If you’re a person who has despaired over ever finding a nice 100 percent wool sweater and decided to knit your own, odds are you’ve heard of Clara Parkes. Parkes, who started out in 2000 with a newsletter reviewing yarn, now has six books under her belt, including the New York Times best-selling Knitlandia. Her seventh book, Vanishing Fleece, is a yarn of a different kind—the unlikely story of how she became the proud proprietor of a 676-pound bale of wool and, in the process of transforming it into commercial yarn, got an inside look at a disappearing American industry. Parkes journeys across the country from New York to Wisconsin and Maine to Texas. Along the way, she meets shepherds, shearers, dyers, and the countless mill workers who tend the machinery that’s kept us in woolens for more than a century, but which for the past 50 years has been on the verge of collapse. This episode originally aired in 2019.
Go beyond the episode:
- Clara Parkes’s Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool
- Peruse her reviews of yarn and other woolly wares on the Knitter’s Review website
- Watch yarn company Brooklyn Tweed’s gorgeous video series on how woolen-spun and worsted-spun yarn is made—and how greasy fleece is scoured into clean, fluffy combed wool
- Some of the woolly companies mentioned in this episode: Allbirds wool shoes, Farm to Feet wool socks, Catskill Merino yarn (the source of her 676-pound bale), Lani Estill’s carbon-neutral Bare Ranch, ElsaWool breed-specific yarns
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