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Purls of Wisdom

'Yarn Harlot' to headline Finger Lakes Fiber Festival

Democrat & Chronicle Newspaper, September 17, 2013

Sep. 17, 2013 6:47 AM   |  
Written by
Arlene Hisiger


If you go

What: 19th annual Finger Lakes Fiber Festival. 
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. 
Where: Hemlock Fairgrounds, 25 miles south of Rochester on Route 15A, Livingston County. 
Cost: $5 per day for the fest, plus varying costs for workshops. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s talk and book-signing at 1 p.m. Sunday is $10. 
Tickets and info: GVHG.org/fest.html or (607) 522-4374.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is not terribly monogamous when it comes to her second love.

The “Yarn Harlot,” as she calls herself, will be halfway through a knitting project, enamored by it, and then she’ll be seduced mid-stitch when a particular yarn catches her eye and another project is born.

She is quick to point out that her tendency to stray is strictly limited to knitting, pointing out the many socks she has lovingly knit for her husband as proof.

Pearl-McPhee, keynote speaker for the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival, is a popular blogger and best-selling author of several books, most recently The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes, about dealing with everyday issues.

The festival Saturday and Sunday at the Hemlock Fairgrounds in Livingston County, includes exhibits, competitions and workshops on a wide variety of fiber arts. There will be free how-to demonstrations of hand-spinning, knitting, crocheting, weaving, felting, lace-making, rug-hooking and basket-weaving.

Pearl-McPhee learned about knitting from her grandmother.

She was 4 years old and remembers running into her grandmother’s backyard, where she proudly announced: “Guess what? I learned how to read!” Her grandmother responded: “Well, if you could learnsomething as difficult as reading, you can learn how to knit.”

Pearl-McPhee remembers looking at the knitting, and thinking, “This is something interesting.”

She still feels that way. “There are certainly better knitters than me,” she said, “but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who loves knitting more than me.”

Unlike her grandmother, who was paid for her knitting, Pearl-McPhee knits for the love of it and for the ones she loves. Primarily, she views herself as a writer.

The Toronto native, praised for her wit and dry humor, will presents “This is your Brain on Knitting,” which will highlight scientific studies that draw a positive correlation between knitting and preserving the brain’s elasticity.

A multi-platform yarn spinner says knitting is not a mere idle pastime.

“I take every opportunity to say to knitters: ‘You’re not silly (for knitting). Never before have so many of us known so little about how the world works,” she says. “We spend a lot of our day engaged with things, like computers, that we don’t really understand. But (knitting) we can understand.”

Above all else, Pearl-McPhee endeavors to underscore, if you’ll pardon the expression, the knitting community’s close-knit character.

“I pride myself on not distinguishing myself from other knitters,” she says. “I just want to be a part of the knitting community. I think most knitters feel the same way.”

“Knitters have a long history of being deeply social,” she adds. “Early American knitting groups gathered together for reasons of efficiency — lighting one lantern for many to work by — as well as to provide a place to connect socially.”

In an age when social media is the preferred f orm of communication, knitters hark back to a time when yarns and tales were spun in the company of others, lending credence to the saying, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.”