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Book Review


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  At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much
by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
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This book's title belies a secret: It was written by a woman who also loves yarn too much, someone who'd wrestle you to the ground for that last skein of mohair in the sale bin.

She has no intention of getting us to overcome our knitting obsession. In fact, she spends 318 pages celebrating, acknowledging, and laughing at our knitterly foibles.

The Yarn Harlot
First, a little background. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee started her blog, called Yarn Harlot, in January 2004. Her insightful, creatively inspiring, and ever witty comments quickly gained her a large and loyal following—including myself.

This led to writing credits in Interweave Knits, Spin-Off, Stranded, and Knit Lit Too. Then an intelligent editor at Storey Publishing recognized Stephanie's writing gift and approached her about writing this book. The rest, as they say, is history.

At Knit's End
This book has the same compact size and editorial format of the more traditional self-help meditation books. But instead of following the overused self-help cliches, Stephanie uses humor to celebrate our common peculiarities.

Each meditation begins with a quote—from sources as varied as Steve Martin, Winston Churchill, and Lily Tomlin. Then it continues with a thoughtful paragraph on a similar topic, and it ends with a vow of action.

But these aren't your traditional meditations. The author herself calls these 300 meditations "funny things about knitting." Here are some examples.

In a conspiratorial tone, she discusses stash control not in terms of getting rid of anything, but finding better hiding spots.

She confesses considering marital infidelity when she heard of a man who owned a yarn store and built his wife cedar-lined moth-repellant closets as a hobby. She likens entrelac to pulling all your nose hair out with tweezers.

She recognizes that, just as birds can always find north, knitters have an inner compass that always points us toward the nearest yarn source. And she reminds us (and herself) that the next time she is too arrogant about her knitting, she can't be surprised when it spontaneously bursts into flames.

Just when you think she's found all the funny angles on our knitterly habits, she pulls out another one that makes you laugh, smile, or nod in agreement.

Where Are the Men?
Although the book is for women who knit too much—her husband and children feature prominently throughout—several of the meditations focus on honoring men in knitting. She also shares stories about teaching boys to knit, and stories that her male knitter friends have told her.

Also Inside
Peppered among the meditations are page after page of hilarious "You know you knit too much when..." sayings. My favorite was, "...you hear about a breed of miniature sheep that grow to be only 16 inches in height and weigh only 50 pounds, and immediately start trying to figure out whether you can convince your spouse it's a dog."

You'll also find explanations of common acronyms such as SSS (second sock syndrome), SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy), and WHACO (wool housing and containment overflow).


A Modest Mentor
Normally I'd get defensive if someone tried to tell me how to live my knitterly life. But this is the Yarn Harlot talking—and I know she's just as obsessed and fallible as I am.

If she's vowing to work harder on darning all the loose ends on the insides of her projects, I can too. If she's courageous enough to withstand the nausea, dizziness, and hysteria of cutting a steek, I guess I could try it too. And if she is forgiving her closet full of unwearable yarn purchased only because it was 50% off, so can I.


Our Version of the Secret Handshake
At the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic, I'll leave it at this: Every knitter needs a copy of this book.

If you're a new knitter, you'll benefit from a better understanding of the marvelous and whacky world you're about to enter. And if you're a more seasoned knitter, you'll laugh, seeing yourself among these pages, and understand—once and for all—that you're not alone.
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