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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yarn: Remembering the Way Home by Kyoko Mori

I'll say right up front that you might not enjoy this book as much as I did, if you are not a knitter.  My Dad gave me his old kindle, because he upgraded to an ipad, and this was the first book I ever bought and loaded onto it.  And it just stayed on there, unread for many months while I went vegan in the meantime.  You see, this book does involve knitting using animal hair.  That being said, i did enjoy this book.  The author wrote it several years ago and she was vegetarian (I was still eating meat at the time), and she was concerned enough about animal welfare to buy two rabbits to spin from.  Yes, the bunnies sit on your lap and you spin from the fur that they're shedding.  It's all very fairy tale.  And so, I was able to read this book and really get into the story, despite the contradictions that exist.  I'm sure the author had not made the dairy connection yet, and that she is a humane person.  She obviously loves her rabbits, adores her cat, and wants to find a source for non-factory-farm sheep wool.  While I'm more of an abolitionist regarding animal welfare, I already owned the book, and I am a knitter, and I was sitting at an airport and getting ready to fly (two of my least-favorite activities).  So, I began reading, and and I fell down the rabbit hole.  If you are a knitter, you'll like reading about the different patterns, and how she comes to knit them.  I learned how to highlight things on the Kindle device so I can go back and look up those patterns.  Maybe I can knit one of them on some organic cotton yarn someday.  As for the story, it's a memoir.  Kyoko Mori has some traumas in her childhood in Japan, and years later she goes to college in America.  She is seriously dating an American man and ends up staying here, living in Wisconsin.  I have vacationed in Wisconsin and so I enjoyed this part of the book also.  Not since reading "The Fourth Hand" by John Irving have I been able to revisit Wisconsin in this way.  Kyoko takes up her new life, but several things keep her from real joy.  Her childhood history is still haunting her, and she's very reserved, both in her relationships and her social life.  She is lonely, but knitting begins to help her as she navigates her new world, as it has helped women cope for hundreds and hundreds of years.  She takes a sweater workshop, she meets some new friends.  She spices her book with knitting trivia, such as the Knitting Madonna paintings of the middle ages, and St. Sebastian the patron saint of knitters.  She mentions patterns and pattern books and vegetarian recipes.  She creates a pattern for a scarf in the shape of a fox with silver bugle beads sewed on the feet that click like claws.  She knits her man socks made of rabbit fur.  She weaves in wonderful fairy tales, and she made me care about her and hope that all would work out well.  As her story moves back and forth from Japan to America, the mood is a bit dour, but as she hones her handwork skills, she begins to make friends, to connect and let go of the past and other fetters.  She even wisely lets go of something many people won't--money.  She takes a weaving workshop and weaves the colors of the world around her into her  scarf.  There is a slow, meditative quality to this book, and to knitting, so it was all simpatico for me.  I see on Amazon that her other two books are not as well reviewed, but don't let that stop you from reading this one.  p.s.  I want the pattern for that fox scarf!