First, just a bit of non-yarn-related info: #1 Son has managed to purchase the ticket for his out-of-the-country trip in January. Of course, he has absolutely no money left and will have to live on water and the good graces of others, but he has 30 days left to figure out how to earn a little spending money. I am, actually, quite proud of him.

In more yarn-related news, I really, really want to show you pictures of the Pacific Northwest Shawl, but the weather refuses to cooperate. As I type this, it is snowing gently and the light is completely flat. According to the weatherpeople, we are expecting a humongous storm later this weekend. But one site reports the chance of scattered sun this afternoon. Should that happen, I will run quickly out and snap as many pics as I can in the hope that I will get one or two worth sharing. But even inside, there’s just no light.

Ann in Richmond mentioned that I had the presence of mind to record the whole repairing-the-GGG process. In reality, after standing across the room, swearing in abject horror, the first thought that really came to mind was I so need to blog this. I grabbed my camera before even edging in for a closer look. How sadly geeky does that make me?

But all of this is not what I really want to talk to you about today.

The Knitter's Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn

All knitterly creation stems from one simple element: yarn. It is the baker’s flour, the jeweler’s gold, the gardener’s soil. Yarn is creation, consolation, and chaos all spun together into one perfect ball. It’s a simple concept, twisting fibers together into a continuous thread of yarn. But the variety of fibers, blends, and spins is truley infinite. So is our relationship with yarn. We love it, we covet it, we are knocked senseless by it. Yet sometimes we are baffled, thwarted, and betrayed by it.

Clara Parkes (of Knitter’s Review fame) begins her wonderful new book, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn, with that lovely, evocative paragraph.

I immediately wanted to know more. And more. And more.

Want to know how wool and silk are the same (or different)? Where cashmere comes from? What the term worsted really means? Why silk sometimes stinks and how to de-stink it? How viscose is made? What’s good about acrylic? It’s all here. Section 1 contains a ton of information about all of the different fibers, from angora to yak, the special properties of each and how to evaluate them.

Not a spinner? (note: I am not) Never been up close and personal with a llama? Section 2 explores how yarn, from indie to mass-marketed, is prepared, spun and dyed and where you can get organic and minimally processed yarns and fibers in all stages of preparedness.

There is a whole chapter on pills. Not the kind you swallow here, gentle reader, but the kind that form on sweaters (and hats and blankets and scarves and…). Parkes not only explains what to do to remove pills, but also why they form in the first place and how to evaluate a yarn to determine its pill potential. I now have a much better idea of why my Noro Silk Garden jacket always pills like there’s no tomorrow, but my Noro Kochoran sweater, although it is much fluffier and fuzzier, does not.

from Cabled Tea Cozy
from Cabled Tea Cozy

Section 3 begins with an exploration of plies, and why we as knitters care. Starting with single-ply yarn and continuing through various numbers of mutiple-plies, Parkes explains how the twists cause the yarn to behave and how knitters can work with that behavior. Following the guidelines here, knitters can match yarns and patterns that will work together. Did you know that simply rewinding a skein of single-ply yarn will stop its tendency to bias in stockinette stitch? I didn’t either, but Parkes explains how and why. Following the chapters on plies are chapters on cabled yarns, textured yarns, and neat things like boucle and chenille. Section 3 ends with a chapter on why yarns felt, why sometimes they won’t, and how to get the best felting results.

Every chapter in Section 3 includes patterns, and every pattern includes a note from the designer about how the yarn was chosen to work with that pattern. And what designers! This is a who’s-who list, gentle reader. Knitters from adventurous beginner to experienced knit-guru will all find patterns here to pique their interest. There are one-skein quickies and lace, blankets and sweaters, bags and socks. You will want to knit them all. Or at least I do.

The book ends with a reference section. How to take care of your yarn, with special notes on different fibers. Determining WPI and yardage requirements. The standard yarn-weight numbering system vs. the older non-standard systems (i.e. #1 = sock / fingering / baby), along with typical gauges and recommended needles for each. A list of abbreviations, including how-to instructions. A recommended reading list; designer bios and a glossary.

I love yarn. I love all the yarns. I love to gaze and fondle and squeeze and pet and smell. Even yarns I would never in a millions years knit with, I love. The Knitter’s Book of Yarn is devoted to such sheer fibery knowledge, with tons of gorgeous yarn-pr0ny pictures, that my inner yarn-geek is fed in the best possible way and I want to just grab my nearest needles and start knitting up a storm.

This book instantly earned a prominent place on my reference shelf.

We can’t all be yarn whisperers, but with The Knitter’s Book of Yarn in hand, we can at least understand our yarn and learn to work with an appreciate it even more than we already do (if that is possible).

The book ends perfectly: Let the journey begin.



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