Event Review: The Principles of Knitting

Last Tuesday I did something that I haven’t done before. I went to a knitting event! I am a pretty solitary knitter because I don’t really know anyone else who knits and I often get out of work too late to participate in these sorts of things. But, last week, I decided to ask to leave work a bit early so that I could treat myself to the experience. What I found was an extraordinary person and knitter in June Hemmons Hiatt, author of the definitive reference book, “The Principles of Knitting.”

I attended the Q&A session and book signing at The Lion Brand Yarn Studio in lower Manhattan. This was also my first time to the shop, which I found welcoming with its stock of beautiful yarn set into display shelves built into the walls. The event was held in the back of the store with a few rows of chairs set up in front of a small stage.

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After an enthusiastic introduction by the Q&A leader (who did not introduce herself, leading me to feel a bit out of place as I was obviously seated with regular customers who needed no such introduction) June Hemmons Hiatt took to the stage to explain her book and her approach to knitting.

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Here’s a crash course on the book if you don’t know the history: The first edition of “The Principles of Knitting” was published in 1988 by Simon and Schuster. It was being marketed and sold to a knitting audience that was just beginning to grow. According to Hiatt, it sold slowly and was eventually put out of print. In the years it was out of print it gained in popularity and copies of the first edition were selling for hundreds of dollars. It took Hiatt 10 years to retype and revise the second edition, which is now available for purchase. If you’d like more info on the book–here’s a great review of it.

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I wasn’t expecting to learn much from hearing Hiatt speak. I thought that she’d just repeat what she writes in the introduction to the second edition. But she said many things that made me consider the book and knitting in a different way.

What I loved about her story was her approach to writing the book. She is an academic at heart and when writing the book she approached it almost like a knitting scientist would. She actually tested all the techniques described so that she understood why the yarn behaved that way under a certain technique. I can relate to this approach when researching a topic. In the news business, you don’t want to just tell the viewer what happened but you want tell how and why it happened.

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Out of everything she discussed, the idea that struck me the most was that knitting is a discipline. People often knit for pleasure and you tend to start thinking of it as a simple hobby–something you’ve mastered and can just relax and do. But “The Principles of Knitting” is proof that it’s a field of study, it’s something that you train in, something that corrects, molds, and perfects itself.

At the end of the Q&A, Haitt signed books and answered audience questions. I had a really great time at this FREE event and I would love to go back to The Lion Brand Studio for more of these….hopefully they will start have more events that start past 7pm so that I can actually make it after work!

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I have the book sitting on my nightstand…just waiting to be cracked open when I start my next knit project. I can’t wait to discover all the goodies and nuggets of information within!

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