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If you’re a knitter, you probably know of Clara Parkes, a renowned expert in the fiber arts and author of many a book about knitting, like: ‘The Yarn Whisperer,’ ‘Knitlandia,’ and ‘A Stash of One’s Own.’ All great books in their own right, but today we want to talk about her 2019 publication called ‘Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool.’ The book is a captivating journey into the American wool industry and the art of yarn-making as it takes readers on an adventure following the transformation of a bale of wool into yarn ready to create with.

"Vanishing Fleece" Book Cover and author Clara Parkes
"Vanishing Fleece" Book Cover | Clara Parkes

The book starts with Parkes purchasing an entire bale straight from the shepherd. A bale refers to a standardized size of packaged wool after it has been compressed by machines so that it meets the regulation-required method of packaging, keeping it uncontaminated and readily identifiable. The minimum weight of a bale is 120 kilograms (260 lb) as of January 2016. However, Parkes’ bale is 676 pounds (306kg). Imagine! This suddenly makes my stash look small and insignificant (and it is not!)

Parkes is determined to learn as much as she can about every step of the way of yarn making, and wants to take us with her. With her characteristic warmth and wit, Parkes vividly narrates the ups and downs, challenges, and triumphs, as she collaborates with a skilled team of professionals to process the bale into yarn. Through her vivid storytelling and insightful observations, Parkes demystifies the wool industry and shares behind-the-scenes information about the shepherds, scourers, spinners, and dyers she works with. Showing us all the craft, genius, and machinery that goes into making a skein of yarn.

"Vanishing Fleece" is also a meditation on the changing landscape of the fashion industry and sheds light on how the American wool processing industry is all but disappearing now that most of the production is done overseas and most fast-fashion is made with plastic rather than wool. As fiber artists, we play an important role in keeping the heritage of wool alive. Reading this book, therefore, leaves you with the nice feeling of being part of a long history of crafters, and the belief that you are making a difference, simply by knitting your own clothes.

Whether you are an experienced fiber artist or a curious beginner, this book is sure to leave you inspired and, if you’re anything like me, ready to go out and buy a farm and a flock of sheep to become a part of this fascinating cycle of sheep-to-yarn.


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