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Knitting references in books

This is a list of books that contain references to knitting. These are not knitting reference books! This list was compiled from suggestions from the knit list and from various catalog listings. It is by no means a complete listing of all knitting references in books.

The first version of this list was compiled and marked up into HTML by Lynn Ruggles. It is now maintained by Julie Ourom, with HTML by Emily Way.

Many of these books are available from the sources listed on Wool Works' booksellers page.


"Ever since I was a little girl, I loved one thing more than anything. Wool shops. Yeah, sounds daft, doesn't it? Wool shops. All those colours, the textures, all that possibility. I felt it, Dolly, the first time my Mam took me into one for a couple of ounces of double knitting to make my brother a pair of gloves. It was an Aladdin's cave. I knew then, I was only knee-high to a grasshopper, but I knew I was going to make this stuff and better. I didn't know how, but I knew I was going to. Ach, I can't explain it, but you must know what I mean."

"Yes, of course. I feel the same about at paper and pens..."

"Right. Then just imagine this. I woke up one morning and I realised that if something wasn't done, something real and now, there could be a world without wool shops. Nuclear winter, the possibility of survivors, all that means to me just the one thing: a world without wool shops. The minute I thought of that, I knew I couldn't compromise."

A World without Wool Shops, Dulan Barber

General fiction

Art Work, A.S. Byatt
Knitting plays a major role.

At Home in Mitford (from the Mitford Years series), Jan Karon
The first in a series depicting everyday life in a small North Carolina town. Knitting is described at one point as a comfort to the soul.

Bag of Bones, Stephen King
The hero's wife is a knitter.

Cheerfulness Breaks In, Angela M. Thirkell
Plus other titles including The Brandons, High Rising, Marling Hall. Each of her books contains at least one knitting reference, often more.

Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
Describes a sweater knit of unwashed fleece.

Coming Down from Wa, Audrey Thomas
Knitting at an African girls' school in the 1960s.

Coming Home, Rosamunde Pilcher
England during WWII with mention of Red Cross knitting.

Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett
A young woman's life in a New England seaside village, based on a diary from the late 1800s, with knitting references.

The cure for Death by Lightning, Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Mention of wartime sock knitting.

Death and the Oxford Box, Veronica Smallwood
Features knitting as one of the book's themes.

Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald
Brief mention of sock knitting for the war effort.

The Fever Tree and Other Stories, Ruth Rendell
"A Needle for the Devil" is densely packed with knitting.

Green Dolphin Street, Elizabeth Goudge
Knitting.

High Island Blues, Ann Cleves
Very brief mention of knitting.

Independent People, Haldor Laxness, trans. J. A. Thompson
1946 Nobel-prize winner, mentions Icelandic knitting.

Jacob's Room, Virginia Woolf
Full of knitting references.

Lambs of God, Marele Day
Spinning and knitting in a cloistered religious community.

The Last Continent, Terry Pratchett
Knitting that doesn't fit is discussed in this novel set in Australia.

The Last Resort, Alison Lurie
Knitting mentions, including Kaffe Fassett sweater.

London Transports, Maeve Binchy
Includes an enlightened knitter.

The Man Who Loved Childen, Christina Stead
Knitting is a part of the characters' lives.

The Matisse Stories, A.S. Byatt
One of the stories is about someone obsessed with knitting.

McNally's Gamble, Lawrence Sanders
The main character's mother is portrayed as a ditzy knitter.

The Miss Read series, Miss Read
Many mentions of ladies' knitting, both good and bad (knitting, not the ladies!).

Mister Sandman, Barbara Gowdy
Entertaining knitting scenes.

Odd Woman, Gail Godwin
Knitting and recycling.

Persuasion, Jane Austen
Knitting for charity and as an amusement.

Plain Jane, Joan Barfoot
Main character is a knitter and book is full of knitting mentions, particularly sweaters she's knitting for a friend in prison.

Random Passage, Bernice Morgan
Mentions of knitting with rags in outport Newfoundland.

Roman Fever and Other Stories, Edith Wharton
A daughter's views of her mother's knitting.

The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
Lots of knitting references.

Small Ceremonies, Carol Shields
A mystery is created around a quantity of yarn found in a character's husband's desk drawer...since no one in the family knits.

Some Tame Gazelle, Barbara Pym
Many mentions of knitting as a part of ordinary life in her earlier books; fewer in the later ones.

Staggerford, Jon Hassler
Knitting and small town life.

Storm Tide, Elizabeth Ogilvie
Maine lobstermen talk of knitting bait bags and trap bags for lobster traps.

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Arguably the most well known knitting reference; not unusual for non-knitters to refer to a knitter as a Madame Defarge.

The Twisted Sword (The Poldark series), Winston Graham
The last book in this series includes a description of handknit stockings and gloves.

Was It Something I Said?, Valerie Block
Mention of knitting as therapy after a plane crash.

A World without Wool Shops, Dulan Barber
A wonderful description of wool shops.

Mystery

A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton
Description of a very intricately knitted mauve Aran sweater.

Aunt Dimity's Death, Nancy Atherton
Knitting mention.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie King
In Sherlock Holmes style; also A Letter for Mary where a suspect makes mistakes in her knitting.

The Bookman's Wake, John Dunning
"The night was young, the game wasn't over yet, I was more focused with each passing block. I wasn't going to sit in my room all night knitting an afghan."

The Brother Cadfael series, Ellis Peters
At least one mention in Potters field of an old lady knitting.

Buried in Quilts, Sara Hoskinson Frommer
"'I still can't believe it,' said Annie Jordan, knitting without watching. Like Edna, she couldn't bear to sit idle -- and she didn't count mere meetings as work."

Candle for a Corpse, Ann Granger
Delightful mention of hand-knit sweater given as a gift.

Carpool, Mary Cahill
One of the main characters knits, and another quilts; the book has numerous mentions of their projects. "The nice thing about knitting is, you can do it anywhere. And you can do it faster when you're away from your own phone."

C.O.P. Out, Nancy Herndon
A seniors' knit-in in front of the police station.

D is for Deadbeat, Sue Grafton
Knitting as an aid to learning patience and an eye for detail.

Dead Winter, William G. Tapply
Nice description comparing knitting to solving murders

Deadly Appearances, Gail Bowen
Brief mention of knitting.

Death of an Expert Witness, P.D. James
One of the characters is a knitter.

Deception on His Mind, Elizabeth George
Comment that knitting is a usual part of a woman's possessions.

The Devil's Workshop, Kate Gallison
Knitting mention.

Doomed to Die, Dorothy Simpson
A suspect is a knitwear designer.

Everywhere That Mary Went, Lisa Scottoline
Knitting mention.

Farewell to Yarns, Jill Churchill
Numerous knitting mentions.

The Grub-and-Stakers Spin a Yarn, Charlotte MacLeod writing as Ailsa Craig
Zany book with some scenes set in a yarn shop.

The Hand of Death, Margaret Yorke
The wife of the main character knits, including charity knitting.

Hasty Retreat, Kate Gallison
Knitting figures into the plot.

Ho Ho Homicide, Corinne Holt Sawyer
Brief mention of knitting by a night-shift nurse.

Holly Jolly Murder, Joan Hess
Somewhat snarky comment about knitting.

How to Murder the Man of Your Dreams, Dorothy Cannell
The vicar's husband knits.

Ice, Ed McBain
The main character's wife knits him a watch cap for Valentine's Day.

Impact, Stephen Greenleaf
Another murder with a knitting needle.

J. Alfred Prufrock Murders, Corinne Holt Sawyer
Knitting mention.

The Miss Marple series, Agatha Christie
Lots of knitting by Miss Marple in this well-known series.

Mrs. Malory: Death of a Dean, Hazel Holt
Mentions yarn stashes.

Mrs. Malory wonders, Hazel Holt
Main character owned a yarn shop.

Murder Among Us, Ann Granger
The murdered woman ran a wool and craft shop -- you'll have to read the book to see if this caused her death.

Murder Gets a Life, Anne George
KIP at an airport.

Night of Four Hundred Rabbits, Elizabeth Peters
Main character is a knitter.

"A Needle for the Devil," Ruth Rendell
In the short story collection The Fever Tree and Other Stories. Several knitting references, but the details are inaccurate.

The Red Scream, Mary W. Walker
Knitting mention.

Sadie Shapiro's Knitting Book, Robert Kimmel Smith
Also other titles including Sadie Shapiro, Matchmaker. A zany senior has adventures, solves mysteries, and knits.

Serpent's Tooth, Faye Kellerman
Mention of favourably-received handknit cardigan.

The Silent Cry, Anne Perry
Brief mention of knitting socks using bone needles in this William Monk/Hester Latterley Victorian mystery.

Stitches in Time, Barbara Michaels
Sock knitting.

Thrones, Dominations, Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh
Knitting under stress.

Tourist Trap, Julie Smith
Brief mention of male knitting baby clothes.

The Trouble with Going Home, Camilla T. Crespi
Dreaming of murder with a knitting needle.

The Veiled One, Ruth Rendell
Considerable knitting content; the murder weapon is a knitting needle.

While the Patient Slept, Mignon Eberhart
The narrator is a nurse who knits during home-nursing work; the author is a knitter and knows what she's talking about.

Science fiction and fantasy

Friday, Robert Heinlein
A menacing knitter.

Drums of Autumn, Diana Gabaldon
Sock knitting in 1700's, including description of males learning as children.

Queen of the Summer Stars, Persia Woolley
Heroine knitting on her queenly throne.

The Unknown Shore (Aubrey-Maturin series), Patrick O'Brian
Pirates teach a captured child how to knit.

The Very Thought of You, Lynn Kurland
An 11th century tapestry-destroying bard learns to knit when transplanted to 20th century Scotland.

Fairy tales

Angelita's Magic Yarn, Doris Lecher
An Andean folk tale, where the heroine is the fastest and finest knitter in the village.

The Mitten, Jan Brett
A Ukrainian folk tale where a young boy begs his grandma to knit him snow white mittens -- and promptly loses them in the snow where they become a home for animals.

Children's fiction

Amos' Sweater, Janet Lunn

Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Also Rilla of Ingleside. Various knitting and crochet references.

Apple Tree Christmas, Trinka Hakes Noble
A young girl knits during a blizzard in the 1880s, using wool from one of the family's sheep, Mrs. Wooly.

Boys Don't Knit, Janice Schoop
Or do they?

Christmas Trolls, Jan Brett
A Scandinavian story with knitting mentions.

Daisy and Her Needles, Keith Balding
Delightful story about a granny knitting a fire, tea pot, husband...

Derek the Knitting Dinosaur, Mary Blackwood
Rhymed couplets of a dinosaur who knits during the onset of the ice age while his pals frolic.

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Margaret Sidney
Plus other titles; knitting mentions.

Homer Price, Robert McCloskey
Features a giant ball of yarn and a knitting teacher.

Knitwits, William Taylor
A boy learns how to knit so he can make a sweater for an expected sibling -- without the knowledge of his hockey team.

Lottie's New Beach Towel, Petra Mathers
Lottie, the chicken, knits a sock.

The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
A knitting frenzy causes environmental damage.

The Mitten Tree, Candace Christiansen
An old woman secretly knits mittens and hangs them on a tree for the children waiting at the school bus stop.

Mr. Nick's Knitting, Margaret Wild
A male knitter makes friends with a female knitter while commuting by train.

No Roses for Harry, Gene Zion
A bird unravels the unwanted sweater that Harry's grandma knit for him.

The Queen's New Clothes, Tom Dunsmuir
Dotty the Queen cat has an unsatiable appetite for yarn, and knits weird garments for everybody in the kingdom.

Safe Return, Catherine Dexter
A young girl pushes herself to knit mittens to will her mother's return from across the sea.

The Saturdays (Melendy books), Elizabeth Enright
Kids' knitting.

Scaredy Cat, Joan Rankin
Knitting.

Sheep in a Jeep, Nancy Shaw
Plus others; with a knitted lamb.

Sunny's Mittens, Robin Hansen
Grandma teaches a young girl to knit; includes patterns.

Tale of Alain, Arnold Zimmerman
Time travel tale; includes directions for making the hero's striped sweater.

Thomas' Snowsuit, Robert Munsch

The Tusk Fairy, Nicola Smee
A little girl's knitted elephant unexpectedly unravels and the tusk fairy comes to the rescue.

Children's non-fiction

Wool, Annabelle Dixon
Describes how wool is made into a sweater.

Poetry

Auntie's Knitting a Baby, Lois Simmie
Zany rhymes about a bad knitter.

Biography

At Home in the World: A Memoir, Joyce Maynard
Known because of her affair with J.D. Salinger; Maynard's mother was a knitter and the book includes knitting-related anecdotes.

Birds, Beasts and Relatives, Gerald Durrell
Amusing description of knitting by his mother.

Jenny Walton's Packing for a Woman's Journey, Nancy Lindemeyer
Includes many references to her knitting.

My family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell
Hilarious description of author's mother knitting in a car.

No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin
Biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; includes photo of Eleanor knitting.

Personal History, Katharine Graham
The author, longtime editor of The Washington Post and Newsweek, mentions her mother-in-law knitting as a decoy on the back of a rum runner in the Florida Everglades during Prohibition.

A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece, Jane Jacobs
Knitting in Russian Alaska in the 19th century.

Voyage of American Promise, Dodge Morgan
Solo long distance sailor describes mittens handknit by his wife.

A Welcoming Life (the M.F.K. Fisher scrapbook), Dominique Gioia
Photos of the author knitting on the beach.

What Fresh Hell Is This?, Marion Meade
Biography of Dorothy Parker, an avid knitter who carried her knitting bag everywhere.

Non-fiction

And Now All This, A.W.C. Sellar
The practice and fury of knitting (woology).

Born at the Right Time: A History of the Baby Boom Generation, Doug Owram
Mention of postwar shortages of knitting supplies.

The History of Hand Knitting, Richard Rutt

The Knitting Sutra: Craft as Spiritual Practice, Susan Gordon Lydon
Knitting and meditation as contemplative aids.

Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson
"Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food?"

Prevention's Your Perfect Weight
Knitting as a dieting aid (!).

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Emily Way (emily@woolworks.org)

Last updated June 4, 1999