Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wool and Knitting in Children's Literature

As my daughter and I were cleaning (deep cleaning because of a house renovation!) her picture books, we became immersed once again in the beauty and humor of some of these books for youngsters. Suddenly we were drawn right back to the time when we both enjoyed our nightime routine of my reading aloud a few books before sleep. I remember the amazement I first felt at discoving this whole world. I just had not realized how immense, and beautiful the selection of children's literature is.

And of course I was looking at books with the eyes of a knitter...haven't we all seen patterns in passing that we run home to sketch. Once, I was asked to take off a vest I was wearing at the food store, and the "cheese lady" returned with a xerox copy of my garment in her hands, a huge grin on her face, and a head full of plans for her next project!

Jan Brett is an author and illustrator that all knitters can enjoy. She is a fabulous artist that writes one glorious children's book every year, and travels to the geographical region she will highlight in order to get every tiny, amazing detail just right. The books that take place in Europe feature wonderful knitted clothing that serves both as background, and even as important plot features. The Mitten, which you can start reading to kids even before they can walk, has a knitted piece as one of the main "characters", and a well timed sneeze that delights every time. And of course,grandmother's "knitting held tight".

In The Hat, each animal tries on a garment of Lisa's, and so we view the entire winter knitted wardrobe as Lisa unpacks the big trunk.

Jan Brett draws knitwear in detailed perfection as we can see in Trouble with Trolls.

Another wonderful book which has appeal for fiber artists is Pelle's New Suit by Elsa Beskow. This wonderful book has already stood the test of time: it has a copyright date of 1912.

The lamb in this book has a coat that grows longer and longer, while Pelle's coat grows shorter and shorter, so Pelle decides to take action. He shears his lamb's coat, and then proceeds to trade for all the tasks involved in turning the wool into a garment for himself. We get a delightful look into the whole life of his extended family as the wool takes it journey through washing, carding, spinning, dying and sewing, becoming both a woven suit and a large family project. The story is at once more simple and grounded than our own O-Wool story could possibly be, but it surely exemplifies many of the ideals we hold as desirable and strive for in our company mission.