The Lure of Folklore

Over the years, Interweave has published several knitting books with the word “folk” in the title—Folk Hats, Folk Style, Folk Socks, Folk Shawls—8 in all. But looking through them for inspiration the other day, I discovered that I really didn’t know the exact meaning of the word “folk.”

Prince of Wales Slipover from Folk Vests.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the word “folk” as: “a group . . . that tends to preserve its characteristic form of civilization and its customs, arts and crafts, legends, traditions, and superstitions from generation to generation.” The word has been in use since about 900. Of course!

Each of these books is filled with terrific patterns. Even better, each includes historical context, and you know that always makes me a happy camper! Here are just a few examples:

—England’s Edward VIII put Fair Isle knitting on the front burner (seriously!) while he was still the Prince of Wales. A portrait of him wearing a Fair Isle sweater made by the painter John St Helier Lander in 1925 fueled the flames. Cheryl Oberle used the pattern in her Prince of Wales Slipover in Folk Vests (2002).

Appalachian Gathering Basket from Folk Style.

—Nancy Bush used a 19th-century woman’s sock made on the Estonian island of Kihnu as her inspiration for one project in Folk Socks (updated edition, 2011).

Knitted Ruana from Folk Shawls.

—Gina Wilde’s Appalachian Gathering Basket in Folk Style (2007) pays tribute to traditional basketweaving and incorporates motifs from Pima Native Americans.

—In South America, the ruana is a centuries-old wrap. Cheryl Oberle styled her knitted version after the traditional woven garment in her Folk Shawls (2000).

—In 1642, Andover, Massachusetts, decreed “that those in the field watching cattle or sheep must spin or knit.” Most people in Colonial America had learned to knit when they were children; many were so skilled that they could knit the alphabet, a poem, or a biblical verse into their mittens. Marcia Lewandowski’s Mittens from Colonial New England incorporate the latter in Folk Mittens (1997).

If you are looking for knitting books filled with inspiring projects and a historical connection, look no further. I know our Folk series books will delight!