Ghosts is not your typical knitting ebook. The knitting patterns are interspersed with essays exploring the very concept of ghosts and how they are tied to a culture’s exploration of death, gender role, technology, and history. It’s hard not to gush, because honestly, this sort of detailed research paired with art and crafting is pretty much my favorite way of looking at the world. Teresa’s research and analysis is fascinating. She starts with the Western tradition of ghosts, the one that is probably most familiar to an American or Canadian reader. We quickly learn that what seemed familiar is in fact a new myth in a historical progression of changing understanding of the returned dead. The transparent, vaporous humanoid forms that we think of as ghosts are a Victorian creation.
A fun little digression in the book is a list, written by King James I of England, of rules for deportment upon encountering a ghost. It is apparently very important to avoid asking questions of the dead, being not only very rude and prying, but also somewhat useless, as good spirits would only wish to speak the word of God and naughty spirits are all about lying to you.
Interspersed with these fascinating histories and definitions are photos of Teresa’s gorgeous patterns, each inspired by a particular tradition or myth surrounding ghosts. Galoshans, the lacy batwing sweater depicted above, was inspired by the idea of costume and disguise, but its white, light, transparency and flowing shape call to mind our Victorian ghosts with their fluttering, sheetlike appearance. The Calavera Catrina bonnet looks to Mexican Day of the Dead figures, referring to a 1910 print showing an elegant female skeleton in an elaborate flowered bonnet.
The book takes us outside the Western tradition and experience to explore realms of the dead less familiar to those steeped in Western tradition. Teresa’s elegant Hirtodama mittens are inspired by Japanese portrayals of blue glowing orb-like spirits.
It’s a joy to see meticulous research on such a rich and fascinating topic linked to the artistic manifestation of the thoughts inspired by the research. There is an almost abstract quality to Utukku, a capelet inspired by a monster of Akkadian and Summerian legend. According to Teresa, “Alû could envelop its victims like a cloak and squeeze the life out of them, and lived in darkness.” While this cloak is considerably more benign, its many ribbons add a visual touch that is beautiful at the same time as it calls to mind many tiny arms or tentacles poised to squeeze.
There are 11 patterns in total, and you can see them here on Ravelry. Ghosts is a real labor of love and creativity, and I hope you’re feeling as inspired by it as I am!
If you’re interested in winning a copy of the ebook, Teresa has generously offered one up. To enter, please leave a comment telling me about which pattern is your favorite and why, or with a ghost story or legend of your own. I will do a random drawing of the entries on Friday, November 2nd. Happy haunting! (And don’t forget to include an email address in your commenter info so that I can contact you if you win!)