Edith Wharton

January 24, 1862:
American author and poet Edith Wharton (1862–1937) was born.

Here’s the needlework connection to this date:

In the PieceWork September/October 2014 issue, Mimi Seyferth’s article, “A Twist of Crimson Silk: Knitting in Edith Wharton’s ‘Roman Fever,’” focuses on Wharton’s use of “knitting imagery to illustrate character development.” The short story, set in the 1920s and published in 1934, centers on two middle-aged widows from New York City who reunite in Rome and reminisce about their previous visit twenty-¬five years earlier. Seyferth explains, “Although a knitter herself, Wharton appears to have considered knitting inferior to other, more intellectual pursuits. She had been taught to knit as a child by her German governess, and she knitted—and appreciated handknitted articles—throughout her life. Wharton’s diary and letters to her friends contain references to her own knitting, and a letter between two of Wharton’s friends humorously describes Wharton as an easily frustrated needleworker ‘knitting & knotting & unravelling & reknitting what is understood to be a comforter for a wounded soldier’ in World War I (1914–1918).” Yet Seyferth points out that, “Whatever Wharton’s personal feelings about knitting, only someone knowledgeable about knitting could have devised the effective knitting imagery employed in ‘Roman Fever.’”

Mimi Seyferth’s stunning scarf inspired by the twist of crimson silk

Left: Mimi Seyferth’s stunning scarf inspired by the “twist of crimson silk” that Grace Ansley is knitting in Edith Wharton’s short story “Roman Fever,” originally published in 1934. Hat and gloves courtesy of the Loveland Museum/Gallery, Loveland, Colorado. Right: Rows of knitted arches create the exquisite border of A Scarf from a Twist of Crimson Silk to Knit. Photos by Joe Coca.

Inspired by a scarf knit by Grace Ansley, one of Wharton’s characters in “Roman Fever,” Seyferth designed the stunning A Scarf from a Twist of Crimson Silk to Knit. Literature and needlework—two of our favorite subjects—are celebrated annually in PieceWork.

—Elizabeth


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