HomeArticles Posted by Clara Parkes

Author: Clara Parkes

The Outer Hebrides may be better known as the home of legends Harris Tweed and Alice Starmore. But now you can add the island of Grimsay to that list. Connected by causeway to North Uist, Grimsay is home to the new Uist Mill and Wool

Every region leaves its mark on those who live there, whether they're animals or humans. While the cashmere most of us know best comes from the Himalayas by way of China or Mongolia, cashmere goats live in many places around the world. They just grow

First came Shelter, launched in 2010—and then Loft the following year. Quarry completed the trilogy. All three of the core Brooklyn Tweed yarns shared a very specific parentage. They were made from the coats of Targhee-Columbia sheep from Wyoming, whose fibers were scoured in the United

Any time I see cashmere with an unusual twist, I get excited. This fine, short-stapled fiber is all about delicate tenderness in a normal plied-yarn construction. But when you twist the same fibers and feed them through a more complex plying machine, one that wiggles the plied

I'm strangely smitten with Stina Tiselius' new collection of knitted potholder patterns. Potholders, you say? I know, I know. Potholders are right up there with washcloths in the pantheon of oft-mocked (yet passionately adored) handknits. I've never made one myself, and I don't dare use the one

It takes guts for an American to move to Australia and start a sheep farm—especially if she is a woman with no prior farming experience. And then she adopts unconventional techniques for sheep farming, techniques that, I might add, appear to be working. That, in a

The National NeedleArts Association's semiannual trade show took place in Columbus earlier this month. It's where knitting industry players come to network, to learn, and to preview new products for fall. It was a crazy, busy weekend of distractions, not even taking into account the high-school

Sometimes the most useful tools are also the simplest. They have no moving parts, they require no batteries or clamps. Consider the humble darning needle, for example. Or this, the Fix-A-Stitch, essentially a snub-nosed two-sided crochet hook. If you've been knitting for a while, you will

When your grandmother's maiden name is Woolfolk, it's almost guaranteed that you'll go into the textiles business. Kristin Ford took the hint and has just launched Woolfolk, a yarn company she fittingly named after her grandmother. The initial line-up consists of just two yarns, both unique

For generations, farmers in Texas have raised some extraordinary wool and mohair. We don't hear much about it because the fibers tend to be sold en masse to the textiles industry. In recent years, however, the ending of government subsidies, severe drought conditions, and low-cost international

At the 2010 Knit Nation market in London, the British yarn scene was just beginning to expand from big brands to smaller, more local producers. John Arbon Textiles had skeins of British wool spun at their own mill, and Renaissance Dyeing had French wool they'd sourced and naturally dyed by

Earlier this year, I started receiving mysterious postcards from someone named Mrs. Crosby. The first was sent from Buenos Aires, then Paris, and finally Lake Como. Truth be told, I already knew who Mrs. Crosby was before the postcards started arriving, but that didn't lessen

It's time to create a "heritage yarn" classification. The notion of "heritage" anything, whether animal breed or seed variety, is best appreciated through a different, sometimes more forgiving lens. More forgiving in that these items haven't been pureed and homogenized and airbrushed and focus-group-tested into

The skein lies furry and limp, a bit like you'd shaved a cat and forgotten to clean it up. Like Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, there's no there there. Cirrus is soft all right, with a wonderful wooly fuzz to it. But when I squeeze the skein, squeeze

First came the Knitter's Block, an ingenious set of padded floor tiles that you can assemble in different shapes to block whatever you want. Now, Julie Weisenberger of Cocoknits has come up with another clever gadget: Knitter's Keep. Here's the premise: How many times have you lost a stitch marker,

For several years, knitwear designer Anne Hanson has been sourcing and shipping yarns for her Knitspot club. They tended to come from prominent hand-dyers, in exquisite colors, accompanied by original designs by Anne. Then she decided to go deeper into fiber itself, launching her Bare Naked

Even without knowing what's in it, you instinctively know this yarn is something special. The skein sits in your hands like a hummingbird nest, and it feels just as exotic and precious. Each fine strand nestles within its neighbors, and together they reflect light in

Kristine Vejar wants to revitalize the California wool industry, and this yarn represents her first step. Vejar is the creative force behind the Oakland yarn shop A Verb for Keeping Warm. Besides having discriminating taste in other people's yarns, which manifests itself in an astonishingly well-curated store,

The UK has a vibrant textiles history. Most argue that the fortunes of the British empire were, in fact, based on the wool trade. Somewhere along the line, between globalization and our quest for softness, this trade faltered. Today, Britain's wool manufacturing industry is hurting, as

Lopi and I go way back. Growing up, I was always clothed in thick, rugged Icelandic sweaters knit by my maternal grandma. The sweaters (in the Lopapeysa style) were bulky yet surprisingly light, and they always kept me warm. They were all knit from Iceland's distinct "Lopi"

Twice a year, knitting industry folks get together to network, take classes, and do business at a show called TNNA. They bring the latest and greatest samples and prototypes and skeins so freshly dyed they're still slightly wet to the touch. Some authors see their book for

Shepherd Worsted has all the elements of a perfect comfort food. It's soft and easy, comes in large servings, and always satisfies. The Shepherd label actually spans four weights: Shepherd Bulky, Shepherd Worsted (reviewed here), Shepherd Sport, and Shepherd Sock. All contain 100% superwash Merino except

Last weekend at the Howard County Fairgrounds, tens of thousands of people converged for the 39th annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Report from Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival West Friendship, MD May 5-6, 2012 Companies mentioned (in order of appearance): Spirit Trail Fiberworks Fiber Optic Yarns The Verdant Gryphon Still River

Few yarns have been around long enough to be considered landmarks, and Tahki's Donegal Tweed is certainly one of them. This earthy yarn is still spun in the very county for which the yarn was named—County Donegal in Ireland. Donegal Tweed is both a style of

Blocking is one of those intensely personal things, like swatching and even knitting itself. Some of us have a laissez-faire, spritz-and-stretch attitude that suits us just fine—while others are not content until they have pinned and starched and ironed every yarn-over into total submission. Here's

[caption id="attachment_7401" align="alignleft" width="400"] OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA[/caption] The Sincere Sheep was launched by Brooke Sinnes in 2011. Based in Northern California, Brooke focuses on carefully sourced natural fibers—in both yarn and roving form—to which she applies color using only natural dyes. Her taste in fibers is exquisite, a

Whenever you take a single strand of continuous fibers and apply twist, you get something innately vulnerable and unbalanced. We have all sorts of tricks for beefing up the fibers, adding secret plies and twists and whatnot. But ultimately, such a yarn is so ill-suited

About 6,000 people—roughly the population of Harvard, Massachusetts—knitters all, attended this year's Sock Summit. It took place at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, from July 28th to the 31st. When you create an atmosphere of glee, and people feel sheer excitement at being present,

Blocking is to knitting what baking is to bread. It's the final act that turns a series of random stitches into beautiful, cohesive fabric. Some view blocking as drudgery, others find it daunting. Regardless of how you feel, blocking is essential for a truly finished look. Proper

Classic Elite Yarns has introduced a new undyed, natural-colors-only yarn collection called Mountaintop. The collection features three yarns to start, each of which is spun in Peru of fibers that have not been dyed or rendered machine-washable. [caption id="attachment_7407" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Crestone[/caption] First is Crestone, a hearty and

Here's a novel approach to picking well-fitting garments. Instead of studying gussets and darts and short-rows, measuring every inch of your body and calculating your shape down to the last stitch and row, just choose something you know will look good. Easier said than done. But it

The global cashmere market has had its share of booms and busts. Some of the most significant changes came within the past two decades as our thirst for inexpensive cashmere led to overgrazing and, ultimately, the desertification of Mongolia. While the bulk of the world's cashmere

Back in 2000 when I began Knitter's Review, I assumed it'd be easy to find out where the fibers in my yarn came from—and, in the case of wool, which sheep breed had been used. Slowly the reality sank in. Fibers tend to be sourced from

Pam Allen has worn many hats in the knitting world. She was a knitwear designer, she wrote Knitting for Dummies, she edited Interweave Knits magazine, and she was the creative director for Classic Elite Yarns. Then, in January of this year, she appeared to have vanished from the knitting

Just 60 miles north of New York is a 100-acre farm populated with some extraordinary sheep. These animals are all direct descendants of five prize-winning Saxon Merino studs that Eugene Wyatt flew to the U.S. from Australia in 1990, just four years after Australia lifted

In October 2014, Sweet Grass Wool was purchased by Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm. This review has been kept up here because it was one of my favorite breed-specific wools ever, and because Patti deserves to be remembered. Patti's legacy is in

China has brought us many exciting fiber innovations over the last decade, from bamboo to crab shells, jade, milk, and soy. Today, thanks to an enterprising ex-reindeer-herder in the Evenk Autonomous Banner of Inner Mongolia, we have an extraordinary new fiber on the horizon. The Evenk

A great and often heated debate exists between those knitters who like acrylic blends and those who don't. Much of that debate has actually been fueled by blends that simply don't live up to their potential. I personally have a strong preference for natural fibers. When

If butter could be spun into yarn, that yarn would be Malabrigo. As a company, Malabrigo actually offers several different kinds of yarn—including a perky new sock yarn, a decadent silk/Merino blend, and the chunky Merino reviewed here. But when people say "Malabrigo" they usually mean

Riihivilla is a happy yarn discovery. It comes from a small family business in Finland and is available to a global market thanks to the wonders of the Internet. Riihivilla is run by Leena Riihelä and her husband. She collects fleeces from a nearby sheep farm, sorts

A fixture in Denmark's knitting scene for more than 30 years, Marianne Isager is finally—and fittingly—entering the U.S. market. She dipped her toes in our waters a few years ago when Interweave Press published the English translation of her book, Knitting Out of Africa. But that book represents a

This yarn is like a good rollerball pen. It's widely available, doesn't cost a fortune, feels great in your hands, and flatters your handwriting no matter what you write. In yarnspeak, this means Fresco is affordable, available, and willing to accommodate pretty much anything your

I've used Denise Interchangeable knitting needles for years now, first using the standard set and more recently the pink Interchangeables. They're infinitely portable, flexible, and practical for almost every knitting use. If I'd had to come up with one complaint, it would've been the shiny plastic box in which

When I first started acquiring knitting needles, I religiously kept all their packaging and vowed to keep each needle in its corresponding package for safekeeping. It seemed like brilliant idea, but entropy got the best of me. Some 20 years later my house is overrun with

Many people reserve the term "novelty yarn" for fluffy synthetic concoctions. But Silk Rhapsody proves that you can have a novelty effect with entirely natural materials. It's no coincidence that Silk Rhapsody has risen in popularity while synthetic novelty yarns have declined. As people discover they

While I take my knitting with me everywhere, I don't actually knit while I'm on the go. Lacking the ability to focus simultaneously on safe navigation and proper stitchwork, I tend to wait until I've found a comfortable spot—and then I pull out my knitting. So you'll understand why, when

I first set eyes on this yarn during a visit to La Lana Wools, the famous fiber shop in Taos, New Mexico, now gone. La Lana has the visual overwhelm of a Mexican market, only instead of heaping vats of colorful spices and grains you have mounds

I still remember my first mail-order yarn purchase. It was from a mythical warehouse-sized place in Western Massachusetts where people pushed around entire shopping carts full of yarns. The yarn store—called Webs—offered a "color book" with generous samples of all its house yarns for knitting

For all the progress we've made over the centuries—the gadgets, the inventions, the miracle potions and cures—there are still some things upon which we really can't improve. This yarn is a perfect example. In Peru, rural artisan and Indian farmers are using pre-Columbian farming techniques to

We've seen yarns that shift from color to color, and even from texture to texture—slubby to smooth, bouclé to bumpy. But Noro has just upped the ante with a yarn that not only shifts colors but actual fiber content: wool, silk, cashmere, alpaca, angora, kid

We've seen yarn that mimics nearly every surface texture, from sequined fur to terrycloth, and denim. It was only a matter of time before suede was added to the list. That's what Berroco has done with Suede, a new yarn for spring 2004. Creative Director Margery

Modeled after similar devices that were popular in earlier times, this nifty little tool will effectively cut through most yarns without posing any risks to your fingers. While most of us carry scissors for this same purpose, some occasions—air travel, jury duty, or any other high-security

For more than 140 years, sheep have grazed along the Columbia Plateau in north central Oregon. Many of them were brought there by rancher Richard Rolland Hinton, a homesteader and respected sheepman whose early crossbreeding efforts helped develop what eventually became the Columbia sheep breed. Although

Occupying 3,000 acres along Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, Beaverslide Dry Goods is a family ranch whose Rambouillet/Merino sheep produce the yarns you see here. When the sheep are shorn, their fibers are sent to a small woolen mill in Alberta, Canada, for processing. The mill practices

Restaurants sometimes offer a house wine that's of decent quality, reasonably priced, and available by the glass. Some yarn shops offer the knitterly equivalent, their own "house" yarn. And just like house wines, some are more memorable than others. Halcyon Yarn is one of the most

Few companies can produce consistently beautiful hand-dyed yarns in quantities sufficient enough for large-scale distribution. Lorna's Laces is one. The color combinations range from brilliant to bare whispers, with a small line of single colors that still carry subtle variations in hue. Although some catalogs and Web

Every once in a while I stumble across a technique that makes knitting fun again. This time it came from adding bright, beautiful beads to my knitting. Whether as eyes for animal motifs, glitter for evening attire, or just a little something extra on a simple

Kidsilk Haze belongs on that short list of exquisite, special-occasion yarns. It combines two delicate strands of silk with the very finest mohair fibers an angora goat ever produces. The silk glimmers through the gentle mohair fuzz like San Francisco's city skyline through the fog. Did

Whenever I visit yarn shops, I always ask the staff about their personal favorites. When the folks at San Francisco's Atelier Yarns and Little Rock's Handworks Gallery both raved about this yarn, I knew I had to review it. (Both stores are, alas, long gone.) A smooth yet lofty Italian

Many people are intimidated by the concept of using double-pointed needles, since it requires coordination of not two but four (and even five) separate needles. The truth is, once you get the hang of them, DPNs are extremely easy and useful tools. Why go for DPNs? Double-pointed