Knit me a bestseller

Observations on knitting

What is it with knitting? We've got used to pictures of celebrities clacking their needles on film sets. Geri Halliwell, Sarah Jessica Parker, Uma Thurman and Cameron Diaz all indulge in yarn therapy. And in a slightly showy display of one-upmanship, Julia Roberts has had a pattern for a "random-striped sweater" published in McCall's magazine.

Now fiction is cashing in on the home-craft craze. This month, Things to Make and Mend by Ruth Thomas (Faber, £12.99) hits the shelves. This is a stitching rather than a knitting tale but treads the same homemakers' ground: protagonist Sally is a champion needlewoman ("homelier sister of Wonderwoman").

Next month sees the publication of Divas Don't Knit by Gil McNeil (Bloomsbury, £12.99), marketed as "chick lit meets domestic goddess". Gil's heroine is Jo, who takes over her grandmother's knitting shop in a Kentish seaside town. Meanwhile, an A-list actress moves into the local mansion and sets up her own "Stitch 'n' Bitch" group. Not so improbable judging by the list of names above.

In April, comes the mother of them all: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99). Written by a Canadian author who was inspired by her knitting-mad Scottish grandmother, the film rights have - naturally - been snapped up by Julia Roberts, who wants to star as the "brittle single mother" heroine who runs a wool shop and helps knitters untangle their messy emotional lives. Set in New York, the story celebrates the power of women's independence and is essentially an urban counterpart to How to Make an American Quilt, the Whitney Otto novel which was made into a 1995 film starring Winona Ryder. (The Friday Night Knitting Club has been dubbed "American Quilt Part Two".)

Such home crafts have never really been out of fashion in America, where there are 24 million committed knitters and Martha Stewart has cornered a lucrative market in shabby chic patterns with baby blankets and "Coming Home" baby ponchos for that first trip back from hospital. I wonder if anyone knitted one for her when she got out of prison?

But is knitting politically correct in this post-feminist age? Some argue that it is ultra-feminist. "Stitch 'n' Bitch" groups - the knitting equivalent of reading groups - are now the subject of a series of books by Debbie Stoller, radical Manhattan-based feminist. She argues that knitting is subversive and deserves the same respect as football.

And there are celebrity men knitters, too. Geoffrey Davidson, artist, opened a London exhibition last year featuring knitted pictures. Cher's favourite designer Bob Mackie (he of the spider's web, barely-there Oscar costume) purls, as does Hollywood producer Stu Bloomberg. But rumours that Russell Crowe is a keen yarnsman are exaggerated. The US website WorldKnit.com's picture of him posing with knitting needles in a biker jacket is, sadly, a spoof.