Book Review: Things I Learned from Knitting, by the Yarn Harlot

I just finished a really great book, and I’m excited to tell you about it.

The book is Things I Learned from Knitting… whether I wanted to or not, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, also known by her nom-de-blog The Yarn Harlot.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably know by now that I am a huge fan of Ms. Pearl-McPhee. I found her blog by accident a few months ago, fell in love with it, and decided to go back to the beginning (January 23, 2004) and read it all. It has taken me months, because I read a few posts in rests between applying for jobs and during my lunch breaks. I use reading her blog as a reward to get things done (“Go vacuum the living room, and then you can read two posts”). Her blog was the main motivator for me to start my own knitting blog. I have a long love letter to her that I’ve been slowly writing, and I will send it when I finish reading (which shouldn’t be too far away – I’m in January 2011). She writes about her knitting, of course, but she also talks about her writing and her parenting and her funny observations about the world. I believe she has published eight books so far.

This should all be a testament to how awesome her blog is, and proof that you should go read it.

And now, dear reader, please allow me to tell you how good her book is.

The book is, as the title suggests, a collection of things Stephanie learned from knitting. She organizes it by old words of wisdom (like “You gotta roll with the punches,” “Birds of a feather flock together,” and “Denial: it ain’t just a river in Egypt”), with a short essay for each one. The essays expand on the lessons she has learned, tell stories from her and her friends’ experience, and find great and funny ways to explain these life lessons through a knitterly lens. She also throws in little lists (like “4 things that are really funny when they happen to other knitters”) and things that knitting is still trying to teach her (like “Patience”).

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee tells these stories and teaches these lessons and explains these truths that all knitters have heard or felt or guessed, but never had the words to express. Stephanie expresses them with humor and sincerity that all knitters (and some non-knitters, if they can get past the premise of a “Knitting Humor” book) can identify with and enjoy.

My favorite quote from the book, explaining that knitters from all walks of life can still get along, is this:

“Despite our diversity – diversity that causes wars (political and armed) in other places – at our knit night, nobody seems to notice. It’s like the minute we take out our knitting, we identify first and foremost as knitters, and because of this, somehow even though we are an unlikely crew, all my knitting friends are just like me.”

— Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

If you get the chance, please pick up a copy of one of the Yarn Harlot’s books. I got mine at my local library, which has a surprisingly large selection of knitting books for urban Tennessee. And please check out her blog.

What knitting books have you been reading? Have you ready any of the Yarn Harlot’s books? Which are your favorites?


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