September 22, 2011
Fall is Knitting Book Season. New knitting books are coming out fast and furious. People may not be familiar with the Mason-Dixon Knitting Editorial Policy on Book Reviews. These unfamiliar people may include you and me. But what I’ve gathered, from our 8 years plus of blogging, is that we generally talk mainly about things we like.
Which doesn’t mean that we are easy to please. In fact, I think we’re kind of hard to please. But we tend to dedicate this space to celebrating the things that give us joy and kicks and other positive feelings. We reserve for Twitter the razor-sharp kvetching that is its own guilty pleasure. (I’m going to go ahead and call this practice “twetching”; I do apologize.) (Recently, we twetched pretty harshly on Martha Stewart’s new line of yarn, with particular twee-hemence for the eyelash yarn, which we felt was Very Wrong. Martha! We love you! We can help! Call us!)
But back to Things We Love. This morning I received an advance copy of Clara Parkes’ latest book, The Knitter’s Book of Socks: The Yarn Lover’s Ultimate Guide to Creating Socks That Fit Well, Feel Great, and Last a Lifetime. I sat right down and read the first 55 pages, in which Clara explains how yarn–its fiber characteristics, how it is spun, how the yarn is structured, and how it is knitted up–affects the comfort, fit and durability of handknit socks. I did this despite my own complete lack of interest in knitting socks. I did it in part out of curiosity about why I am so dang hard on the gorgeous handknit socks I’ve received as gifts over the years (the answer: NYC streets, snug loafers, and CASHMERE). But I did it mostly because Clara is to knitting what Ken Burns is to chapters of American history you didn’t know you were interested in until he made a documentary about them. She has a way of explaining things that in other hands, could be obscure or dry, with utter clarity and a light touch. It’s a pleasure to read her, on any topic.
Clara Parkes is the business. My advice: you want the first edition of anything she writes. You want to collect the set. You want her to keep enlightening us on subjects we understand only partially or vaguely. You want The Knitter’s Book of Potty Training Small Terriers, The Knitter’s Book of Jams and Jellies, The Knitter’s Book of Husbands, and The Knitter’s Book of Investing for Retirement. There is no end of subject matter that would benefit from Clara’s serious study and clear, friendly explication. (The problem with some husbands, I’m guessing, is “elasticity.” You want to look for a husband with no more than 10-15 percent bast fibers.)
The sock patterns look awesome, too.