The Brontë Sisters & the Yarn Shop

Penelope Hemingway's simple stockings knitted from a pattern in the 1844 manual, The Practical Companion to the Work-table. Shown with a portrait of Charlotte Brontë.

We invited Interweave’s founder and PieceWork’s creative director Linda Ligon to share her thoughts about our Spring issue of Knitting Traditions.

I keep waiting for us to run out of stories for PieceWork’s Knitting Traditions. And I keep being confounded by the wealth of history that keeps creeping out of the woodwork. This is on my mind as I skim through the issue that just went to press. There are stories that will rip your heart out, stories that will bring back your own fond childhood memories, stories that will recall things your mother, or grandmother, or great-grandmother knitted.

Lizbeth Upitis's Usinš and Sun Mittens, based on a pair of traditional Latvian mittens in her collection.

One story that caused me to stop for a careful read-through was about knitting and the Brontë sisters. In my English-major brain, Brontë = disturbing and dour. Heathcliff and Cathy. Mr. Rochester. The lunatic wife in the attic. The sisters’ fraught, deprived, consumptive lives. There is no joy in these tales.

No joy but for the occasional character knitting by the fire with a cat at her feet. This comes up over and over again. And lo and behold, there is credible speculation that the Brontë sisters on at least one occasion took a short trip to a nearby town that had a yarn shop. A yarn shop! Did they shop there? Well, you’ll just have to read about it yourself. Read it while you tune in on You Tube to Myrra Malmberg singing the Wuthering Heights song, which is a little creepy. 

Heatherly Walker's Remembrance Socks contain stars hidden among winding cables.

If you’re not a Brontë fan, you’ll find plenty more in this issue to engage your attention, both stories and knitting patterns. You’ll find a stunning pair of Latvian mittens; lacy socks designed in remembrance of knitters in a German extermination camp who knit socks in order to survive (I told you it would rip your heart out); a retro 1930s sweater that looks perfect for today. And that’s just a taste. Knitting has been a human endeavor for hundreds of years, and its history flows on.