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Knitting with Jane

Jan 17, 2012

Picturesque Cape by Sharon Fuller.
When we decided last fall to publish a special magazine issue called Jane Austen Knits, I downloaded the entire Jane Austen oeuvre onto my Kindle and read it from beginning to end, starting with the very odd and mildly disturbing Lady Susan and ending with Persuasion. I found precisely two (2) references to someone actually knitting.*

Jane Austen was an accomplished needleworker as well as a writer. Illustration by Benjamin S. Clarke. 
So why did the idea of Jane Austen and knitting have such resonance? And why did we actually sell out the magazine before it ever arrived in our warehouse, requiring a hasty trip back to the printer? We ponder these questions as we gear up for our second (and third) editions.

Well, Editor Amy Clarke Moore, whose brave idea it was in the first place, assures me that Jane mentioned knitting occassionally, and textiles frequently in her letters to her sister, if not in her novels. And knitting was done a great deal in Regency times, though not necessarily by ladies to the manor born. But maybe more important, there are qualities to Jane Austen's world view that line right up with knitting and knitters today. Tart, tender, insightful. Structured, suspenseful. Thoughtful, mannered.

Those of us who knit today commit ourselves to a craft that demands attention and invites reflection. It's a world of rules and repetition in which our imaginations and creativity can play. If you're stressed by a sick kid, a demanding deadline, a "life out of control" moment, you very well might pick up your knitting and work through it. Or pull that old Modern Library edition of Emma down off the shelf and lose yourself in it for a little while.

Chawton Mittens by Anne Blayney.
We're just really excited that Jane Austen Knits is finding such an avid audience, because it's just so much fun to create. We're deep into planning for the second edition, due out in late May, and the third, scheduled for next fall.

*And in case you're wondering about those two knitting references, you can find them discussed at length, along with a great deal about the place of knitting in Regency England, in a splendid article by Sheryl Craig, "Jane and Knitting" (pages 20–23).

                 Cheers,

                        


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