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“I know some people whose private side is always exposed to the world. They’re a walking vulnerability, weeping at the drop of a hat, revealing far more than is appropriate for the person or occasion. “How are you?” is usually met with a litany of problems and complaints and awkwardly personal details. It’s as if we wandered out into the world with our sweaters on inside out by mistake. Then there are those whose smooth public-facing side is all you or I—or maybe even they—ever see. So orderly are their stitches, so tightly held in place is their spotless, wrinkle-less, pillfree perfection, I sometimes worry that one wrong glance, one false turn, one dropped stitch and their very fabric will unravel. That’s when neighbors find themselves suddenly on the evening news saying, ‘He seemed like such a nice guy.’”
The excerpt above is from Clara Parkes’ new collection of stories, The Yarn Whisperer: Reflections of a Life in Knitting. Parkes, a renowned knitter who writes with sharp wit and poignancy, shares 22 captivating stories about the role yarn has played in her life.
In the foreword, she writes, “Since turning my life over to yarn, I’ve lived easily a dozen lives. It’s been at times thrilling, scary, and devastating. The road has had some stunning vistas, a few steep inclines, and its share of rim-bending potholes. My inner airbags have deployed more than once. But the path has always pulled me forward. I’m fortunate, and I’m grateful.”
The book includes stories of Parkes’ childhood, adulthood, family, friends, adventure, exploration, disappointment, love, and celebration—all tied together with a strand of yarn, of course. She hits upon the universal truths that bond knitters and illustrates how working yarn can be a metaphor for life. She explains that in Victorian times, women spoke through flowers. Some signified love, others friendship.
In the introduction, Parkes writes, “What if it turns out we do the same thing with our own knitting, creating swatches and garments that, when deciphered, tell stories of their own? Stockinette, ribbing, cables, even the humble yarn over can instantly evoke places, times, people, conversations, all those poignant moments that we've tucked away in our memory banks. Over time, those stitches form a map of our lives." Readers, especially fiber-crafters and fans of Parkes, will enjoy traveling along as she tells her life story for the first time.
Clara Parkes, a celebrated raconteur, is the bestselling author of The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, The Knitter’s Book of Wool, and The Knitter’s Book of Socks. She is also the founder and publisher of KnittersReview.com, a weekly e-newsletter that explores the pleasures and subtleties of yarn and was described by Folio Magazine as “what Cook’s Illustrated is to foodies.” She resides in Portland, Maine.