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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, Down to Earth, and Filled with Knowledge and Wisdom
I have been a fan of Clara Parkes' Knitters Review forever and have loved her other three books. This one is no exception. It is written with the yarn lover and knitter in mind. The book contains no patterns, but rather is a collection of reminiscences or essays by Ms. Parkes. She talks about her life as it relates to knitting and yarn. "This book is a collection of...
Published 14 months ago by Bonnie Brody

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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written but cut the metaphor
This is indeed a beautifully written book with yarn as its metaphor (as stated by a previous reviewer). But after about the third chapter I began to hope that the author would let go of the metaphor. By the sixth chapter, no matter how the author spun it, I found the metaphor was becoming a cliche and I was having trouble reading more than a chapter or two at one sitting...
Published 14 months ago by kgohl


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, Down to Earth, and Filled with Knowledge and Wisdom, September 3, 2013
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This review is from: The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting (Hardcover)
I have been a fan of Clara Parkes' Knitters Review forever and have loved her other three books. This one is no exception. It is written with the yarn lover and knitter in mind. The book contains no patterns, but rather is a collection of reminiscences or essays by Ms. Parkes. She talks about her life as it relates to knitting and yarn. "This book is a collection of my own musings on stitches - why we work them, what they do to fabric, and how they have contributed to the fabric of my own life. For life really is a stitch. It has a beginning, a midpoint, and an end. It serves a purpose, and if we're lucky, it creates something beautiful and enduring."

There is one essay that relates to steeks - sometimes we have to make a cut in something in order to give it a chance to become whole. In the chapter about the choreography of stitches she discusses her move to Tucson and the discovery of the rodeo. She also learns square dancing. She looks at myriad stitches and designers and compares them to different types of choreography. For instance, Kaffe Fassett is a modern choreographer and other designers are more traditional. There is a poignant essay about her parents' divorce and her trip cross-country. The essay on stashes really spoke to me. I have so much yarn that I could open my own yarn shop. Ms. Parkes discusses the need to cull stashes and compares them to gardens. "As hard as it is to say, I should point out that a healthy stash requires frequent and prudent weeding. It can easily get overrun before we notice what's happening". In her essay called Stitch Traffic she gives very sound advice, that "putting blind faith in anything is rarely a good idea, whether it's a GPS or a knitting pattern. It's far better to develop your own instinct, learn for yourself what works and what doesn't - and learn why". The discussions on swatching and slipped stitches are both humorous and poignant, pointing to the importance of connection and standing firm. In The Great Whodunit, Ms. Parkes talks about how "a good mystery book can be like a good knitting pattern. It takes you on an adventure, engages your mind, paints a pretty landscape, maybe even surprises you now and then, but always reaches the expected resolution." In Coming Undone, the author takes on the negative connotation of unraveling and provides a more positive definition like disentangling or solving a problem. I know that when I undo my knitting it is always to make it look better or to correct an error. I like the idea proposed in Making Martha's Sandwich, that any knitter is a real knitter, no matter how advanced they may or may not be.

She writes with a serious, poignant and humorous manner, providing some history of knitting in several essays. As the book cover states, she "uses the metaphor of knitting to tell her own story". There are 22 essays that deal with topics such as divorce, leaving the bustle of dot coms for a more leisurely life in Maine where she lives in a town of 920 people with her partner, and the relationship of baking to knitting. I am an avowed knitter but do not read many knitting books. I read Clara Parkes for her wisdom, down-to-earth manner, knowledge and wisdom. I love it when she states that "'happily ever after' is a moving target. No matter how perfect any one sweater may be, it's only human to crave another. And another. And another." I would recommend this book to anyone who knits and loves yarns.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written but cut the metaphor, September 11, 2013
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kgohl (WORCESTER, VT, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting (Hardcover)
This is indeed a beautifully written book with yarn as its metaphor (as stated by a previous reviewer). But after about the third chapter I began to hope that the author would let go of the metaphor. By the sixth chapter, no matter how the author spun it, I found the metaphor was becoming a cliche and I was having trouble reading more than a chapter or two at one sitting. The chapters with "less" metaphor, and often fewer life lessons, seem to work better. The chapter about the Kitchener stitch and its origin, for example, comes to mind, with its historical information. Come on Clara--more stories about yourself, about yarn and knitting, or about anything, really, but lay off the metaphor. Still, knitters will want to read this book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Nearly Almost a Good Book!, January 15, 2014
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IngridH "LandUnderWave" (Metropolitan Washington DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting (Hardcover)
I'm giving a very reluctant three stars. I would have given it two stars, but the subject matter alone made it worthy of an extra star. I'm glad I bought the book because I want more essays about knitting and yarn and fiber to be written and published.

But... but...

I LOVE Clara Parkes. If I ran into her at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I'd silently freak out, channel my inner Canadian YarnHarlot style and play it seriously cool (because who the heck would I be to her?), and then freak out about it for the whole next year, much as I did when I was looking at the sheep photographs at the same time as Deborah Robson -- who wrote The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, which is one of my very favorite books ever -- at the 2013 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

That said, going back to The Yarn Whisperer... yikes. The essays are short and the metaphors are big, obvious, clunky, and shoved down the readers' throats in the least elegant manner possible. I have a very difficult time with any author using "we" to try to strike notes of (usually false) profundity. It's equally difficult to take here. Every time a writer tells me "we" do something, I want to shout back, "No, *we* don't!" speaking, of course, as myself. Writers have no business speaking in sweeping generalizations about people. Stick to specifics. Leave it to the reader to see herself in what is portrayed.

The book could have been awesome if she'd made the memoir more cohesive and detailed while weaving (no pun intended) the yarn side of her life into the story naturally. I think she should step way back to allow her readers to see connections and links for themselves. I liked the idea behind the book so much that I would insta-buy a revised copy if she gave herself some breathing room to extend the narrative (a few pages per chapter was just way too short, which I think added to the feeling of clunkiness) and stopped drawing conclusions on my behalf.

I want to respond to this even though it might not be helpful for review purposes: There was a touch of weirdness about purling English style. "I hold the yarn in my left hand, which makes my purls speedy and graceful. The yarn is already where it needs to be; I just flick my finger and up it goes onto the needle. If I were to hold the yarn with my right hand, I'd have to cross two lanes of busy stitch traffic every time I wanted to get the yarn onto the needle." I hold the yarn in might right hand and purling has always been slick and easy and fast for me. My yarn doesn't have to travel any farther. Continental style knitting isn't the be-all-end-all. I see how Continental can be faster, but English style isn't slow or clunky. Don't know why it has to have such a bad reputation. It's all knitting.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed really, October 13, 2013
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Clara Parks is a good essayist, but I hoped and expected more from this book. No knitting substance--only humorous generalization.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feels like my new favorite sweater, September 22, 2013
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This is one of those books that made me feel terribly sad when I reached the last page, because I enjoyed reading it so much. The book is full of lovely insights into both yarn and the lives of those who love it. I can see myself going back to it again and again, when I feel the need to bundle up in the literary equivalent of my favorite comfy sweater.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing Anecdotes and More!, January 17, 2014
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I have all of Clara Parkes' books, but I wasn't sure about this one. I usually only buy knitting-related books if they're reference or pattern books, and a memoir or collection of stories didn't seem like it would be very 'useful' to my collection. However, I got a Kindle for Christmas this year and decided to purchase the e-copy. It was a fun read and there were many times I caught myself laughing out loud -- but the true test of this book came when I was waiting on my boyfriend at the airport. There's a whole chapter dedicated to kitchnering, and I just happened to be at the toes of some socks when I was stranded at the airport with nothing else to do. I had no idea how to kitchner without directions, so I looked up Clara's anecdote in the book about the time she finally 'understood' how kitchnering works. It was just what I needed to finish the toe on my sock!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, November 6, 2013
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The memoir was engaging, but sometimes the yarn was or should have been very secondary and the writer really stretched the metaphors to make them work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, May 2, 2014
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As an avid knitter and designer, I was looking forward to learning about someone else's journey in life. The first couple of chapters were fun. However I rapidly became annoyed with the repeated and eventually rather forced metaphors between life and knitting. I did read to the end, hoping to find something redeeming, but was disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for all fiber fanatics!, October 7, 2013
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This review is from: The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting (Hardcover)
I know Clara and have attended some of the Knitter's Review Retreats. She is smart, funny and confident! She teases the story out of the yarn in order to maximaize its full fiber potential. This book offers insight into how Clara became Clara- loved it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Curl up and enjoy!, October 2, 2013
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This review is from: The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting (Hardcover)
If you love yarn . . . if you love knitting . . . or if you just love insightful comments about life -- then this book will enchant you! Folks who subscribe to Clara's on-line newsletter, "Knitters' Review" know how beautifully Clara can turn a phrase. She does it page after page in this book. Somehow she made this book a page-turner and a book that kept me smiling. It's joyful!
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The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting
The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes (Hardcover - September 3, 2013)
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