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Knitlandia – Clara Parkes

Knitlandia - Clara Parkes

Knitlandia – Clara Parkes

I do like a book of essays about knitting – things like Sweater Quest and Yarn and Yarn Whisperer (also by Clara Parkes), so I was super-keen to read this one.

Here is the blurb …

Knitting aficionado and notable artisan Clara Parkes delves into her storied travels with this inspiring and witty memoir on a creative life enriched by her adventures around the world.

Building on the success of The Yarn Whisperer, Parkes’s rich personal essays invite readers and devoted crafters on excursions to be savored, from a guide who quickly comes to feel like a trusted confidante. In Knitlandia, she takes readers along on 17 of her most memorable journeys across the globe over the last 15 years, with stories spanning from the fjords of Iceland to a cozy yarn shop in Paris’s 13th arrondissement.

Also known for her PBS television appearances and hugely popular line of small-batch handcrafted yarns, Parkes weaves her personal blend of wisdom and humor into this eloquently down-to-earth guide that is part personal travel narrative and part cultural history, touching the heart of what it means to live creatively. Join Parkes as she ventures to locales both foreign and familiar in chapters like:

Chasing a Legend in Taos
Glass, Grass, and the Power of Place: Tacoma, Washington
A Thing for Socks and a Very Big Plan: Portland, Oregon
Autumn on the Hudson: The New York Sheep & Wool Festival
Cashmere Dreams and British Breeds: A Last-Minute Visit to Edinburgh, Scotland

Fans of travel writing, as well as knitters, crocheters, designers, and fiber artists alike, will enjoy the masterful narrative in these intimate tales from a life well crafted. Whether you’ve committed to exploring your own wanderlust or are an armchair traveler curled up in your coziest slippers, Knitlandia is sure to inspire laughter, tears, and maybe some travel plans of your own.

This gave me an insight into ‘knitting tourism’ or all of the knitting festivals that now take place. It was definitely interesting, but I think I prefer more emotional or personal life stories – plus all of the places she visits are so far away from me that I am unlikely to ever visit them (not that that is a fault in the book).

Another review …



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Slow Stitch – Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art – Claire Wellesley-Smith


This book was a christmas present – I was quite keen to read it, so I dropped a few hints.


It is split into four sections; Slow, Materials and Techniques, Cross-Cultural Activity and Contemplative.

First, this is a beautiful book. The images are spectacular and the cover is fluffy! There are a lot of amazing ideas about mindful stitching practice – I particularly like the section on walking and community activities.

I am quite keen to try thread dying and the daily walking practice (where you observe the seasonal changes).

Dying threads - I find this  appealing and something that I could actually do

Dying threads – I find this appealing and something that I could actually do

This is part of her daily walk - how beautiful is it?

This is part of her daily walk – how beautiful is it?

My only concern (as usual) is what to do with the finished pieces? The pieces in the book are beautiful, but do you frame them? Make a quilt out of them?

Although this is a book about slow stitching, it is really about a slow and sustainable life. Getting in touch with nature (through gardening and walking), sustainability (using things you already have) and community involvement. I’m a sucker for anything pretty and I certainly don’t ‘make do’. I have piles of yarn, embroidery threads, fabric and books, but I would like to live a slower and more meditative life.

More reviews …

Slow Stitch: A Book Review

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Book Review – Sweater Quest by

Sweater Quest -

Sweater Quest – Adrienne Martini

I read about this book while trying to find craft memoirs of lifestyle books, but read A Life in Stitches instead (the negative reviews on Amazon put me off). However, about a week ago I came across a comment in a blog recommending it and I thought why not give it a go. I’m glad I did I really enjoy it. I thought the interviews with other knitters fascinating (that was one of the complaints on Amazon). Here is the blurb …

“I knit so I don’t kill people” —bumper sticker spotted at Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival
For Adrienne Martini, and countless others, knitting is the linchpin of sanity. As a working mother of two, Martini wanted a challenge that would make her feel in charge. So she decided to make the Holy Grail of sweaters—her own Mary Tudor, whose mind-numbingly gorgeous pattern is so complicated to knit that its mere mention can hush a roomful of experienced knitters. Created by reclusive designer Alice Starmore, the Mary Tudor can be found only in a rare, out-of-print book of Fair Isle–style patterns, Tudor Roses, and requires a discontinued, irreplaceable yarn. The sweater, Martini explains, “is a knitter’s Mount Everest, our curse, and our compulsion. I want one more than I can begin to tell you.”
And so she took on the challenge: one year, two needles, and countless knits and purls to conquer Mary Tudor while also taking care of her two kids, two cats, two jobs, and (thankfully) one husband—without unraveling in the process. Along the way, Adrienne investigates the tangled origins of the coveted pattern, inquires into the nature of artistic creation, and details her quest to buy supplies on the knitting black market. As she tries not to pull out her hair along with rows gone wrong, Martini gets guidance from some knitterati, who offer invaluable inspiration as she conquers her fear of Fair Isle. A wooly Julie and Julia, this epic yarn celebrates the profound joys of creating—and aspiring to—remarkable achievements.

I’m quite curious (nosy) and I like detail about other people’s lives – how they go about things, what they like etc. Although I had heard of Alice Starmore (and the controversy), I had never seen any of designs (might be something to do with living in Australia). Her patterns are spectacularly beautiful, but I don’t know if the finished product would suit many people. I enjoyed reading about each of the challenges in this project – learning to hold a ball of wool in the non-dominant hand (I don’t think I could master that), finding the wool (that elusive last colour) and then the endurance to get the thing finished. I didn’t really understand her preoccupation with whether it was a real Starmore or not. She didn’t use the recommended yarn (which was no longer available), so can she truly say she has knitted Mary Tudor – personally I think if you have done the knitting then you have made the Starmore – of course it is easier now because both the yarn and the pattern have been re-released.

Ms Martini has a lovely, chatting writing style and I enjoyed many of her personal ancedotes – I’ve tried to teach my girls how to knit! I would have loved pictures (but maybe there are copyright issues?)

I found this to be a quick, interesting and enjoyable read (I even thought about buying one of Alice Starmore’s kits except I’m trying to reduce my stash), but I think it will only appeal to knitters.

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A Life in Stitches – Rachael Herron

A Life in Stitches

A Life in Stitches – Rachael Herron

I like what I am going to call craft memoirs – like this one or this one – I read about A Life in Stitches somewhere (ravelry maybe) and ordered it from the book depository.

Here is the description …

In these 20 heartfelt essays, Rachael Herron celebrated romance novelist by day, 911 dispatcher by night, and founder of the hugely popular blog shows how when life unravels there’s always a way to knit it back together again, many times into something even better. Honest, funny, and full of warmth, Herron’s tales, each inspired by something she knit or something knit for her, will speak to anyone who has ever picked up a pair of needles. From her very first sweater (a hilarious disaster, to say the least) to the yellow afghan that caused a breakup (and, ultimately, a breakthrough), every piece has a moving story behind it. This beautifully crafted and candid collection is perfect for the knitter who loves to read and the reader who loves to knit.

This is a very personal account of knitting and various different life events – some sad and some funny. I found it entertaining, fascinating, thought provoking and occasionally sad. I’m quite nosy I like to know details about people’s lives – not in a malicious way I’m just interested in how people live. Accordingly, I found this glimpse into Ms Herron’s life compelling.

Another review …

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Yarn: Remembering the Way Home – Kyoko Mori

Yarn: Remembering the Way Home

Yarn: Remembering the Way Home -Kyoko Mori

I don’t know how I came across this book. I was looking for something like Knitting Philosophy or Knitting Lifestyle. Possibly it came up as a suggestion from Amazon based on other books I have read.

Here is the blurb …

A memoir of crossing cultures, losing love, and finding home by a New York Times notable author. As steadily and quietly as her marriage falls apart, so Kyoko Mori’s understanding of knitting deepens. From flawed school mittens to beautiful unmatched patterns of cardigans, hats and shawls, Kyoko draws the connection between knitting and the new life she tried to establish in the U.S. Interspersed with the story of knitting throughout, the narrative contemplates the nature of love, loss, and what holds a marriage together.

This book is a memoir about one woman coming to terms with her mother’s suicide, her father’s indifference, a new country (and culture), marriage and dissolving a marriage. And it’s about knitting. Often Ms Mori uses knitting as a metaphor to describe some relationship in her life. For example,

While I had been working to expand my social circle, he had been trying to make his smaller. If my ideal life was a big Fair Isle sweater his was a white linen handkerchief.

She is a solitary person who spends a lot of time thinking (and knitting). It is a quiet story that unfolds slowly, but brutally honest. When her father died without a word to her – she finally realised …

A part of me wanted to believe that Michiko [her step mother] had kept us from having at least one honest conversation. Okiyo-san’s story put an end to this sorry delusion. My father had plenty of time to say his last word to the people he cared about. I wasn’t one of them.

Her writing is beautiful – simple and elegant. This book is for anyone not just knitters, but knitters will especially enjoy it. There is even a section at the end about knitting books.

Another review …

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Up Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary – Wendy Bernard

Up Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary - Wendy Bernard

Up Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary – Wendy Bernard

I ran my second half-marathon at the end of August (this one) and I decided I needed a bit of a reward. Hence this book! I had eyed it off a few times, but thought do I really need another stitch dictionary? But what is great about this one is the fact that there are instructions for each stitch pattern in the round, flat (from the bottom up) and flat (from the top down)!

Given that I mostly knit socks from the top down (and obviously in the round) this is brilliant!

It is split into eight sections:

  • Knits and Purls
  • Ribs
  • Textured, Slipped and Fancy
  • Yarnovers and Eyelets
  • Cables
  • Lace
  • Colourwork (I had to put the ‘u’ in colour)
  • Hems and Edgings

Each section also has a project – items like socks, mittens, lace stole, a jumper. I’m quite keen on the Checkerboard Mesh Pullover.

Checkerboard Mesh Pullover

Checkerboard Mesh Pullover

and the lace stole

Lace Stole

Lace Stole

As you can see from the above images, it is published in binder form, which means the book lies flat on any given page – I am not sure that was necessary it just means it takes up more space on my book shelf!

I think this is a great resource. Definitely worth buying if you like to design your own knits or even alter an existing pattern (there are instructions on how to switch stitch patterns) or maybe convert a flat pattern into the round, or knit something from the top down instead of up – the possibilities are endless.

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The Amazing Thing About the Way it Goes – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

The Amazing Thing About the Way it Goes - Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

The Amazing Thing About the Way it Goes – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I read this while on holidays and it is the perfect holiday read. I follow Ms Pearl-McPhee’s blog and I have read her other books, but this one was a departure from her normal style – not so much about the knitting.

Here’s the blurb …

From New York Times best-selling author and popular blogger Stephanie Pearl-McPhee comes a new spin and a hilarious look at life, parenting, and, well, pants.

The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes takes on the amazing in the ordinary in this side-splitting series of short commentaries. Pearl-McPhee turns her trademark wit and perspective to everything from creative discipline to a way you would never think about fixing your email situation. This book looks at everyday problems, and honestly, it won’t do much to solve them, but at least you’ll be laughing.

This book is a series of essays written in her normal witty style, but more personal. In fact, I think she was very brave to publish some of these chapters – like the Dear Sydney chapter. There are chapters on joining a writers group, learning to ride a bike with clip-in shoes (I don’t think I am co-ordinated enough for that!), what to do when a skunk moves into the space under your porch (I’m glad we don’t have this problem in Australia), her dentist phobia and more. It is laugh out loud funny, but also made me pause and think about a few things – I wonder if the no-pants parenting will work in my house.

Let me just reiterate this book isn’t about knitting – I read some reviews on Amazon that were negative due to the lack of knitting.


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Book Review – Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

The Yarn Whisperer - Clara Parkes

The Yarn Whisperer – Clara Parkes

I haven’t heard of Clara before, but when I pre-ordered Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting Amazon suggested I might like this one – I do like Amazon’s recommendation system usually I do want it or I already have it.

This book falls into what I call Knitting Lifestyle or Knitting Humour – the Yarn Harlot’s books are in this category too.

This book is a series of essays on various different life experiences using knitting as a metaphor or analogy. For example, there is a chapter ‘A Good Steek’, which is about dramatic life changes and that there is a way to do it safely – like a steek cut things apart once the edges have been reinforced so the whole thing doesn’t unravel.

Occasionally I thought the knitting metaphors were a bit laboured particularly the ones about traffic, but mostly I enjoyed reading about knitting and the place it holds in Ms Parkes’ life.

If you like reading and you like knitting, then I think you will like this book.

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Quilts 1700 – 2010 Redux

Quilts 1700-2010 Hidden Histories, Untold Stories

Quilts 1700-2010 Hidden Histories, Untold Stories

I know I have written about this book before, but I have finally finished reading it. This book is a textile lover’s dream – the illustrations are beautiful and it is full of fascinating information. It is not the type of book to read all at once, but just dip into every now and then (even to just look at the pictures and be awed by the skill, patience and dedication of the maker).

The book consists of four chapters; Making and using quilts in eighteenth century Britain, Complexity and context:nineteenth century British quilts, Maintaining the craft:British quilt-making 1900-45 and Negotiating space:fabric and the feminine 1945-2010.

Here are some of my favourites …

Unfinished Patchwork of Silks, c1860-70

Unfinished Patchwork of Silks, c 1860-70


Pieced Wool, c 1863-77


‘Sanderson Star’ quilt in cotton sateens,            c 1910-1920


Sara Impey, ‘Punctuation’. Machine stitched Silk,     c 2009


Janey Forgan, ‘Liberty Jack’, c 2008


Coverlet, patchwork of printed cottons,                c 1803-1805

As I love liberty fabrics, Liberty Jack is probably my favourite, but Sara Impey’s Punctuation is brilliant to, and then the amount of work involved in the earlier quilts is mind-boggling.

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Women’s Work The First 20 000 Years – Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Womens Work The First 20 000 Years - Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Women’s Work The First 20 000 Years – Elizabeth Wayland Barber

I heard about this book on Ravelry and then found a copy here. It was fascinating – I am tempted to start weaving except for the space and time commitment. I watched a few you tube clips and it takes a long time to set up the warp threads (I already have too many projects on the go).

Here is the blurb …

New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women’s unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies.

Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.

Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture.

Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods—methods she herself helped to fashion. In a “brilliantly original book” (Katha Pollitt, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.

This book was interesting; from the invention of string (who knew string was so amazing), weaving, the economics of weaving (and more particularly who controls the produce), different types of looms (and how local conditions affected their design), and why textile production was considered ‘women’s work’ in the first place.  While being scholarly, this book was still easy to read and if you’re interested in textiles, women’s history or social history this is the book for you.

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