Clara Parkes is well known for her passion for educating knitters about how yarn workes through her website Knitter's Review and her books.
After three lengthy reference and pattern books -- about yarn generally, wool more specifically and the ins and outs of sock knitting -- she turned her attention to a collection of personal essays about knitting and lif called The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Yarn.
About the Book
- Pages: 160
- Format: hardcover
- Number of essays: 22
- Publication date: September 2013
- Publisher: STC Craft/Melanie Falick
- Publisher's website
A Life in Yarn
I'm not sure anyone raised outside of a fiber family in the days before the Internet really expected to make a living from knitting and yarn, and Clara Parkes certainly didn't start her career with aspirations of knitting celebrity.
Educated in art history and French, she was editing a technology magazine and living in San Francisco when she and her partner devised an escape plan that involved moving to Maine, renovating her great-aunt's old farmhouse that had fallen into great disrepair and making a life out of knitting.
Fans know where the story goes from there. She launched Knitter's Review, a website dediciated to thorough reviews of yarn, tools and books related to knitting, which has been educating knitters and fiber fans since 2000.
And though being a knitting celebrity seems like a big deal to us, Parkes notes her real life is a lot more low-key:
I intentionally reside in a town of 910, my bedtime rarely reaches past 10 p.m., and my version of trashing a hotel room involves twice staling the salt and pepper shakers from my room service tray -- though in my defense, I did give a generous tip.
The Knitting Life
The 22 essays in this collection are quick reads that often connect some part of life -- from feeling like a fraud at a first job to making pie crust or meeting a friend for coffee -- to knitting.
There's a story about her grandmother's obsession with bobbles, her own fear of Kitchener stitch and the common trauma of working and cutting steeks.
She writes about family, moving across the country, working on the farmhouse, cast ons, traveling in France and finding a community of closet crafters at a feminist college.
Always there is knitting, whether the essay deals with a particular project or technique or as a metaphor or tie-in to a story that seems to be about something else. Such as her essay on gauge (which I opened to at random), which compares doing a gauge swatch to flossing or getting a colonoscopy:
In the knitting world of "someone else," gauge becomes the critical promise. It is the synchronizing of watches before an important mission, the sacred pact between leader and follower. "If you drive on this road at this exact speed," it seems to say, "you will reach Peoria at 11:37 a.m., like I did." Peoria is a sweater that actually fits.
Of course we knitters do tend to make everything about knitting, so this will be natural and fun for readers.
These essays are sometimes funny, often poignant reminders of what it means to be a knitter and why knitting is important to us. This is not a book to give to someone you hope will understand your knitting obsession better after reading it.
It is all preaching to the choir, for the community of knitters who already know the secret handshake (which involves a detour at the sweater sleeve) and aren't afraid to use it.
Read this book to be reminded of how special it is to be part of this warm and fuzzy community.