When wool and words entwine

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June 1, 2013

FictionKNITstas Reading Series
Dede Crane, Gillian Campbell, Nicole Dixon and Stella Harvey
Monday, May 27, 7 pm
Beehive Wool Shop, 1700 Douglas St, Victoria

Reviewed by Liz Gusul

“Colourful place, isn’t it?”

Surrounded by hanging skeins of cotton and baskets of wool, a chatty group gathers and mingles at Beehive Wool Shop in downtown Victoria. Some members of the group are knitters, and some are not. Some buy yarn and patterns, dreaming of their next project, while others stroke the knitted samples around the shop. All are readers and literature enthusiasts, gathered for a knit-related literary event hosted by Victoria writer Dede Crane.

Since 2006, FICTIONistas has organized annual events such as this evening at Beehive Wool Shop, which will include readings from three books by Canadian women writers. The events were conceived as a way to promote works by female authors, and this year’s event, titled FictionKNITstas, focuses its attention also on knitting.

Each of the authors involved in the FICTIONistas tour has been paired with a local knitter, who read and had time to reflect on the written work before embarking on another sort of creative process. Whether an existing pattern was used, or the knitter chose to create her own design, a hand-knit garment was created for each book. The inspirations for these knitted pieces could come from any aspect of the book. Some knitters focused on concrete images, textures, or even colours of the book, others on thematic imagery or cultural context.

Gillian Campbell, author of The Apple House wore a bright red shawl, matching the colour of the novel’s cover. The outline of a boxy farmhouse and two trees on the shawl set the scene for the passage Campbell read from her novel, a book, she says, about a girl with big feet who happens to marry a shoemaker, about a widow, about a life.

Reading from Nicolai’s Daughters, Stella Harvey describes how the textured stitches of her shawlette reflect the mountains of Greece, where sections of her book are set, and how its brilliant blue hue is an iconic colour in Greek culture. She hints at a tragic and not much remembered event in Greece’s past, but reads tender and amusing passages about cultural separation in families, and inter-familial relationships.

After a cancelled flight in Cape Breton, Nicole Dixon hadn’t had the chance to connect with her knitter, and was without her knitted garment. She explains however, that it is a cozy wrap sweater, as the knitter felt that the characters in High-Water Mark, Dixon’s collection of stories, needed a hug, and she wished to create something that would offer both comfort and warmth. Dixon reads the story High-Water Mark which, although bitingly funny, does evoke a blustery cold feeling.

Blue-grey light filters through the windows, and buses roll along Douglas Street as the readings conclude. The books which were sampled tonight are available for sale. The group lingers, fingering the brightly coloured skeins of silk, mohair, and merino.

“Will you sign my book?” I overhear. “And are you a knitter?” someone asks, as the writers autograph copies of their books for patrons. Whether leaving Beehive Wool Shop with a new book, a ball of yarn, or both, all of tonight’s patrons are inspired to spin a yarn, whether literary or literal. The event kicks off a Canada-wide tour, visiting eleven locations over the next week and a half. To view additional tour dates and locations, or for more information about the FICTIONistas, please visit fictionistascanada.wordpress.com.

Liz Gusul is an avid reader and knitter who lives in Victoria.

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