Want to travel around the world in search of knitting utopia? Clara Parkes has you covered in her book Knitlandia
Note: a reader suggested that I review certain knitting books and knitting-related novels. I LOVE this idea, if only because I don’t read as much as I would like to, and this will encourage me to read more! So here’s my very first knitting book review: Clara Parkes’ Knitlandia.
Because I myself am a writer, I tend to compare myself to nearly every other writer I read, whether it’s in blogs, magazines and newspapers, or books. And the highest compliment I tend to give to a writer whose work I love is, “I should probably quit, because I’ll never write that well!” This is how I felt almost from the moment I began reading Knitlandia by Clara Parkes. I’ve been a fan of Clara’s since I first received her wonderful knitting newsletter “Knitter’s Review,” simply because I was in awe of her knowledge of and passion for yarn and knitting. I own another of her books, The Knitter’s Book of Socks, and it is a precise, detailed book packed with tremendous information that, somehow, avoids tedium.
A Different Kind of Book from Clara Parkes
Knitlandia is a very different sort of book from The Knitter’s Book of Socks. It is, above all, a storybook, and Clara’s ability to paint pictures with words are just about unmatched. A few quick examples from her chapter entitled “Big Fleece and Fried Dough”: “Hand-dyers are like microbreweries when it comes to naming things. The more nonsensical, the better.” (This after mentioning two skeins of yarn: one called “Skanky Hag,” the other “Formica Puppy.”) And another: “The stitch was simple feather and fan, but the yarn gave it the heft and warmth of a sleeping Maine Coon.”
For a book about adventures in the yarn industry, it shines the brightest when it’s sharing stories of the people. The very first chapter, “Chasing a Legend in Taos,” about La Lana Wools legend Luisa Gelenter, captivated me so with its description about the force of nature that was Luisa that I entertained insane thoughts about trying to write a biographic book about her. “Naked Lopi,” about Clara’s adventure in Iceland, offered a similarly compelling portrait of the gentle yet proud people of that breathtaking country. Even a sad story in the aforementioned “Big Fleece and Fried Dough” gave a bit of needed gravity, lest we knitters imagine that any place where a big hub of knitters congregate must automatically be utopia.
There’s also humor aplenty. Clara has a quick wit and a playful way with words. Her take on the “walk of shame” (the knitter laden with bags of fiberstuffs on his/her way back to the car, possibly for more than one trip, following a fiber festival excursion) left me in giggles, and as for a certain story in “Naked Lopi”… well, you’ll know it when you read it, trust me. I first read it in a quiet classroom while monitoring a test at an elementary school, and I had quite a time of it trying to stifle my urge to laugh hysterically!
I hope Clara (or her publisher) has plans to produce an audiobook. (It’s currently available only in hardcover and on Kindle.) Because, this being a book about travels in and around knitting, her descriptions of yarns and knitting patterns are practically palpable, and they make one want to knit more than anything else. Please, Clara or Abrams, make this an audiobook so that knitters can listen while they knit. Don’t make us choose between reading your wonderful book and knitting.
Note: since writing this, an audiobook version has indeed been released. Hurray!
For those of us who would love to travel the world in search of sheep, wool, knitting classes, or just about anything else having to do with our favorite fibercraft, Knitlandia offers one heck of a virtual substitute. By the end you’ll feel like Clara has taken you in her rucksack on her many adventures, and you’ll feel like you’ve added a few stamps into your passport.
Want to travel with Clara? You can order Knitlandia: a Knitter Sees the World for yourself here.
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