If you are any kind of yarn lover, you probably know who Clara Parkes is. She has been working in the industry, writing and reviewing yarn and other things, since the early internet days, the pre-ravelry (gasp!) days, and has been traveling around the world going to yarn-related events and festivals, visiting shops, shooting TV shows, you know, the usual knitter stuff, for all that time. Her latest book, Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World, is a series of stories about these adventures. I started reading my copy on a plane a few weeks back, seemed the right setting to dip into it!
I’m so glad I got to see Clara at Powell’s on her Knitlandia book tour – if you ever have the chance to see her speak, do go! It was a fun time indeed. She read a chapter from the book – the aforementioned TV show filming story (about Knitting Daily), and she talked a bit about the industry and stuff. She explained that part of why she wrote this book, a travel memoir that happens to have a knitting tie-in, was so that knitters who get weird reactions from friends and family, when they travel to a fiber festival, or want to stop in at a yarn shop abroad, can show them the book as a reference. “I’m not weird! This is normal, see?” That wasn’t a Clara quote, just me quoting what you can say to your weird-look-giving friends when you show them her book.
The best part about seeing Clara speak at Powell’s? She brought a small bag of her homemade Claramels (caramels made by Clara) and played a game of knitter trivia to give them away – I wanted one SO BADLY and I luckily got picked for the final question and won one! The question was about something that happened in the first chapter of the book, and the answer was Julia Roberts; thankfully the answers were multiple choice and easy to guess, since I skipped around in the book and hadn’t yet read the first chapter!
Moving on to the actual book… for the blog tour, I was assigned the Paris chapter, which is great since I have fond memories of my brief trip to Paris way back in 2002, when I was studying abroad in England for the summer. I was only in France for 4 days, but I packed in a lot of sights and had a great, memorable time; here is one of my favorite photos I took there:
Unfortunately, I was not yet a knitter at the time of my Paris trip, so I have no yarny stories for you. But Clara does! An excerpt from Knitlandia:
CLOUDBURST OVER PARIS
I’D PROMISED THEM no yarn stores, no fiber festivals, no chasing down that elusive sheep farm someone said might be in the next town. No endless waiting while I fondled, took notes and pictures, and transformed a perfectly fine family vacation into yet another business trip.
My nieces grew up having to share me with yarn. They learned early on that any time with Aunt Clara would likely mean a festival, or a mill visit, or at least one lengthy stop at a yarn store. And, always, some form of work deadline.
In 2013, Hannah had just turned seventeen and Emma was about to turn fifteen. My brother—feeling flush, or perhaps finally realizing how quickly they were growing up—had announced plans for a grand European tour that summer. Together with my mother they would visit Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Denmark. And their first stop would be Paris.
That’s all you get here, but I assure you, there will be yarn, eventually. The photos above and below were taken by Clara on her Paris adventures – the shop below is L’Oisive Thé and Clara mentions their instagram in the book, which can be found here. The chapter, like the book, is kind of more about travel and life than actually about yarn, and it deals with things like nostalgia, growing up, memory, connection between the past and the present, comfort and discomfort (and finding comfort in yarn)… I really enjoyed reading it. And if I’m ever in Paris again, I will definitely seek out this lovely sounding shop!
I was excited to read the chapters of Knitlandia that I have a personal connection to – the Portland chapter about Sock Summit, and the Columbus chapter about TNNA. I’d almost forgotten just how huge Sock Summit was! I’m so glad to have a record of it in this book, as foggy memories came rushing back while I read it. And the Columbus chapter was fun, since I’ve been a part of those experiences a couple of times, ice cream and all. The chapter is more about North Market and Jeni’s than about the conference, so here’s a photo I took to give you a visual for when you read it:
I think if you’re a hardcore knitter, you’ll like this book, and if you’re a reader of travel memoir type books, you’ll like this book, even if you’re not a knitter. Her writing style is so fun and friendly, pulling me in so I want to hear all about her experiences with yarn, and with life in general.
And hey, there’s a giveaway!! Comment here and tell us about a knitting related trip, or a yarn shop you visited while on vacation, or any other knitting + travel experience you’ve had! Pictured above is a yarn shop I visited while on vacation in York, UK – I always try to stop in local yarn shops when I travel! One lucky winner will be chosen at random a week from today (Friday, March 11th) around noon west coast time to receive a copy of the book; be sure you get comment replies in your inbox, or check back here to see if you’ve won!
Check out the other Knitlandia blog tour stops!
Feb 22: Knit and Tonic
Feb 24: My Sister’s Knitter
Feb 26: Mary Jane Muckelstone
Feb 29: Knit Circus
March 2: Yarniacs
March 7: Tin Can Knits
March 17: Marly Bird