‘This Golden Fleece’ by Esther Rutter

Kathryn Hughes at The Guardian:

When Vanessa Bell painted her sister, Virginia Woolf, in 1912 she didn’t give her eyes, although she did supply her with knitting needles and what looks like the beginnings of a reddish-pink scarf huddled in her lap. Woolf, it transpires, was far from being the only member of the Bloomsbury group who liked to spend her downtime plaining and purling. Younger brother Adrian had recently taken up the craft and, by the outbreak of war two years later, Lytton Strachey was busy “knitting mufflers for our soldier and sailor lads”, thrilling to the thought of the tender male bodies he might be warming with his busy fingers. As for Woolf’s novels, they are stuffed with women plying their pins. One academic has totted them up, and discovered that in her fictions there are more females who knit than write.

Like all north Atlantic communities, Britain has depended for millennia on wool as a source of warmth and wealth, and Esther Rutter follows this thread by travelling around the sheepier parts of Britain, from Shetland to Guernsey and Norfolk to Monmouth.

more here.