Loretta Napoleoni, after a career of writing books on economics, terrorism and security, has turned her pen toward a new subject: knitting.
Her book, The Power of Knitting: Stitching Together Our Lives in a Fractured World, examines the social, economic, and political histories of the craft, while telling Loretta’s personal knitting journey.
“It’s a craft we have performed forever,” says Loretta. “And yet lots of people think it’s a sort of pastime that doesn’t mean anything…it’s much, much, much more than that.”
Loretta says she has written about many bad sides of the world—human trafficking, war, money laundering—but felt her messages were getting lost. When she was young, she wanted to change the world. She asked herself if she was approaching this goal in the wrong way.
“I thought maybe the way to put my message through that we need to love each other…would go through more easily using a positive example,” she says. “I know how positive knitting has been for me all my life, connecting with people, doing things for my kids, showing my love, so I thought maybe that’s the way forward.”
The book explains new discoveries in neuroscience on the physical healing powers of knitting, and highlights the power knitting holds to break down barriers and bring people together. These are concepts many knitters will be familiar with, but Loretta digs deep into history to get the whole story on our beloved craft.
In her research, she learned how important knitting was to human evolution—the earliest knitting was to make fishing nets for food. She follows knitting from ancient Egypt and Peru, through the role women played in the American Revolution and World War II, to today, with activists using yarnbombing to demand action on climate change.
Throughout the book, Loretta veiews knitting as a metaphor for life. Loretta herself has been knitting since she was 6 or 7 years old, and says it’s not just a hobby. She says knitting has saved her, pulling her through difficult times, and acting as a manifestation of love for her children as she made them clothes.
Loretta compares knitting to yoga—a practice. “All you have to do is keep doing it,” she says. “It’s just a matter of time.”
“Today, in a world where everything has to be instant, it’s a very difficult message to put through,” she says. “But of course, we’ve done it for millenia.”