Knitlandia and The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parks

Genre: “knitlit”, nonfiction
Secondary Genre: Crafts, memoir

If you follow my regular blog or my social media accounts, then you’ll know that I’m pretty involved in the knitting and yarn craft community (That is maybe an understatement. I design patterns). So I was aware of Clara Parks for a while, but had never read her work. She was just a name I’d heard on the convention circuit, someone who regularly taught at events or was interviewed on podcasts.

My new library, however, happened to have two of her books on audio available for checkout, so on a whim I grabbed both and listened to them in record time.

Quick and funny, these memoirs–stylistically like The Yarn Harlot’s books (aka Stephanie Pearl-MacPhee)–were honestly some of the most enjoyable pieces of “knitlit” I’ve ever read. Normally I find prose books written for the knitting community to be trite and full of pointless wool-gathering (no pun intended) (Okay, maybe it was a little intended), but these were a breath of fresh air. Knitlandia is a yarn-based road trip around the world as Clara describes some of her various speaking engagements and the mishaps that have ensued. It made me so eager to go to some of the conventions and events I’ve seen online but have never had the chance to attend. In the days of shelter in place, it will either provide 4-5 hours of relief for those itching to get out and travel, or make that itch completely unbearable once you are done. I blew through this book so fast I didn’t even take notes, but I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

In her book The Yarn Whisperer, Clara continues to discuss various events in the community, her adventures in attempting to write fiction, and how she learned about fiber and some of her extensive knowledge. I absolutely loved her writing style, which is filled with fantastic metaphors and off-beat humor.

It wasn’t until I started listening to this book that I discovered she’s queer. She doesn’t make a big deal of it in her books; when she speaks of her partner, they are simply a couple existing, which I love.

Both of these books are narrated by the author, which just makes them even better as she has perfect comedic timing. Even if you aren’t a big knitter, I think these are worth a listen. They’re amusing and relaxing at the same time, and that’s not a frequent combination.

(P.S. Clara, if you’re reading this: Want to be CPs? I would 100% read a mystery novel by you).

No Idle Hands by Anne L MacDonald

Genre: nonfiction
Secondary genre: social history
Format: ebook
Rating: planchet-5

This is easily one of my favorite books I’ve read this year (Yeah, I know, it’s a short list. Don’t judge).

MacDonald looks at the history of knitting in America, starting with the colonial period. It was educational and entertaining, and while ebooks are my least favorite format, I devoured this book, highlighted all over it, and then ordered a physical copy so I could transfer my notes to post-its and add them in.

There were so many interesting stories, from women knitting for soldiers during the American Revolution, to WWI prison inmates who were supposed to be knitting for soldiers making themselves a rope out of Red Cross yarn and escaping.

I’m half tempted to re-read it already.

An English Boy in New York by T.S. Easton

Genre: YA contemporary
Secondary genre: knit lit
Format read: ebook
Series: Boys Don’t Knit (in Public) vol 2
Content Warnings: mentions of weight/diet, sexism
Rating: planchet-3

I read the first book in this series ages ago, but my library never purchased the 2nd book. Thankfully, now that I live in Seattle, I have access to a whole other library system!

I can’t tell you too much about the plot without giving away book one, but suffice to say that our main character, Ben, is a British-born teen knitter, who has won a trip to New York City. Traveling with his parents (who are hilarious, by the way), and a friend, Ben is in and out of trouble all week–and accidentally sets himself up for failure when he claims to knit faster than a machine…during a radio interview.

This whole series is funny and light, but my biggest pet peeve is that it is NOT well researched. You can’t knit a whole sweater in one piece on straight needles. You can’t buy yarn and needles at Bloomingdales (American department stores are very different from UK/European department stores), and you can’t knit a men’s sweater in 1 hour, even if you are using size 10 needles.

I do, however, like the way that Ben subverts tropes and expectations. He’s still a pretty typical teenage boy, he just happens to knit. He’s also super sweet (and he needs better friends).