Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again Paperback – Apr 6 2010
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About the Author
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is the author of several books and three collections of essays: Yarn Harlot, Free-Range Knitter, and All Wound Up. (Two of those are New York Times best sellers, which both Stephanie and her mum are really proud of.) She maintains a popular virtual home at www.yarnharlot.ca, and a less organized (and popular) actual home in Toronto, Canada. She’s a mother of three, a wife of one, can drive a standard, and has owned two cats in a row that don’t care much for her.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
College life was off the chain! At least that’s the way it seemed as I looked out across the courtyard of Prairie View A&M University. Everywhere people were laughing, talking and just hanging out. Most of the students were watching the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity do an impromptu step show.
Our recruiting guide said it was called “Hump Day on the Hill,” a time when all the students come together, dance, listen to music and meet and greet. They even had a deejay showcasing his newest music.
“It’s the midpoint of the week, and we like to celebrate to help us get through the week,” our tour guide, a petite, pretty, brown-skinned girl named Lauren, said. She was leading us and about twenty other students. “We do it every week except finals and dead week.” The girl turned to smile at Miss Rachel, the sponsor of the Good Girlz, our community service organization. Miss Rachel had arranged this campus tour after I, and the other four Good Girlz—Camille, Alexis, Jasmine and Tyeesha—expressed interest in visiting again. We’d come here two months ago, and I think all of us were sold on coming to this college after we graduated in a few months. “And don’t worry, it’s not all fun and games,” Lauren added, “we wrap up Hump Day on the Hill with a prayer or a spiritual song.”
Miss Rachel nodded in approval. Personally, the prayer was all good, but I just needed to see all the groups of people mingling to know I’d made the right decision—Prairie View was my first choice. We had all applied after our first visit, when we’d come to the campus for a Girls, Inc. conference. So far, none of us had received acceptance letters, but I knew after today, we all wanted to go here now more than ever.
“Girls, you all enjoy the show. I’m going to run inside to the rest room,” Miss Rachel told us.
We waved as she walked off, then quickly turned our attention back to a fraternity everybody called the Que Dogs, who were stepping in gold boots and had dog collars around their necks. Their show was pretty entertaining. Then, out of nowhere, we heard this deep male voice: “So, you ladies enjoying the tour?”
I looked up to see the cutest guy I’d ever seen in my life. He was about six feet tall, sandpaper-brown with deep dimples and a head full of curly hair.
“We are,” Camille said, immediately coming forward to shake his hand. Camille Harris was the boy-crazy one of the group. She batted her eyelashes at him and my heart sank. That meant she was about to get her flirt on, so he’d be off limits to me. Not that he’d want me anyway. I was the shy one out of the five of us. I’d been told I was cute—this one guy even said I looked like a younger version of Shakira—but I also had one giant drawback: I had a two-year-old daughter. These college boys wouldn’t want anyone with kids. Shoot, I couldn’t buy a date at my high school because nobody wanted a girlfriend who had a kid by someone else.
“That’s nice,” the guy said to Camille. “I’m Rico. My friends call me R-Train.” As he adjusted his backpack on his shoulder, his smile made my stomach flutter. He had on a PV T-shirt and some tan cargo shorts.
“And I’m Camille.” She pointed at us. “These are my friends, Jasmine, Alexis, Tyeesha and Angel.”
We all waved, except for Jasmine. She was being her usual grouchy self. She’d been complaining about how hot it was, even though I could tell she was enjoying the campus tour. For her, going to college would be a huge step up for her whole family.
Rico reached out as if he was trying to take Camille’s hand. She smiled coyly as she eased toward him.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you . . .” Rico stepped around Camille and took my hand. “. . . Angel. Is that what she said it was?”
My eyes widened in shock. Jasmine and Tyeesha busted out laughing. Embarrassment covered Camille’s face, but Rico didn’t seem to notice.
“So, where are you ladies from?” he asked, still holding on to my hand.
“Umm, we’re from . . . ah, we’re from Madison H—”
Alexis immediately cut me off. “We’re from Houston. Just checking out the school.” She shot me the evil eye. I’d forgotten our pact that we weren’t going to tell anyone that we were still in high school during our tour. I didn’t see what the big deal was, though. Everyone on the tour was from a high school.
“Houston?” He nodded. “So, you’re right down the road?”
I couldn’t get a word out of my mouth. I couldn’t do anything but nod back.
“So that means, if I wanted to see you again, I would only have a forty-five-minute drive.” He looked at me like we were the only two people standing in the courtyard.
“Yeah, um . . . w-we . . .” I couldn’t believe I was acting like I was a blubbering fool. He would think I was so lame.
Jasmine, who thankfully knew how shy I was, stepped to my aid.
“What makes you think she wants to see you again?” she said, prying his hand off mine. I was glad she was smiling so at least she wouldn’t scare him off. At six feet tall, with an athletic build, it wasn’t anything for Jasmine to act bold.
“I don’t know if she does want to see me. But I’d really like to see her again,” he said, still staring at me.
I was completely speechless. And for once, so was Jasmine. I think she was waiting on him to run some type of game, but when he didn’t—he just stood there looking at me with those piercing gray eyes—she didn’t know what to say.
“Seriously, I think you’re beautiful,” he told me. “And no, I don’t know anything about you. You might be a serial killer.” He broke out in a big smile. “But I sure would like to get to know you.”
“So you know that you’d like to know her even though you don’t even know her?” Alexis asked, her hands planted firmly on her hips.
We all turned to stare at her. For all of her money (Alexis came from a filthy-rich family) she couldn’t buy a decent line. My girl was corny as all get out.
“Actually, I do,” Rico said, not looking the least bit confused.
“Well, handle your business then,” Tyeesha said, stepping up and playfully pushing his shoulder. Although she was the newest one to the Good Girlz, she had fit right in. Her joking kind of broke the tense mood and we all laughed.
“Why don’t you let me give you a private tour?” Rico said, gently taking my hand again and pulling me toward him.
Jasmine snatched me back. “I don’t think so, Brother Man. You could be the serial killer.”
He laughed, nodding in agreement. “You’re right. I wasn’t thinking.” He dug in his backpack and pulled out a piece of paper. “Let me give you my cell phone number. I live here on campus, but it’s nothing for me to swoop down to Houston and pick you up. So give me a call. Maybe we can get to know each other over the phone—first. Then you can let me give you that private tour.”
“Unh-unh,” Jasmine said, wagging her finger. “Ain’t gon’ be no private tours. We don’t know you like that.”
“That’s why I’m giving her the number.” He scribbled his digits on a piece of paper, then handed it to me. “So she can get to know me like that.” He winked. “Angel, I await your call.” He blew me a kiss before walking off.
I tried to keep it together so I didn’t appear to be a total loser, but I wanted to jump up and down and do a happy dance. I wasn’t even in college yet, and already my life was looking up.
“Girl, you better call him,” Camille said, genuinely excited for me.
I had thought she was going to be bothered since he’d dissed her. “You don’t want him?” I asked. Yes, he was cute, but the one thing the Good Girlz didn’t do was talk to someone else’s man.
Camille waved me off. “Please, you know how I do. I was just flirting. Besides,” she said, playfully wiggling her neck, “even if I did want him, he obviously only has eyes for you.”
“Who was that?” We all looked up to see Miss Rachel peering in the direction where Rico had walked off.
“That’s about to be Angel’s new man,” Alexis sang. “They call him R-Train.”
“Like the subway?” Miss Rachel asked, shaking her head. She didn’t wait for anyone to answer as she wagged her finger our way. “What have I told you girls? You don’t need to be worried about any boys, men, or anything else.”
“Oh, Miss Rachel, it’s human nature,” Camille joked.
“I got your human nature,” she replied. “I told you where having boys on the brain will land you.” Yet Miss Rachel had admitted before that, like Camille, she used to be boy crazy as a teen and she’d had more than her share of trouble behind it. She’d started the Good Girlz after marrying a preacher and deciding she wanted to keep teenage girls from making the same mistakes that she’d made.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Camille said, albeit respectfully. We’d all heard this speech before.
“Angel got his number and everything,” Tyeesha added cheerfully.
“How old is that boy?” Miss Rachel said, frowning.
We all shrugged.
“I don’t know,” I finally said. “It’s not like we got into a whole bunch of details.”
“Well, he looks old to me,” Miss Rachel said.
“I’m not even thinking about him,” I said, wanting to get ... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This fine book is about knitting, yes, but really not so much about knitting as about what happens when knitting is part of life. The stories and essays glide and ripple and twist, carrying the reader pellmell into intimate contact with men, women, children, animals, ideas, and humor - and always the light of knitting is leaking through, shining its innocence, tough love, and grace onto stumbling humanity.
Stephanie is a master at fostering reflection through story-telling. The first story, about a very young knitter named Annabelle, holds many layers of meaning about incredibly important things. And the last story, about a very old knitter, who needed no yarn to knit, let me close the book with a sense of fulfilment. We knitters, as well as non-knitters (who would love this book) are so very lucky to have someone like Stephanie spinning tales for us, with her sharp and shiny wit rising so naturally from an honest heart. I am grateful.
I wanted to LAUGH!! The kind of "wake the hubby up because I am shaking the bed laughing" read. With a cover so like her first book, I was hoping for a repeat of that winner! There is some funny stuff, but I left reading Free Range Knitter feeling sad. I can see where she's going with the essays in the book and building her theme, and it is beautifully crafted. It just wasn't what I thought it would be or what I had hoped for.
While my copy of The Yarn Harlot is tattered from frequent reading, I rather doubt that I will reread this one.
For a knitter, all of these situations, anecdotes are totally relatable to. Most of this has happened to a Knitter at some time !
For those who loved the previous books by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, you will not regret your purchase.
For those who love this one, you will probably end up buying the previous ones.
I'm a fan of the writting, the subject matter, the lay-out of the book (really beautiful and almost delicate)
However, like I said, you don't have to be a knitter to appreciate the stories. The book's author/compiler, Susan Pearl McPhee, winds her own stories (and humourous letters) throughout the book, giving it a nice overall cohesiveness, and the stories that she's brought in from other writers are quite good. Broken up into sections which have knitting names ("Cast On" for the first, "Cast Off" for the last, etc.), the book is easy enough to read by story or by section.
There were times during the stories when I found myself laughing out loud, so I'm confident that others will really enjoy this book. Even though it's skewed toward a female audience (there's only one story about a male knitter, written by a woman, who then talks about how women view male knitters) the underlying themes of family, trials, tribulations, love, loss, happiness, and yes, knitting, speak to a human audience.