Meet Clara Parkes & Win 1 of 5 signed copies of Knitlandia!
Her new book Knitlandia has thrilled yarnies all over the world – we had a good chat with Clara Parkes, founder of Knitter’s Review, and asked her all about it…
Clara Parkes (photo credit: Pat Philbin)
From a career in high-tech publishing to becoming the founder of the hugely successful Knitter’s Review and author of several books – How did the transition come about?
I’d call it a lucky mix of circumstances, hard work, and seemingly disparate professional experience coming together and pointing me toward something I loved and understood. I’d worked as a writer and editor. I’d managed product reviews for a tech magazine, so I understood the value and artistry of a really well-done review. I’d begun to feel the enchantment of using weekly email newsletters to build a community of people who share a common passion, again within the tech environment. And then, like a lightning bolt, I saw how I could apply all this experience toward a subject I was passionate about: yarn.
But it wasn’t an overnight transition. I had to keep working in tech as a freelancer for several years before I was really able to make the leap and work on Knitter’s Review full-time. Then came the books, and now the small-batch artisan yarn. It’s been quite a ride!
Do you have any tips for knitters wishing to give up the day job for a more creative life?
Take tiny steps every day, and trust that they will build upon one another and move you in the right direction. Set aside an hour a day, half an hour, whatever time you can, and dedicate it to doing what you love. Do it consistently, make it a practice, a habit. You’ll know if and when you’re ready for the big leap.
I’d also argue that you should crunch the numbers and be realistic. This is a tough industry. A lot of people will try to get you to do work for free (for the love of the craft, or for that dreaded word, “exposure”). I’ve certainly done it, and it did help. But there needs to be a point when we stop giving it away for free or we risk permanently devaluing our work and contributing to an industry that is not economically realistic or viable. Ultimately, that will help nobody.
There is a lot of talk in the media today about how knitting is ‘the new yoga’. Does knitting help you with mindfulness?
Knitting totally helps me with mindfulness. It lets me churn through miles of yarn when I’m feeling peevish, it occupies that part of my brain that would otherwise be clicking a pen over and over again. But it also provides a deep tactile, sensual satisfaction, like rolling out pie dough or sinking into a hot bubble bath. I can turn off my brain and focus on the fibers and stitches, if that’s what I need; or I can totally go into my thoughts, solve puzzles, and trust that the yarn will keep my fiddly fingers busy. It’s an endlessly adaptable activity that helps fill whatever need I have.
Who taught you to knit?
My maternal grandma. Both of her parents were born in England and they emigrated to the United States as children. She was an amazing knitter. She worked sculptural magic on the tiniest needles. Her sweaters were like works of art, so perfect the shaping and structure and stitches.
What is on your needles right now?
I could pretend I only have one project going right now, but that would be a lie. Let’s just say I like variety! Right now the majority of projects in progress are shawls or cowls, because—living in the cold coastal climate of Maine—those are the most useful kinds of garments to wear year-round. I’m also really enjoying playing with stranding different fibers and textures. I’m halfway done with a Capture cowl by Lisa Mutch, stranding a superfine brushed Shibui Silk Cloud and a spongy succulent Woolfolk Får together. The fabric is delicious.
Knitlandia by Clara Parkes, published by STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book (£12.99)
Your brand new book has hit the shelves, what can knitters expect from Knitlandia?
They can expect stories from some of the most legendary and remarkable places where knitters have gathered over the years—from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival to the annual sorting of the sheep in Iceland to a sliver of a yarn store in Paris. I wanted to give people the delicious feeling of being there. I also wanted to document our culture, and to explain our rituals, our traditions, in a way that outsiders would understand. The next time you tell someone you’re headed to a knitting retreat and they roll their eyes, you can shake your head, hand them this book, and simply say, “Read it.”
What is your favorite travel destination as a knitter?
Wherever I go, I manage to find the yarn, the sheep, the mills, and the knitters. It’s an occupational hazard. But if I had to pinpoint certain favorite destinations, they’d be anywhere with a cold-weather climate and rich knitting tradition. Scotland is at the top of my list, along with Iceland. For much the same reasons, I’d love to spend more time visiting the nooks and crannies of Scandinavia. There’s so much wool out there waiting to be discovered!!
What events will you be at this year? Where can fans find you?
In a few weeks I’ll be giving the keynote at the perfectly named Interweave Yarn Fest in Loveland, Colorado, and from there I’m headed to the gorgeous Asilomar conference center in northern California for Amy Herzog’s Make Wear Love retreat. Then there’s Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, and our semiannual industry trade show TNNA in Washington, D.C., and of course the NY Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck…Click here for a full schedule of my travels.
If you could be a yarn, what would you be?
I’d be a nice rugged woolen-spun two-ply yarn, probably DK weight, that’s easygoing and ready to do whatever you want it to do. They’re not the glitzy yarns, but they stick with you through thick and thin.
What’s next for Clara Parkes?
I just acquired a bale of gorgeous wool from a flock of sheep in Montana that’s tended by some of my favorite people in the world. I cannot wait to figure out the right mill for these fibers, the right twist and ply, and get this yarn into people’s hands. It’s going to be amazing.
And then? What else…another book!
WIN one of 5 signed copies of Knitlandia!
Thanks to Abrams & Chronicle books you could win one of 5 signed copies of Knitlandia. To be in with the chance of winning, simply tell us in the comment box below where your favorite place to knit is before 15th April, 2016 and we’ll contact the winner by 22nd April, 2016.
Read Clara’s blog here, and fantastic “intelligent talk about yarn” over on Knitter’s Review!
Follow us on Bloglovin’ for interviews, tutorials and patterns!
Last updated: April 1st, 2016.