June 3rd, 2008
Back in January, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with author and knitter, Kate Jacobs, and interview her about her New York Times bestseller, The Friday Night Knitting Club. It’s a book about the lives of a group of women, who bond at a New York yarn shop. Kate has a new book called Comfort Food that just came out and she was kind enough to do a quick interview with us between book tours.
Lion Brand: Your first novel, The Friday Night Knitting Club was a huge success and is even being made into a movie with Julia Roberts. Why do you think this story rings true with knitters and crocheters?
Kate Jacobs: I think the story appeals to women in a general way because it’s all about the importance of our female friendships. But I think the descriptions of knitting, of how it feels to numb your brain and get that kind of buzz from making stitch after stitch, hits home. And this idea of knitting being a metaphor for life –- the characters in FNKC certainly wish they could rip out some of the stitches in their life and start again, that’s for sure.
LB: What has the reaction been from the knitting and crocheting community to you and your book?
KJ: I’ve been to knitting shops all over the country and everyone has been universally warm and welcoming. Exactly as you’d imagine them to be!
LB: In an interview on our podcast, you talk about how it’s wonderful to be able to write about the knitting and crocheting community. What’s the most important lessons you’ve learned from this community?
KJ: You’ve got too much wool when your stash takes up an entire room! No, seriously, the most important take-away is that anyone can be creative, that they can take basic things and combine them to make something beautiful and satisfying. Or, in the case of cooking, make something delicious! You know, I’m just a hobby knitter, and I’m not naturally gifted with my hands in the way that my grandmother was. All I can do well is type. But that’s okay. I don’t have to be granny-good when it comes to knitting. And I don’t have to be a chef in the kitchen. That’s one of the things that the characters come to realize in my new novel, Comfort Food, and it’s something that took me awhile to figure out about my own culinary exploits. It’s about the process as much as the final product. Writing is like that in a way as well.
LB: Your new novel, Comfort Food, is about Augusta “Gus” Simpson, an on-air food personality who is hosting a new show, teaching real food made by real people. Do you think there’s a connection between the process and joy of cooking and the process of knitting and crocheting? Why do you think there is a resurgence of these past-times that are traditionally thought of as “domestic”?
KJ: What’s going on, in my opinion, is that we live in troubled times, and are looking for activities that reconnect us with an image of the good old days, that make us feel nurtured and comforted. At the same time, we’re getting close — I hope! — to moving past this either/or approach about women, this idea of having to choose between domestic arts and the so-called working world. When I was a teen I was so adamant about not learning anything my mother had to teach me about cooking, for example. I just thought that having these kinds of housewifely skills would ruin my chances for professional success. In retrospect, I can see that there are holes in that logic and what I ended up doing, for a long time, was hamper my self-sufficiency because I couldn’t even make myself a proper dinner. Thank God my husband could cook! That said, I’m not sure a person can “have it all” in the sense of being equally good at all things. But why should that be the expectation? I don’t think that’s what we should be aiming to achieve. I think it’s more about balance. And about embracing the right to define for yourself what you want your life to be. This isn’t easy. And often these things change with time and circumstances. I am very focused, and happily, on my writing and my career and I definitely enjoy creating characters whose skills are far beyond my own. And when I’m not working, I also enjoy being a little bit homey — even though I will never be a domestic goddess! And that’s fine.
LB: What are you currently working on (both in terms of writing and knitting)?
KJ: I’m at work on my third novel. But I’m always careful not to talk too much about what I’m writing early on because things change in the manuscript. Generally, though, my interest is in relationships and connections. I try to write books that are fun to read and that have characters we can relate to in one way or another. In terms of knitting, I am drowning under a mountain of yarn…and absolutely no time to knit. I had wanted to make an afghan for my bed by now and I haven’t even started! I have been so focused on promoting my novels, making myself available to telephone book clubs and join in their discussions, and working on my new book that I am busier than I’ve ever been in my life. It’s all good, of course, and I’m so grateful at how much support my novels are receiving. But it’s not leaving me much time to knit anything up!
For more with Kate Jacobs, listen to my interview with her on YarnCraft.