If you love Little Women and love knitting (or even like one a lot and aren’t too sure about the other), this is the Knit-Along for you!
Through February – an appropriately “little” month – we’ll be re-reading Little Women and knitting along while we do it!
Choose your favourite Little Women themed knitting pattern – it might be one of the amazing shawls designed for Greta Gerwig’s recent film adaptation, created by Jenn Monahan, or a civil-war era sock-pattern, a pair of gorgeous slippers with a floral pattern, or simply something with a lot of furbelows – and get ready to knit it through February.
Every Saturday afternoon (3-4pm GMT), we’ll hold a live book-club chat on the dedicated Ravelry group about our work in progress and our reading. Join us here: https://www.ravelry.com/groups/little-women-read-and-knitalong
Feel free to post your work in progress on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #LittleWomenKAL.
A note about the reading
Little Women is often published as a single volume that incorporates the text that was variously known as Good Wives, Nice Wives, Young Wives or Little Women Married. We’ll be reading part 1 – the first 23 chapters, ending with the chapter “Aunt March Settles the Question”.
February has an extra day than usual this year and if you’re feeling up to reading a chapter a day, that’s a good way to get through it. We’ll be having a weekly online chat about our reading and our knitting progress and so we’ve also suggested the four “chunks” that the book could be usefully broken down into. These sections aren’t even (if you want to read the exact same amount every week you’ll read approximately 57 pages a go) but we feel they reflect four major phases of the plot.
Chapters 1-6 – These chapters establish each of the sisters and introduce Laurie to the family. These chapters set up the world of the novel – both in terms of its historical and cultural context and in terms of the novel’s moral compass
- Chapter Playing Pilgrims
- Chapter A Merry Christmas
- Chapter The Laurence Boy
- Chapter Burdens
- Chapter Being Neighborly
- Chapter Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful
Chapters 7-11 – These chapters are concerned with conflict, both at home and abroad. And fabric. So much fabric. Though there are only five chapters in this section, they are complex and are worth considering in their own terms.
- Chapter Amy’s Valley of Humiliation
- Chapter Jo Meets Apollyon
- Chapter Meg Goes to Vanity Fair
- Chapter The P.C. and N.O.
- Chapter Experiments
Chapters 12-16 – These chapters are concerned with relationships between women and men, contrasting the tentative beginnings of Meg’s romance with John Brooke and the deep love between Marmee and Mr March.
- Chapter Camp Laurence
- Chapter Castles in the Air
- Chapter Secrets
- Chapter A Telegram
- Chapter Letters
Chapters 17-23 – These chapters are about crisis and change. The climax of the novel is in these chapters as relationships are renewed and severed.
- Chapter Little Faithful
- Chapter Dark Days
- Chapter Amy’s Will
- Chapter Confidential
- Chapter Laurie makes Mischief and Jo Makes Peace
- Chapter Pleasant Meadows
- Chapter Aunt March Settles the Question
If you do read ahead, that’s absolutely fine but we will only discuss chapters up to and including the ones set for that week. We know it seems unlikely that there are many people who won’t have read or seen Little Women in some form so spoilers aren’t a huge issue but it is important to keep the discussion manageable. If we’re jumping all over the plot from the first chapters to the last ones, we’ll get into a huge tangle. Let’s reread and savour the book rather than racing through it!
If you have a hard-copy that’s great – it will be interesting to compare the variations among editions. If not, you can pick up a free digital copy of the text here: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37106 and in plenty more places online. It’s also a good excuse to visit your local library and check out a community copy.
Choosing your KAL pattern
There are dozens of possible patterns for this KAL – we try not to be too prescriptive! Here’s a short list of options to get you started. We have stuck to patterns that are available online and easy to access. Some are free, some are not but we hope there is something here for everyone!
Beth’s Shawl: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/beths-shawl-3
Marmee’s Broderie Shawl: https://intheloopknitting.com/movie-and-tv-scarf-knitting-patterns/#column3
Sock pattern from 1862: https://astitchintime.home.blog/2019/02/03/a-knitted-sock-from-godeys-ladys-book-vol-lxv/
Little Women shawl: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/little-women-2
Amy March’s Slippers: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/amy-marchs-slippers
Beth’s Patchwork Fichu: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/beths-patchwork-fichu-little-women-inspired
Little Women socks: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/154-31-little-women
Little Women Crochet Collar: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/little-women-crochet-lace-collar-or-necklace
A set of Little Women amigurumi: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/little-women-3
A Knitted Petticoat from the 1864 Godey’s Ladies Book: http://knittingaside.blogspot.com/2012/11/november-30th-ladys-knitted-under.html
And dozens more civil-war era patterns in Godey’s Lady’s Book: https://archive.org/details/GodeysLadysBookOctober1864
You’ll find something you love I’m sure!
Jane will be making Beth’s Shawl
I spent a lot of time dithering about which pattern I wanted to make most. I re-read Little Women a lot. I teach it every year, sometimes twice a year. And I have opinions™ about it. But these opinions™ change from year to year. It’s common, I think, for women who write in any capacity to feel an affinity with Jo. And Alcott definitely steers us towards her – she’s a vibrant character, full of wit and easy charm, by turns deeply emotional and highly practical. She’s an easy favourite and her journey from girl to woman is the one that shapes much of the course of the plot. But sometimes on my re-readings I really feel for Meg – I can totally understand her need to buy all of that fabric and to feel, however briefly, the potential of her elegance. Other years, I feel that Amy is hard-done by and the seething wrath I felt for her when I first read the book has been tempered by the realisation that Jo’s’ first masterpiece probably wasn’t all that brilliant anyway.
But Beth has become my favourite of the sisters. When I first read the book, I found her a little insipid. I thought she was a silly, prissy, butter-wouldn’t-melt, goody-two-shoes, nonsense character, chiming sweetly “Birds in their little nests agree!” in response to family squabbles. At first, I felt the most interesting thing Beth did was die.
I’ve come to feel this is a little harsh. Beth’s life is not meaningless or empty. Her days are full and she is happy. She never complains of boredom, not because she won’t complain but because she is not bored. And Beth is just as creative as Jo or Amy. She makes things – the embroidered handkerchiefs for Marmee, the exquisite slippers embroidered with heartsease for Mr Laurence – and doesn’t care if these acts of creativity lead to money or fame. Beth isn’t unhappy and it’s a mistake we often make – and I have often made – in reading our own ideas about ambition or power on to her and finding her lacking. Beth is not thwarted because she doesn’t have a career, or cheated because her life lacks romance. She doesn’t want these things, or show any indication that she strives after them. When she dies, we should be saddened because she’s left the world, not because she didn’t manage to do enough within it.
And so when I saw the pattern for Beth’s shawl had been released, I had to make one. She’s the best of them. I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.
Charlotte will be Making….
Another Beth’s Shawl! I adored the shawls in the latest movie, and could picture myself, sitting at my desk (read: laptop), frantically scribbling away (or, typing) in layers of skirts and shirts (or, more likely, pyjamas), all polished off with a lovely shawl. I haven’t actually made one before, but have several skeins of yarn stashed away that I think will work well with this design, albeit with a slightly modern twist. There’s a skein of beautifully slightly variegated silvery-grey Malabrigo sock yarn in there, along with some navy blue and shocking pink yarn from Coop Knits. I’m looking forward to getting started! Now to find some needles…