the sweetest disappointment ever


Today we are jumping into the party to celebrate the news that Clara Parkes beautiful love letter to the knitting world, KNITLANDIA, just landed on the New York Times’ Bestseller list in the travel section.

Do note, the TRAVEL section.

This is an important distinction as in today’s MORNING on the DOCK, we catch up with Clara just as she settles back home on the coast of Maine after a wild cross-country book tour and she shares that her intention all along with this, her fifth book, is that the literature of craft/making expands beyond how-to and resource books.

There are so many stories, people and adventures to be found in the experience of attending workshops, retreats, conferences and all sorts of knitterly gatherings and Clara was in the perfect position as both observer and participant to give us the inside scoop.

NOTE: scroll to the bottom of this page to see
how you can WIN a copy of this beautiful book!

I must emphasize her keen observation skills because I honestly don’t know how she manages to record the moments with such precision.  Clara has written a book so rich in details that you actually can feel as if you are right there with her standing in line for an ice cream from Jeni’s, navigating the Edinborough Corn Exchange that had, for two days only, been magically transformed into the Edinborough Yarn Festival or walking through the woods at Squam.

Bravo, Clara! Mission accomplished. (Clara on left, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee on right)
Bravo, Clara! Mission accomplished. (Clara on left, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee on right)

Wait, what was that last part?

Clara wrote about Squam in her book of love letters? Wha-WHA?


Um, this was a shocker for me. I had no idea and I will admit, my first response was terror.

Clara is nothing if not unsparing in her journalistic integrity. Although always kind, her whip-smart mind misses nothing and she will always cut through any pretense to the reveal her truth (using a favorite fountain pen, bien entendu)

And so, I began reading . . slowly.

In short order, I was laughing out loud. Because, yes, Clara most definitely had an easy target in me with my “woo-woo” ways and she made it clear from the get-go that she was on something of a mission to see which side of her would come out on the other side of this experience. The worldly cynic or the sanguine romantic?

“All of which to say that when I received my invitation to
speak at Squam Art Workshops, a five-day retreat renowned
for its woo-woo qualities, I was skeptical but also secretly excited.”


Given that she spent a substantial amount of time at Squam in the company of wild child Ysolda Teague, be ye not surprised that Clara had no shortage of adventures to write home about, ahem . . but I will let you read those stories yourself.

What hit my heart the hardest was where she shared her experience of the Squam Art Fair. Because we knew that she would be inundated with eager buyers for her gorgeous Clara Yarn and because she was an honored guest, we decided to give her the space across from the big hall (that gets crowded and noisy) into what we have dubbed over the years as the VIP lounge.

My intention was to make her feel extra loved, extra special – her own private Idaho, as it were.

Imagine my shock then, to read how profoundly disappointed she felt upon discovering she was not going to be in the main hall. I was SO sad — of course, as you will see when you read the whole chapter, alls well that ends well — but reading that passage triggered me.

On the one hand, it taught me to be a better communicator!

(Hello, maybe I could have explained my vision to her first?)

More importantly, for me, her sharing the piercing feeling of a shocking, unexpected disappointment followed by the sensation of giddy, genuine delight brought one of my childhood memories to the fore.


ice_cream_sodaAs a kid, if you had asked me to picture what heaven was like, I feel pretty certain I would have envisioned Howard Johnson’s.

My parents had five children, so going out to dinner was a very big deal. And Hojo’s had hotdogs with rolls grilled in butter, french fries, onion rings, fried clams and, wait for it, an entire ice cream bar. This was way before Ben & Jerrys and ice cream meant a box of Breyers from the grocery store.

Best of all, we could order ice cream as a DRINK with our DINNER!

Heaven, no?

I could talk about the influence of Hojo’s on my life, my emotional development and my general view of the world– but that would be a book in itself* — so I will try to focus on the task at hand which is to share what Clara’s story surfaced for me.

I was five years old. My older brother and sisters had ordered chocolate milkshakes and so I did the same thing, as younger siblings are wont to do.

The waitress came back and began putting the large plain pint glasses of chocolate ice cream blended smooth, each topped with a perfunctory dab of cream one after the other in front of my siblings. Then, in front of me, she put down a monstrosity of curved, shaped glass with a dark brown bottom, huge scoop of chocolate ice cream lodged on one side of the rim and covered in a mountain of whipped cream. It looked nothing like what my sisters and brother had received and I promptly burst into tears.

Apparently, I had inadvertently ordered a chocolate ice cream soda.

Everyone jumped into action. My parents tried to calm me, the waitress comforted me and said she would take it back and replace it with a milkshake and then, I saw the faces of my sibs — jaws to the table they clearly were impressed with my choice. My brother John even gallantly offered to switch with me.

My sobs settled, perhaps I hiccupped. My mother encouraged me to give it a taste (her way of getting us to try new foods in general). I drew on the straw and was transported to a whole nother world. Where milkshake is a simple thick taste, this was layered, bubbly rich and had so many parts to it – an entire scoop of ice cream and whipped cream!

I happily kept my terrible mistake and enjoyed it right down to the dregs which no doubt, I slurped most noisily.

To this day, the memory of that chocolate ice cream soda reminds me of how sometimes things we think aren’t going the way we want, turn out to be the universe giving us an even better gift than we had asked for.

Yes, it’s true. Woo-woo for the win!

Clara + me at KNITLANDIA book launch party
Clara + me at KNITLANDIA book launch party

bisous, Elizabeth

*above I HAD to share an image of Sister Parish as I can’t think of Howard Johnson’s without knowing her influence on me. I swear my deep love of blue + orange is due to her decorating Hojos in Aqua and Salmon. 🙂 Again, book for another day.


I had already pre-ordered Clara’s book before attending her book launch party in Somerville (where, obvs, I needed to buy another so she could sign it for me) so one of you lucky ducks is going to win this second copy of mine.


You have THREE chances to win!


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