Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter (CBR 5)

Knitting humor.

Seriously! It is fun stuff. Nearly as fun as blocking your first lace shawl or rolling around naked in your yarn stash.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot, is a knitter, a mum (she's Canadian), a doula, the inventor of the word "kinnearing" and a super fun writer. I've been reading her blog for a few months and finally picked up one of her books. Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter is described as "a sort of David Sedaris-like take on knitting," but it is really so much better. Yeah, her stories are a mix of fun and touching and mostly involve hilarity at her own expense, but Pearl-McPhee seems more honest and...well she talks about yarn and knitting a lot which I can relate to much easier than say, being a gay guy in France.

Also, to limit the Harlot's writing to a "take on knitting" is too narrow. She isn't a knitter who writes. She is a strong, self-aware, interesting woman who knows how to tell a good story and also spends a lot of time knitting.

In case you didn't know, by the way, knitting is, like REALLY cool right now. There has been a huge resurgence of fun young people learning to knit and Pearl-McPhee has been very much involved. The Secret Life of a Knitter is a collection of tales of her 30-something years as a knitter.

She gets it. She knows why people knit and she tells a good story that knitters can related to...the insanity of finishing knitted gifts hours before Christmas Day, running out of discontinued yarn with half a sleeve left to knit on your first sweater, convincing friends that wool is God's gift to people and really not at all scratchy, and explaining to your spouse why that lost double-pointed needle MUST be found even though it only cost $1 and there are a bazillion more at the store. When Pearl-McPhee described the overwhelming joy in blocking her first lace shawl, I had to put on my first shawl and restrain myself from shouting at the book "I know! Isn't it amazing?!"

The Harlot's best stories evoke honest emotions felt by all people, even if they aren't cool enough to be knitters - like the comforting an ill friend or reveling in the success of a new skill and conquering a challenging project. I loved her description of her nana - "a hard woman to love." She doesn't sugarcoat her childhood but relates honestly that, even though we love our family, sometimes it's darn hard to figure out why or how.

She's also very funny. On her teenage daughter who declared that knitting was "boring" and that she didn't want to do it:

I fear for her future. I really do. If knitting is "boring" then what's it going to take to hold her interest? Hitchhiking? Spearheading a revolution? Dropping acid? (Do kids still drop acid? That's something I should probably find out, now that my very own flesh and blood is talking about not knitting.) It's a slippery slope, I tell you. First you tell your mother that knitting is "boring" and next something horrible has happened, like drug addiction, not folding your laundry, or (God forbid!) declaring wool is "itchy."
Mostly I enjoy Pearl-McPhee because we share the same passion. She gets geeky over the same little things that I love about knitting - heels in socks ("that miracle, the cunning three-dimensional heel"), capturing bits of your life in a project ("I know it looks just like a hat, but really, it's four hours at the hospital, six hours on the bus, two hours alone at four in the morning when I couldn't sleep because I tend to worry"), and the wonder of wool.
The world has come a long way, and astonishing and intriguing machines arrive every day, but there is still not a machine on this earth that will shear a sheep. Every ball of wool starts with some man or woman somewhere in the world...holding fast to a pissed-off sheep while cutting its fleece free. Every ball of wool you and I have ever knit, all the balls of wool in the world in every country in the whole history of the world thus far, came from the sweat and grit of a person wrestling a hot, dirty, furious sheep.
And now that wool is on my (and the Yarn Harlot's) feet. Very cool.

I found my reading mojo

The World Without Us was such a spectacularly awful book that, not only did reading it cause me to contemplate killing lots of people, but it destroyed my desire to read anything - at all - for a month.

So, I did what every American girl does when she's in a rut...I went shopping. I came home with books by three people I know I find entertaining: William Shatner, Julia Child and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Don't know the Yarn Harlot? Check out her blog. An honest to goodness book review is coming soon.


Still reading...

Currently reading Sherlock Holmes, which is awesome and The World Without Us, which is not. Expect the review of the latter to contain frequent usage of the word "balls."