Book Reviews: Work of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (a.k.a. The Yarn Harlot)

I have been a fan of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (a.k.a. The Yarn Harlot) for years. I picked up one of her books shortly after taking my first knitting class and I have been addicted (to both knitting and her writing about knitting) ever since. I read her blog religiously and I eagerly await her latest book, not only because I love reading her latest book but because then I can go to one of her book readings which are always fun.

At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too MuchAt Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A collection of short, little snippets about knitting and knitters, At Knit’s End was my first introduction to the Harlot and was enough to get me completely and totally hooked on her writing! I love Stephanie’s humor, wit and insight into the joys and perils of being a knitter. I totally melted when she reported that her husband is knitting her a sock (notice that it is a singular sock, not a pair) which he has been working on veeeeeery slowly for five years and how much she will love and appreciate that sock if it ever gets finished! I totally related to her frustration when she completed a gorgeous sophisticated gold and copper wrap, only to realize that she has nowhere to wear a gorgeous, sophisticated gold and copper wrap. I laughed out loud when she talked about her children (who also knit) accusing her of giving them the “crap yarn” and hording the good stuff. And I nodded in agreement when she wrote about the frustration she feels when non-knitters just don’t understand. Each little topic is short (about a paragraph or so) which means that At Knit’s End is a great book to pick up, open to a random section and be amused. It is also a great “listen to this” kind of book to share with others, both your fellow knitters and those in your life who put up with your knitting obsession.

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Things I Learned From Knitting (whether I wanted to or not)Things I Learned From Knitting by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Things I Learned From Knitting…. Whether I Wanted To Or Not is a quick, fun read that is sure to amuse knitters (and anyone who has a knitter in their lives). There are some really funny laugh-out-loud moments (my personal favorites are “5 Things Worrying Non-Knitters Have Warned Me About”, “5 Ways Knitting is Better Than Video Games”, “4 Things that are Really Funny When They Happen to Other Knitters,” and a particularly cute letter from the author to her yarn stash) mixed with some thoughtful, interesting (and still funny) contemplations like: the mental and physical benefits of knitting, knitters and their relationship with perfectionism and mistakes, and the many ways that marriage and parenting are both like knitting.

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All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a SpinAll Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All Wound Up is a collection of essays about a variety of things. Of course, having being written by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (a.k.a. The Yarn Harlot) there are lots of witty, funny things about yarn, knitting and knitters. Personal favorites include: Knit Junkie” in which the Harlot turns to the DSM-IV’s definition of addiction to see if she does indeed have a knitting problem, “Personal Filters” in which she reveals all the wonderfully snarky things she would like to say in response to the questions non-knitters always ask knitters, “Crytosopophilia” which muses on the things we see and what we infer from them when we get quick little glimpses into someone’s life, and “The Cool Table” which discusses our efforts to fit in and feel comfortable in our own skins and where that might lead us. But in addition to all the great knitting anecdotes, there are some essays that breaks out of knitting culture to reflect on moments of day-to-day life. From the death of a beloved washing machine to a love affair with the quiet peace of nighttime, Stephanie’s writing is funny and insightful whether she writes about yarn or life.

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Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes AgainFree-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Free Range Knitter is yet another great collection of essays about life, love and knitting by Stephanie Pearl McPhee (a.k.a. The Yarn Halot). By now, it should go without saying that Stephanie’s writing is witty and funny and thoroughly enjoyable and this book is no exception.

I was fascinated by a running series of essays that reflected on the way several people in Stephanie’s life knit, their motions and the way they approached it, and how it reflected something about their lives or personalities. From the challengingly active four-year old to the woman who (in coordination with therapy and medication) literally knit her way out of a bad bout of depression, I really enjoyed Stephanie’s thoughtfulness and insight.

The “Dear John” letters to a sweater that was just not working out and the story of the time when Stephanie, so smug that she had knitted a just-in-case baby sweater so she wouldn’t be caught empty-handed by an unexpected baby shower, found out her neighbor was expecting twins were laugh-out-loud funny.

In addition to be a knitter, Stephanie is a mother of three girls and she writes with a wry survivor’s humor about raising children, particularly children who knit. From her pride when she discovered that her five-year old had (sort of) figured out how to knit on her own and made a dolly blanket without any help to the frustration of dealing with a twelve-year-old who is attempting to knit a hat (without being very careful about stuff), to her reflections on the fact that the very attributes that made her daughter so hard to raise would serve her in good stead if they could both survive long enough to see her reach adulthood, Stephanie writes with a wry survivor’s humor that is a pleasure to read.

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Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a KnitterYarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I start discussing The Secret Life of a Knitter, I need to make something perfectly clear. I love Stephanie Pearl McPhee’s writing. She has never released a book that I didn’t enjoy immensely and I read her blog religiously and really enjoy her particular style of wit and humor and thoughtfulness that comes through time and time again in her writing. Having said all that, The Secret Life of a Knitter is, without a doubt, the best thing she has ever written. It made me laugh, which is nothing unusual for a Yarn Harlot book, but it also made me think and it made me cry.

I totally laughed out loud when Stephanie realized with horror that the woman who had just declared that she could NEVER learn how to knit was an honest-to-God BRAIN SURGEON and I completely sympathized with her frustration about the unfathomable rules are which govern what colors and patterns men will wear. I really enjoyed her “Top Ten Ways Being a Parent is Like Being a Knitter” and found her discussion of where to hide, I mean store, excess yarn to be frighteningly helpful. I loved the letters exchanged between a cardigan and its knitter and as someone who has been accused of being “a few elves short of workshop” when knitting Christmas gifts, I completely sympathized (and laughed at) her struggles to make gifts for the holiday while actually participating in and surviving the holiday

However, interspersed among essays full of Stephanie’s trademark humor, there were also moments of touching poignancy, including “One Little Sock” in which a sock that a knitter was making as a gift for an expected baby becomes a tiny memorial instead when tragedy strikes and “What Her Hands Won’t Do” in which a life-long knitter, stricken with rheumatoid arthritis, distributes her yarn stash to friends when her condition becomes too painful to knit anymore. As someone who had to give up being a musician (despite loving it so much it hurt) because of a joint condition, this story both touches me and scares me. It is a testament to Stephanie’s writing that she is able to bring her readers to both laughter and tears and I am eagerly waiting to see what she writes next.

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About Ciarrai

Hi. My name is Kerry but here online I tend to go by the Gaelic version of my name, Ciarrai. I am a woman in my mid-30's who lives on Long Island, NY, with my husband, Rob, several guitars, a Nikon D40, more yarn, beads and books than I care to admit to and a cat who has a million nicknames and quite a few theme songs. I have a B.A. in Psychology and have recently returned to college to pursue a teaching degree so that I can eventually get a job as a High School English teacher. In addition to my major obsessions (Reading, Beading, Knitting, Music and Photography), I also enjoy playing Board Games, going to Renaissance Faires, Museums and Broadway Musicals.
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