Author Alice Hoffman Teams Up With Cousin To ‘Weave A Tale’

HoffmanAlice Hoffman photo (left) by Deborah Feingold. Lisa Hoffman photo by Alyssa Peek.

Alice Hoffman, a Cambridge author of more than 30 novels, has teamed up with her cousin Lisa Hoffman to create a unique book centered around the intersection of storytelling and knitting.

“Faerie Knitting: 14 Tales of Love and Magic,” released in September, is a book of fairy tales written by Alice and knitting patterns created by Lisa, a knitwear designer and teacher. The fairy tales feature female protagonists, and each is accompanied by a relevant knitting pattern—”The Night of the Witch,” for example, is paired with witch gloves.

The combination might seem odd at first, but Alice explains her view that writing and knitting are intricately linked.

Read our interview with Alice:

Faerie

Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

I read your introduction, and I would love to hear more about how you see writing, and specifically fairy tales, as being related to knitting.

My feeling is that every writer should have to try to learn to knit, because there’s a lot of similarities, and I think that’s probably why it’s always that you’re “weaving a tale,” you’re “knitting a story together”—there are a lot of words that are used for the same thing, the process is similar. Whether you’re writing or whether you’re knitting, it’s not going to come out perfectly, it’s going to come out yours, and homemade. I think that the things you have to do in knitting, which is very often take the whole thing apart or unwind parts of it, is really true of writing as well.

What was the process like when you were putting this book together? Did you collaborate on the stories to begin with? Did the stories come first, did the knitting come first?

The story came first, but even before the story we made a list of titles, and the titles would be good for something for knitting or something for a story, a story that would bring about something—like if we call something “Three Wishes,” what can you make out of that? And then I would write the story and she would make the garment. And sometimes the garment was kind of a complete surprise to her.

It’s pretty apparent from your introduction and from looking through the stories that this book really focuses on women as protagonists, as storytellers. Tell us a little bit about that.

I think that might have been part of the appeal of fairy tales for me. I was a fairy tale fanatic from a very early age, and so many fairy tales are stories about girls who are in danger or lost or abandoned and have to make their own way through the world. I think that’s part of the appeal for me, that’s what I write about in my fiction anyway, that’s what interests me. But I always felt like fairy tales have a deep psychological truth, and it might be hidden underneath the symbolism, but as a reader you feel those things anyway.

Fairy tales originated as the oral tradition of grandmothers telling stories to granddaughters, and then they were collected by men and put into books and some of them were changed and some of them weren’t, but basically the same themes are pretty much there.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and conciseness.

Alice and Lisa Hoffman will discuss “Faerie Knitting: 14 Tales of Love And Magic” at Harvard Book Store on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m.

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