March 4, 2016

Knitlandia by Clara Parkes, blog tour: Paris (complete with giveaway!)

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!

Started reading this on the plane; seemed fitting. Good stuff!

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.

Clara Parkes at Powells

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!

Knitlandia book with Claramel

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:


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:

north market

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

Filed under: books,contest/giveaway,knitting — Lee Meredith @ 8:00 am
  • Margo Gillaspy

    I was just in Tacoma for Madrona (a 2 hour drive for me), and that was great! My favorite yarn store to travel to now is Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation. :)

  • Linda

    I visited Lake Placid, NY for the Ironman last year and was able to stop at Adirondack Yarns. It’s a quaint little shop located right across the street from the best bicycle shop.
    Lmecoll on Ravelry

  • janet daum

    I love to check out yarn stores wherever I go. I ended up in New York with my daughter and on the Sunday realized it was the last day of their yarn crawl. We were in Brooklyn and so I went to Brooklyn general and a couple of other stores in Brooklyn. I used to look forward to reading Clara’s blog post every Friday!

  • carolhandshue

    I loved the North Market picture! I lived in Columbus for 53 years before recently relocating to Fort Collins, Colorado. I hung around the downtown area during TNNA one year…hoping to see knitters and the like! My favorite yarn shop is in nearby Dublin, Ohio…Knitting Temptations. In Fort Collins I look forward to Interweave Yarnfest this spring to to see Clara. My favorite LYS here is My Sister Knits☺️

  • Gina Zahra

    I was doing a test knit beret that had to be finished just after we were leaving for a vacation in Jamaica…I had just a few rounds left that I finished on the plane, “borrowed” a plate from the buffet to block it and took pictures with palm trees in the background!!

  • Jennifer

    On a recent family trip to Japan I was excited to visit some Japanese craft stores and stock up on yarn and fabric–but the family part of family trip meant that in reality the closest I came to exploring the Japanese crafting community was approximately 45 minutes to escape our hotel room to find an outlet of a Japanese craft store that was located in the basement of a department store. My Japanese consists only of a few polite phrases but had been saved by frequent English speakers, however when I stopped at the information/welcome desk at the department store my luck ran out. Then I mimed knitting, and immediately all became clear. I was pointed towards the escalators, told how far to go down, and was able to make my yarn purchase!

  • Sarah

    Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for my finances and luggage space!) my big travel years did not align with my big knitting years, so visiting yarn shops was never on the agenda (which makes me a little sad now to have missed out). I have no big travel plans on the horizon, but just moved to the PNW and have enjoyed traveling locally and visiting yarn shops! My first stop was Tolt, which was lovely, and I have a goal to try to make it to as many Seattle yarn shops as I can in the two years that we know we will be here. I’m planning on participating in the Seattle LYS crawl in May so that will put a nice dent in that :) But oh how I miss international travel… and pairing that up with yarn sounds perfect!

  • deborah

    Oh, Notre Dame’s gargoyles take me back to 1989…a friend and I were in Paris for a weekend (we took the overnight train). It was September, the weather was beautiful, and we spent time “museuming” and visiting cafes. Most of our time was spent at the Musée d’Orsay, which was in it’s third year of being open and a favorite resting spot was atop Notre Dame after climbing to the top to sit on the roof. It was my friend’s first trip to Paris, she wanted to get her hair cut and styled at the Galeries Lafayette salon. After dropping her off at the salon, I went off in search of yarn. I found the perfect cotton yarn for a cropped, v-neck cardigan with three-quarter sleeves worked in an eyelet stitch from Vogue knitting. The Berger du Nord cotton caught my eye, a neutral tan with bits of color strand peeking through. Happily making my way to the salon, my friend was getting the finishing touches on her new ‘do. The silent scream expression on her face spoke volumes. Her big ’80s hair was syled to the hilt and sprayed as stiff as a board. After taking an “off with her head” photo, she went straight to the restroom and washed her hair. Evey time I wear the sweater it brings back fond memories and I call it my Last Time I Saw Paris sweater.

  • pistachios

    One of the most charming settings I’ve seen for a knitting shop is in a “passage” in Paris, Lil Weasel, and the many merceries around that are filled to the gills with covetable and picture-perfect buttons, trims, and fabrics. Love lingering and taking it all in!

  • vsbanotto

    Sadly I can only tell about dreaming a trip that involves knitting. All my friends and family that travel now know to bring me lovely yarn from wherever they go. I have yarn from Holland and yarn from England and am looking forward to yarn from Ireland. sigh…someday I’ll shop for yarn somewhere farther than my LYS and the internet.

  • Paula Castro

    I can not travel without my knitting. I use to spend my holidays in a family house where I do nothing except knit, knit, knit. It’s always difficult to choose what project to take with me cause I’m always afraid of spending all my yarn before the end of my vacations ;)

  • melanie lepage-forest

    I always travel with knitting, but have a difficult time doing yarn shopping with the gang. Two summers ago we were in Toronto and I did leave the family at the Hockey Hall of Fame so that I could have an afternoon of yarn shopping. Checked out Romni Wools. A must see!

  • florapie

    I make an annual trek to Vancouver for Knit City, partly for a vacation, but mostly for camaraderie! And this past year I waited at a crosswalk with Clara Parkes (and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) and fangirl squeed silently :)

  • BB

    I go to Stitches West every year with a friend and that’s a great way to meet a lot of new yarns and people. But when on vacation I always search out a yarn shop or two to visit. Last year it was Halcyon Yarn in Bath Maine and Pine Tree Yarns in Damariscotta Maine.

  • Claudia Ross

    I recently one of my knitting dreams came true. I was in Portugal and bought a Portuguese knitting pin at Retrosaria. Rav name: knittingmylife

  • Lee

    Congrats, you are the winner!! Please either reply to this comment with your email address, or reply to the comment email in your inbox, so I can get your mailing address for the book. Happy knitting!

  • Lee

    Just checking in once more since I haven’t heard from you – maybe you tried to reply to the comment email and it didn’t reach me somehow; please email me at leemeredith at so I can get your prize sent to you :)

  • carolhandshue

    Oh my, I am so sorry I missed this..totally understand if the prize is gone. That’s what I get for updating my iPad and then not being able to find my old stuff😝

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