Interview by Kathryn Vercillo
Part 2: Author Interview + Giveaway
Author Interview with Clara Parks
What inspired you to write this book?
This book began as a workshop that I taught at the Knitter’s Review Retreat, an annual gathering I had the pleasure of overseeing for 14 years. That workshop was the first time that I’d put all of my yarn and fiber knowledge together into one place. It came out so easily, and the order of the class was so clear to me, that when an editor at Random House called me two months later and asked if I had a book I wanted to write, I said, “why yes” I explained the premise of the class, and how the book would work, and by the end of the call I had a two-book deal with an option for a third.Clara Parks
What were some of the biggest joys of working on The Knitter’s Book of Yarn?
The writing itself was an absolute joy. After so many years of holding all of this information in my head, it spilled out with great ease.
I also loved researching, which is when I first started to realize just how much more there was to learn. The world of fiber, twist, and ply is infinite.
What about some of the challenges?
The biggest challenge was adding the patterns. I’d never coordinated with designers before. I’d never even assigned patterns before. Yet, here I was tasked with incorporating 40 patterns into the book. Forty! Nobody told me that was a huge number. I’m forever grateful to the designers who heeded my call, who really understood what I needed, and who added their spirit to the book. Ultimately, the patterns add so much, but it was definitely the biggest challenge of completing the book.
What is your favorite pattern from the book?
I don’t think I really have a single favorite pattern. I love each for the way that it illustrates a deeper concept about fibers or yarns. Every single pattern was conceived to illustrate a point that I wanted to make in the book. For example, if I wanted to show how a specific yarn construction rendered stockinette or textured stitch work or colorwork, a pattern needed to demonstrate that. I needed to find designers who I could trust to understand what I was after and execute on it.
At what point in your knitting journey did you get interested in the details of the yarn itself? (After all, plenty of yarn crafters just buy yarn and don’t think much about it beyond whether or not they like it.)
I have always been, first and foremost, interested in the yarn. Knitting has been a way for me to interact with yarn in a very hands-on way. As an added bonus, I get a finished object! But the yarn was always first.
I noticed that some of the patterns incorporate a little bit of crochet. Do you crochet?
I do know how to crochet. I don’t do it as often as I knit, only because I have a personal preference for certain kinds of fabric that are produced best through knitting. But you can do some stunning things with crochet, too. At the end of the day, it’s all about loving yarn, right?
What is currently your favorite fiber to work with and why?
I’ve always been, and continue to be, a diehard wool fan. It’s just the most perfect fiber. It does everything you could need. It breathes, it flexes, it keeps you warm and dry and comfortable. It even provides UV protection and extinguishes flame and filters out toxins in the air. And it comes from friendly animals who need annual haircuts to stay comfortable and healthy. What’s not to love?
What is your number one favorite memory of a specific yarn?
My favorite memory would have to be when I brought home the first skein of yarn from my Great White Bale project and started working with it.
And what is the Great White Bale Project?
In 2013, I traveled the country learning all about how yarn was made in the United States. I was using a 676-pound bale of extraordinary wool from a farm in New York as my learning material. So, I called it the Great White Bale project. The itinerary involved visiting the farm on shearing day, then going to Texas to watch wool get scoured, and then accompanying the fibers to four different mills, and even to different kinds of dye environments. I’d never been responsible for yarn on such a large scale before. Getting to sit down and work with that first completed yarn skein, knowing every detail of its creation, was an extremely profound experience for me.
That sounds like an amazing experience. What about a time when a yarn frustrated you so much that you couldn’t work with it?
I’ve definitely had bad yarn experiences. Over the years that I reviewed yarn for Knitter’s Review, I came across a handful of yarns that I just couldn’t use. I’d cast on, start knitting, and within a few rows I’d know that this yarn had no story to tell. Or no positive story, at least. Instead of writing about something negative, I’d put the yarn away and try something else instead.
Life is too short to write (or read) about yarn that makes you unhappy!
Is there anything you’ve learned or discovered since the book’s publication that you wish you could go back and add?
I think that the book is still remarkably solid in what it covers. But, of course, I’d love to go back in and add everything I’ve since learned. I’d love to expand the discussion of how we treat wool for machine-washability. I’d also like to update the information about regenerated cellulose fibers. There is always something new to learn about fiber, so there will always be more to add or update.
What is one thing that you wish more people understood about yarn?
I’d love for people to understand that yarn is far more than a means to an end. It is a whole journey in and of itself. Fortunately, I think people are more aware of this now than they were when I started. So, we’re getting there!
Learn more about Clara from her website. Be sure to check out her other books which include Knitlandia, A Stash of One’s Own, and a 2019 release called Vanishing Fleece that digs deeper into the story of The Great White Bale. You can also connect with Clara on Instagram.
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Winner: Nancy Duff