Take a journey with quirky, hilarious Clara across the world and into the back-rooms of the knitting universe! Knitlandia is the newest book by Clara Parkes, part of her catalog that includes The Yarn Whisperer, The Knitter’s Book of Wool, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, and began with her creation of Knitters Review in 2000, way back at the beginning of the online knitting community.
Sometimes, to learn, you have to first admit your own ignorance! Even if this can be embarrassing at times. On a recent visit to London, I had the pleasure of meeting author and knit promoter Clara Parkes and hanging out with Ysolda Teague (name-drop much?!). I’d been at the same shows as Clara before, and had seen her books all over, but I wasn’t really aware of her place in the knit community.
So what did I learn as I haltingly attempted not to reveal that I wasn’t already a long-standing fan? Well first of all Clara is a hilarious conversationalist. Every sentence included a witty joke or fascinating perspective! Secondly, she makes the MOST AMAZING salted caramels… I of course made the faux pax of asking for the recipe, and got a ‘… if I told you I’d have to stab you to death with my knitting needles’ type response! Afterwards, I asked Ysolda, who has known Clara for years and who explained a bit more about her long-standing contribution to the knit community.
Since it’s The Year to Learn Something New, I set a goal to read at least one of Clara’s books, so that the next time we rub elbows at a knit event, I won’t feel like quite as much of a fan fraud!
Knitlandia : a knitter sees the world
I really enjoyed this book! I loved Clara’s frank and colourful descriptions of knit events and personalities. From snowcapped vistas in Loveland Colorado to New York, Paris, and Iceland, I was intrigued by this down-to-earth travelogue, and the quirky knit industry folk she describes.
The chapter entitled ‘Cashmere Dreams and British Breeds’ describes Clara’s trip to Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. As an expat who has made a home here, I can totally relate to how she “rejoiced in how romantically dreary” her morning arrival into the city was. Scottish dreariness is even more romantic when you’re on holiday! From hipster cafes to the overwhelming hustle and bustle of the yarn festival, she captures the flavour of Edinburgh perfectly.
Clara visited Edinburgh around this time last year, and describes “mid-March crocuses and snowdrops, the beginnings of daffodils, blooming Lenten roses, a low, still-bare tree sporting bright pink panicles of flowers. I saw lush green grass and I smelled moist earth. So different from the frozen Maine I’d just left.” This describes the wonderful early spring in Edinburgh so clearly. It’s like this outside right now, amid what British people call the ‘cold north’ we have such amazing early flowers blooming, an antidote to winters where our northern sun sets before 4pm.
Clara also tells the story of her friend Ysolda’s professionalism and fame growing, from a pattern published in Knitty to a vastly popular international brand, and how she did it differently – by retaining all the rights to her patterns. Having had the pleasure to spend time with Ysolda myself, I know how inspiring her story is, and the sheer force of her creative and professional drive.
Finally, Clara meditates on the meaning of travel, describing how “Travel lends a glow that makes liars of us all”, and quoting Paul Theroux, who said “Travel is a state of mind,” that “has nothing to do with existence or the exotic. It is almost entirely an inner experience.”
Because I have also lived in many cities, and visited dozens more, her perspective on travel, life, and knitting holds for me a satisfying ring of truth, an honesty that immediately liked. I look forward to reading more of Clara’s work in future.
For other knitters and designers’ perspectives on Knitlandia, check out the blog tour:
Feb 22… Knit and Tonic
Feb 24… My Sister’s Knitter
Feb 26… Mary Jane Mucklestone
Feb 29… Knit Circus
March 2… Yarniacs
March 4… Leethal
March 7… Tin Can Knits
March 17… Marly Bird (Yarn Thing Podcast)
win a copy of knitlandia!
The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian entries only. (I’m so sorry all of you in the rest of the world! Not my choice). The contest closes Sunday March 13th at midnight (PST) and we will announce the randomly chosen winner on Monday March 14th.
Monday March 14th… UPDATE… A winner has been chosen & contacted! Thanks so all who participated… I had no idea that the Scottish animal was the Unicorn!?!
what are you reading this year?
The campaign to Learn Something New this year has expanded, for me, well beyond knit techniques. If you follow our blog, then you know that we don’t typically do book reviews, but the serendipity of meeting (and being fascinated by) Clara, then having the opportunity to review Knitlandia made this new thing happen!
On a COMPLETELY different topic, two other books I’ve read this year that have already made a big impact on me are How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (read it right now), and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (get ready to go down a rabbit hole… and emerge on the other side, happier, with a smaller stash).
TCK socks we hope Clara would approve of