Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a 40-something Canadian knitter better known to her legions of fans as the Yarn Harlot who is known for her exuberant, sometimes zany tales about her love of knitting and knitters.
Her book Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again seems to take a more introspective, maybe even mature view of the craft she (and we) loves, sharing more stories about individual knitters and the impact they've had on her lives. Chief among these are her three girls, all teenagers now, who, like any teenagers continually frustrate, frighten and enchant their mother by turns.
A Book About Knitters
Pearl-McPhee says in the introduction to this book that it's about knitters more than it is about knitting, and that's really true. There are many essays about knitters in her life, how they are different and how they are the same.
These stories can be funny, as when she decides her 16-year-old daughter is OK because she went to the yarn store on her own and spent $17 on a skein of yarn to make herself mittens (the logic being no person on drugs would spend that much for yarn); but they can also be heartbreaking, as in the last essay of the book, which talks about never losing the feeling for knitting, even when we're too old or frail to actually do it any more.
In classic Pearl-McPhee style, this book will make you laugh out loud (a story about a skein of handpainted sock yarn and an elevator got the most chuckles from me) and it may just make you cry in spots (particularly if you're a mother, which I'm not).
No matter which end of the emotional spectrum she's one, Pearl-McPhee tells knitters' stories with heart and a spirit that brings us all together.
Creativity and Creation
If you read her blog or have read her other books, you understand what I'm talking about. Her stories are personal and yet universal; they all teach us something about what it means to be a knitter in the world today.
Here's just one example from an essay on the differences and similarities between writing and knitting, creativity and creation:
It was so simple that I was almost ashamed that it had taken all day to put it together. Knitting wasn't always about creativity, and neither was writing; it was about creation, bringing something into being. Making a thing where there wasn't something before. When I was writing, I was coming up with an idea, and then using my skills to make it a reality. Same thing with knitting...They were the same, they fed the same human need, they enriched the soul the same way. They were not an act of creativity, they were a pure act of creation.
It just warms you up to read stuff like that and to be reminded that the people she writes about and the stories she shares are your people and your stories because we are all a part of the kinship of knitting.
Publication date: September 2008.