crafts / memoir / nonfiction / review

Unraveling: What I Learned about Life While Shearing Sheep, Dyeing Wool, and Making the World’s Ugliest Sweater by Peggy Orenstein

Honestly, I was a little disappointed by Unraveled. I almost didn’t request it because I had her confused with the odious Peggy Noonan and thought what a waste of a good idea on her! Then I realized my mistake and waited weeks to get it.

I thought this would be a real book highlight of the year, I do a ton of fiber arts from dyeing yarn to weaving to knitting to spinning and love memoirs but no. It wasn’t bad, I just didn’t think it worked as well as it could. She’s a good writer and and I liked her stories but I don’t think it ever gelled.

The sheep shearing chapter was the strongest and it unraveled from there until it kind of ended abruptly.

It was more disjointed than I would have expected. I did enjoy her WWII facts but it was kind of all over the place. I think it would have been better to have made it into two memoirs. One about her parents and elder care/dealing with their end of life issues and one about knitting. I didn’t feel like the connection between the two was very strong beyond literal timing and I’d feel like we were really getting into something about her dad or the yarn and then she’d switch topics again.

Maybe she lost enthusiasm for the project as time went on? She seemed much more excited in the beginning than she was as it went on (I get it, it’s a lot of work and she chose indigo dyeing over an easier natural dye) and then I was truly surprised at the end to turn the page and see the acknowledgments.

I also found it odd that she didn’t reference Crafting Change: Handmade Activism, Past and Present by Jessica Vitkus which had one of the only mentions of the song “Since Kitten’s Knittin’ Mittens (for the Army)” that I can find online beyond the sheet music on eBay and some copyright info at the Library of Congress. Vitkus mentioned it in the same sentence as “Knit One, Purl Two” just like Orenstein does. The mention appears right after photos of the posters Orenstein also writes about. Orenstein shares all the same info that appears in Crafting Change which came out not long before Orenstein’s but perhaps she saw notes or an ARC? Or they used the same source? It’s uncredited, she give a link to the source of the “across the pond” section in the notes but nothing about the music or poster. The similarities between these two books was striking.

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