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Authors: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Free-Range Knitter

BOOK: Free-Range Knitter
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For my Uncle Tupper, who taught me that intelligence and insight can occasionally be faked, provided you are willing to replace them with really hard work.

Free-Range Knitter
copyright © 2008, 2010 by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of reprints in the context of reviews. For information, write Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, an Andrews McMeel Universal company, 1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64106.

E-ISBN: 9781449400156

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Pearl-McPhee, Stephanie.
      Free-range knitter: the yarn harlot writes again / Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. —1st ed.
          p. cm.
   1. Knitting—Miscellanea. 2. Knitting—Humor. 3. Knitter (Persons)— Miscellanea. I. Title.

TT820.P372 2008


Book design by Holly Camerlinck

Attention: Schools and Businesses
[email protected]
Andrews McMeel books are available at quantity discounts with bulk purchase for educational, business, or sales promotional use. For information, please write to: Special Sales Department, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64106.





Cast On: Stories of Beginnings, Good Starts, Optimism, and Hope Springing (Mostly) Eternal


Dear Designer #1

Glory Days

Tell Me a Story


Knit Two Together: Stories of Belonging, Joining, and Love (Sort Of)


A List of People Who Are Not Getting a Knitted Gift from Me and the Reasons Why

All Knitters

Ten Ways to Make a Knitter Love You More

Love Letter


Yarn Over: Stories of Challenging People, Projects, and Knitters


Dear Designer #2

This Is a Test

Mother Says …

Fine Qualities in an Adult

Poor Planning


Left-Leaning Decreases: Stories about Women, Politics, Knitters, and Looking at Things a Different Way


Smarter Than They Think

A Contradiction of Terms

All Things Being Equal

What It Looks Like

Knitting Self-Esteem


Make One: Stories of Families, Encouragement, ever-Growing Stash, and Small Knitters-to-Be


Quick, a Baby Sweater

How to Make a Hat if You Are Twelve (and Not Very Careful about Stuff)

Dear Nana

Knitting and Writing

A Knitting Class


Continue to Work Even: Stories of Perseverance, Boredom, and Overcoming


I Swear I Don’t Have It

Things Crappy Yarn Taught Me

It’s about Balance

A Knitter’s Sense of Snow


Cast Off: Stories of Ends, Giving Up, and Living to Knit Another Day


Never Can Say Good-bye

Ten Knitting Tragedies (from Which There Is Little Return)

Dear John Sweater



I am enormously grateful to the people who have made this book possible by laughing, thinking, listening, knitting, and reading:

The fine people at Andrews McMeel Publishing, specifically my editor, Katherine Anderson. Their ability to see possibility where others see an oddity means a great deal to me.

My agent and friend Linda Roghaar, for everything—and then some.

My steady husband, Joe, and my remarkable daughters, Amanda, Megan, and Sam. This book wouldn’t be what it is without the time alone in the woods. Thanks for giving me that and so much more.

My family: Bonnie, Erin, Ian, Ali, Hank, Tupper, Susan, Ken, Carol, Joe, Kelly, Katie, Chris, Robyn, Ben … You are all inspiration and fodder. Thank you.

My friends Rachel, Cass, Denny, Megan, Lene, Tina … and so many more. Your support and validation is invaluable. I wouldn’t be me without you.

Every knitter I ever met. You’re all something else.


I have been in the definitely odd and sometimes enviable position of having been on a knitting book tour (sometimes I call it a yarn crawl) for roughly the last two years. Obviously, I’m not on tour every minute of every day, but I do spend a completely unreasonable amount of time wandering from city to city all over North America talking to knitters. Since I’m not a teacher, just a knitting philosopher of sorts, I don’t necessarily have a reason for being there. I have no agenda, I don’t promote one sort of knitting or some particular patterns, I don’t sell yarn. I’m just there to sign humor books about knitting, meet knitters, drink beer with them, observe them in their natural habitat (the local yarn shop), scrutinize them as they vacation at fiber festivals and conferences, and talk to them as I discover them in the wild.

Book tours (even knitting book tours) move really fast. So fast that a typical day involves getting up at an ungodly hour, going to the airport of whatever city I’m in, knitting while I wait to be
flown to another city, knitting while I fly to another city, knitting on the way to the hotel, unpacking and showering in the hotel, knitting in the cab on the way to the speaking engagement (about knitting, and usually in a yarn shop), meeting all the knitters, and then sleeping (briefly) before I do it again in another city the next day. If you wanted to meet as many knitters as possible there would be no better way to do it, though as I’m sure you can imagine, the city you are in starts to be irrelevant after a couple of days, enough so that you forget to find out where you are. Doing the same thing every day while being constantly surrounded by only yarn, knitters, and knitting for days on end gives me an odd perspective. Since I often lose track of what city (state or province) I am in, it removes the idea that geography matters and leaves me with the odd impression that I am traveling a world where only knitting matters, all the people are knitters, and all the stores sell yarn.

Following the logic here, visiting more than fifty yarn stores and guilds a year means that I meet a lot of knitters, I get a lot of material about knitting, I see knitters without the boundaries of politics and geography (mostly because I am completely freaking lost), and I buy a lot of yarn, which is another problem and another story for another day, but for the record, totally not my fault. I’m only human. (Who among you can throw the first stone? Even if you only fell down and bought yarn at half of the shops, wouldn’t you still have a really big problem?) This constant exposure to yarn, patterns, needles, and yarn shops
of all kinds lends another set of insights: our stuff and what we do with it.

I have then, as a passionate knitter, a knitting book writer, a knitting traveler, and a compatriot of the knitting masses, spent a lot of time thinking about knitting and knitters. I definitely think about knitting and knitters more than most people, which I guess isn’t that hard, since I have recently confirmed an ugly truth that explains a great deal: Most people aren’t thinking about knitting or knitters at all.

This book, then, is what I think knitters are thinking. Some of these stories are true. Some are mostly true. Some have names changed to protect the innocent, and in some cases, names have been written down perfectly to glorify the clever. This book shares stories of knitting triumph and failure, knitting success and defeat, lessons missed and lessons learned. This book is about the things we have in common, we knitters, no matter where we live, whom we love, or what we are knitting. This book is what I’m using to prove to my family that I may be completely out of my mind with this knitting thing, but I have a lot of friends just like me. This book is about yarn. This book is about needles. This book is about the truth about the way things are.

This book, though it appears to be about knitting, is actually about knitters.

Cast On
Stories of Beginnings, Good Starts, Optimism, and Hope Springing (Mostly) Eternal

Annabelle is four, almost five years old, and she is knitting. Sitting on the very edge of an old, once-blue, upholstered chair, she couldn’t possibly be working with a greater degree of focus. Her hair is golden and tousled, hanging in loose curls, and her downcast eyes, hidden under devastatingly long lashes, are a beautiful, warm light brown that always makes me think of toffee and topaz. I know that somewhere within you must reside certain stereotypes, maybe born of childhood readings of
Little Women
or a Jane Austen novel, and that those ideas mean that you have begun to form opinions and have visions about the sort of little girl who would be sitting still and enjoying knitting. Maybe these ideas have already helped you begin dressing Annabelle and that, in your mind’s eye, you’ve got her wearing something like a pinafore or a velvet dress with lace ruffles and some small buttons.

Let go of that idea right now, because although Annabelle (she prefers Annie) is currently sitting and knitting, and she is
indeed quiet, concentrating, and peaceful, she is also clad in an outfit of her own choosing, which she began with a pair of gathered flannel green and black plaid pants, complemented with a yellow top with lace sleeves, and accessorized with two necklaces cleverly concocted of macaroni and a rainbow of beads. To round out the look she has donned a ripped raincoat and a purple wool hat her mother knit that is supposed to have dinosaur spikes on it, but Annie has decided it more resembles a crown. She is only wearing one sock, and there is just no way to know where the other one is. (As long as all of the motors in the house’s major appliances are still working and I don’t smell smoke, then I have decided that I’m not going to worry about where it might be.)

There are other clues to Annie’s basic nature, for those astute enough to notice. There is a very large smear of sparkle glue on the arm of the chair she’s sitting in and what may be dried ketchup or blood (or both) on the other. One wall behind this chair is covered in several vibrant works of graffiti art, which center almost entirely around the expressive use of the letter A. (Remind me to give Annie a little tip later: Never sign your name when defiling something; it makes excellent evidence for the prosecution.) Down the hall there is an entire roll of unwound toilet paper that I haven’t cleaned up yet, and frankly, if I keep her alive (and from setting fire to that roll or trying to flush it down the toilet in one big wad) until her mother comes back, I will feel that I have done an excellent job while babysitting.

BOOK: Free-Range Knitter
9.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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