time, place, and situation.

Still, there are some who look no further than the surface of Jane Austen's novels and conclude that they are nothing more than well-written and engaging romances—enjoyable and entertaining. But if you take the time to look deeper, you will continue to find riches of social, political, and economic insight. You'll find commentary on the significant forces that were shaping our modern world at the time.

Consider some of the world events that were taking place during Jane Austen's brief lifetime—1775–1817: the Industrial Revolution; the publication of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and Mary Wollstonecraft's The Vindication of the Rights of Women; the American Revolution; the French Revolution; the Napoleonic Wars; the formation of the United Kingdom; and the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire.

But what do these long-ago events have to do with our pursuit of knitting as pastime today in the twenty-first century? Consider that during Jane's lifetime, almost any cloth she came into contact with was most likely handspun, handwoven, or handknitted, and naturally dyed. As crafters, you know how much time and energy would have been devoted daily to the hand-making of the textiles that we use and depend upon for every moment of our lives, and yet take for granted—cloth is literally disposable in our current times.

We have the luxury of choosing to make specialty pieces by hand—of enjoying the process and not being stresses out by the fact if we don't finish our garment, we might just freeze. That shift occurred during Jane Austen's lifetime, and as we knit and enjoy her narratives, we can appreciate how Jane not only captured this pivotal time in our history, but helped shape the way understand it.

—Amy Clark Moore, from The Best of Jane Austen Knits

As most of you know, I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, both of her books and the movies inspired by them. I never tire of learning more about Jane and her life and times.

Here at Interweave, we've celebrated Jane Austen with our popular series of Jane Austen Knits magazines, and now we've put the best of those publications into one book for you, The Best of Jane Austen Knits.

Clockwise from top right: Hetty's Sunday Cuffs, Benwick Cardigan,
Margaret Dashwood Shawl, Sweetheart Bag, An Aran for Frederick

We've included several articles about Jane and life in the Regency era, too. You'll learn a lot as you knit your way through this wonderful collection of Jane Austen-inspired patterns.

Get your copy of The Best of Jane Austen Knits today!


P.S. Have you knit anything from Jane Austen Knits? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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