Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


Dear Bess, you've written a wonderful review! I'm here at Rhinebeck (what a wonder wireless is!) and in a few hours I will be able to give Ms. C. a big hug from you.

By Blogger Jane, at 7:24 AM  

I couldn't wait to get it at Barnes & Noble on Tuesday -- I just ordered it on Amazon! Thanks for the review!

By Blogger Mary, at 8:51 AM  

I already wanted this book, but your glowing review has made me want all the more. Thanks for the details.

By Blogger Nerdy Knitter, at 7:00 PM  

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Saturday, October 20, 2007  

The Knitters Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

Well, my dears. I have had a day to peruse That Book and I am still in love. Not, mind you, that I've read it all, for I am taking my sweet time to savor every lovely page. But I have swiftly turned all those pages to gather in a sense of the whole and I know I am going to enjoy each one of them, when its turn for my full attention comes around. This is a book – one of the few, especially in the fiber category – that I will read thoroughly and repeatedly. This is a true addition to the literature and we are fortunate indeed, that Clara Parkes made the effort to give it to us.

That she had the talent, discipline and artistry to do so is no surprise. I've been a major fan of her Knitters Review column for nigh on to 6 years now. I won't claim to be one of the first fans, but I was an early subscriber – desperate as I was to find out about yarn - since I could only rarely get to a shop to see for myself. Searching the Internet for someone who would give me an unbiased opinion of - probably something as basic as Brown Sheep worsted weight yarn – I found her weekly review a tremendous boon. She introduced me to a yarn, told me it's properties, showed me a photograph, warned me of its tendencies to pill, stretch, flatten out. In short, while she was doing her field research, she shared with us all, the results of her experiments and we are all the better for it.

It's therefor, no surprise that she would want to gather all this deep understanding of what yarn is, and why, and put it into a single volume. After all, no point in leaving all that good knowledge just cluttering up the place. Put it in a book and you can put it on the shelf, when you have to take care of the non-fiber parts of your life!

So what will you find in The Knitters Book of Yarn?

Ahhh. First of all, be prepared for beautiful writing. I never read introductions in books. I'm not sure why I read the introduction to this book, actually, since I have talked to Clara often enough about TheBook. I know a little of who she is and why she wrote it. Perhaps it was because I wanted the pleasure of reading this book, for the first time, to last as long as possible. How glad I am that I did, though, for the lyrical prose instantly transported me to that soft lilting place I go to when I am stroking a beautiful skein of yarn, petting a springy merino fleece, fingering the drape of a silk lace shawl. Beautiful writing is a precious thing in and of itself. When it is about something I already love, oh my, it is a treasure.

The first section gives you an overview of the fibers you'll find in modern yarn, with a bit of history, a discussion of the fibers' characteristics and tendencies, and a wee bit about how they are brought into the manufacturing process. Each fiber is illustrated with a photo from one of the many patterns to be found later in the book. The natural fibers are given the most space, but even synthetics get due attention.

Next she discusses the processing stages: Shearing, plucking, carding, combing, spinning. Here you will find the micro-processors who give us small run lots, and the big guys who import those Italian luxury yarns. There is a wonderful discussion about woolen/worsted spun, a valuable essay on color,how it gets into the yarn and what it does when it's knit up, and a great piece about pills – why they form, how to avoid the worst of them and how to get rid of them once you've put your heart and time into that stranded color work in fingering weight yarn and now you look like a walking lint ball.

The biggest section in the book contains patterns knit up in different, and more especially, different ply yarns, to demonstrate an optimal use of each particular yarn: Single ply yarns, with their tendency to torque, knit into a ribbed fabric to pull it back into place; mohair knit into ruffles to take advantage of its drape; two-ply yarn pushing open the spaces in a lace stole. Most of the projects are small, many requiring only a single ball of yarn, giving the knitter the opportunity to get to know all types of yarn.

There is a rich trove of information in the back, guaranteed to advance any knitter down the road to fiber artist status. There is a “care and feeding” guide, a glossary, a thorough explanation of ball band icons, a suggested reading list, designers' biographies and a suppliers list. I'm tempted to say the book is worth the price for the back section alone, only, who would pass up that beautiful introductory essay, that fascinating description of fibers, those clever patterns?

When I look at knitting books, if I find half a dozen things I know I will return to, be they clothing designs, stitch patterns or beautiful photographs, I'll plunk down my hard earned cash. When I find a book so chock full of such treasures, I am profoundly glad I live in an era when books are fairly inexpensive and the UPS truck drives down my road daily. Priced at $30, TheBook is smack in the middle of the price range between glossy coffee table books and paper-backs. Its valuable contents will make it one you return to again and again while its beautiful presentation will make it a pleasure to do so, every time.

Knitters, crocheters, even spinners, you are really in for a treat. Thank you Missy Clara, thank you.


posted by Bess | 6:19 AM