In Review: The Yarn Whisperer

There is something about Clara Parkes.


When I first heard about The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting, I was immediately intrigued. Clara Parkes is well known for her Knitter’s Review website as well as her Knitter’s Book of Wool, Knitter’s Book of Socks, Knitter’s Book of Yarn books, and her Great White Bale project. It is impossible to be in tune with the knitting world & not have a hefty respect for her work. So detailed, so thorough are her writings that she is simply in a league of her own. Somehow on top of all this, she comes across as the friendliest, most humble person on Earth. It’s not just her incredible work that keeps us reading, it’s who she is, too. There’s just something about her that makes us all trust her, that makes us want to listen to what she has to say.

Her considerable library of work, however, had included little personal narrative. Her writing has always been very personable and warm, but she has held readers at arm’s length throughout the years. Who can blame her? I would want my privacy, too. A memoir of her life in knitting, The Yarn Whisperer gives readers a rare glimpse into the life of Ms Parkes. We are invited to follow her road from childhood to the present day and see some of the wonder, missteps, disappointments, laughs, and successes. Complete with a rich cast of characters & her telltale way with words, there simply is no aspect of this book that is not a joy to read.

Perhaps the most treasured part of this book for knitters is how Parkes intertwines & relates each of her stories with a certain aspect of knitting. Steeking becomes a metaphor for leaving home to start anew, right side & wrong side represent our public & private lives, and the dropped stitch is like being stood up. In doing so, these stories are effortlessly relatable for the reader who knits. We have all felt the scissors snip of that steek as we move away from home. We all have a public & a private self. We have all sat alone at a table at one point or another, a human dropped stitch. This quality leaves us feeling that this book is not just the story of Clara Parkes, it is also the story of each and every one of us.

There are no shortage of quotes I could share with you, but the following is one of my favorites because I think at its root it is what I carry in my heart. Of all the things I could share with my own knitting friends, this sentiment is what I wish every knitter the world over could believe.

Knitters, whether you make museum-quality creations out of your own handspun Mongolian cashmere or garter-stitch washcloths out of cotton, you, too, can have a blast. You don’t need fancy-pants needles (nothing against them) or fancy-pants yarn (nothing against it) or a fancy-pants project (you know where this is going) to enjoy yourself and to be, in every sense of the word, a knitter.

There is something about Clara Parkes. Something very special, indeed.

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