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Everybody seems to be trying to figure out stuff, whether it’s knitting, life, or the intersection of knitting and life. In an effort to solve the world’s problems, we have engaged the services of Clara Parkes, the noted knitter/piemaker/yarn brainiac/NYT bestselling author, who will appear regularly to address your burning questions. 

—Kay and Ann

The Thing about the Sheep

Dear Clara,

Sheep sheep sheep. We keep hearing about sheep. What is the big deal about sheep? Does it really matter what kind of sheep the yarn comes from? How is a knitter, who just wants to knit a nice sweater, or blanket, or snood, supposed to figure this out? HELP US DEAR CLARA.

Anonymous Co-Bloggettes
Who Just Want To Knit
in Nashville And New York
Please Do Not Disclose Our Identities


Dear Completely Anonymous Strangers Whose Identity Is A Mystery To Me,

What a fine question you ask.

First things first: You can have a perfectly fulfilling knitting life using whatever yarn is available and affordable to you. Period.

Whether that’s a $3.99 skein of Brand X Acrylic or a $399 skein of Qlumbatiüt from the mythical Tikikeet valley of the Himalayas, if you’re pulling loops through loops on a needle and creating fabric and feeling good about it, that’s the most important thing. You’re knitting. You are a knitter. And you are a completely valid and beautiful and creative human being exactly as you are.

That said, I do maintain that your experience of knitting can be profoundly deepened when you pay closer attention to the materials you’re using—just like your experience of, say, cheese can be profoundly deepened when you start to pay attention to the actual kind of cheese you may be eating. And no fiber on earth offers as much nuance and variety for “taste-testing” as wool.

But how do you start?

Simple: Get your hands on as many different kinds of wool as you possibly can. Forward-thinking yarn shops and fiber festivals are perfect for this. With hundreds of distinct breeds around the world, each growing slightly differently depending on specific genes, climate, altitude, diet, cycle of the moon, and what piece of music is on the radio when they’re born . . . with all those factors at play, not to mention the countless small-farm Frankensheep crossbreeds that enhance the mix even more, you have the potential for a lifetime of experimentation and learning.

You’ll start noticing things. Like, how different breeds have slightly different fibers. Perhaps longer, crisper, more curly or crimpy, thicker or finer, brassy or matte. You’ll notice that one kind of wool is like a velvet sponge, another is crisp and airy, and yet another has the fluidity and slink of a cat. And more important, you’ll start to refine your instinct for what each wool’s ideal project may be.

The other reason why sheep are such useful creatures?

They help us maintain open space that could otherwise be carved up. They provide nourishing milk and meat, they provide the skin for your UGG boots, they provide invaluable manure for your garden, and last but not least, they offer friendly companionship. Get your yarn from a spigot, and all of that is erased.

I do understand that budget can constrain yarn choices. But if you have any ability to experience even a nibble of different breeds, I promise you, the tectonic plates in your yarn world will shift.

And that, my dear friends, is why sheep.


Send your questions about knitting, life, and everything else to Dear Clara at She will answer as many as she can.



About The Author

In 2000, Clara Parkes launched Knitter’s Review, and the online knitting world we know today sprang to life. Author of the series that started with The Knitter’s Book of Yarn (2007), Clara is the author of  Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World (2016) and A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn (2017). Her latest book is Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool (2019).


  • OMG! I’m in love with the new design, contributors, interaction with readers– everything!!! Great job!

  • I live knitters review..I started it first year it came out and all Clara’s books..nice addition to the great website

  • I love that your going to have Clara Parkes share her totally awesome knowledge. Everything about the new site is fantastic

  • I am in the midst of Knitlandia and enjoying it immensely! I am looking forward to reading much more of Clara’s writing.

  • LOVE the new website design and where you’re going! Clara, your comments are spot on and should be taken to heart by all……oh, the places you can go as a knitter today ☺

  • This new website all feels so very sophisticated and yet home-like at the same time. A home run!

    • Thanks Cindy Fitzpatrick, for putting words to my feelings. I couldn’t have said as succinctly as you did!

  • I love the new look!

  • Good answer! Very very very good answer!
    But please stop telling people about the Tikikeet valley. I came here for the quiet.

    • The coffee bars are going to be great, though. Look on the bright side.

      • Excellent point. Okay, Knit Nights at my place, last yurt on the left.

  • “…yarn from a spigot.”

    Best description ever of extruded man made fiber!

  • Clara Parkes, What kinds of wool are being spun in USA mills?

    • In USA mills you will find Targhee, Cormo, Merino, Churro, down-breed sheep, Romney, Columbia, Cheviot (both standard and miniature), CVM, BFL and Border Leicester, California Red, Corriedale, Icelandic, Jacob, Lincoln, Montadale, Rambouillet, Tunis, Teeswater, Suffolk. I apologize if I left anyone out. Don’t forget we also have Alpaca, Llama, Bison, Yak, Cashmere Goats, Angora Goats, Rabbits, Cotton, Flax, and Hemp. This is just off the top of my head. I am sure I left a bunch of things out of the list.

  • I hope you are going to follow up with some actual information about the major varieties of sheep/wool for those of us who live in the region of no fiber festivals, also known as Florida.

    • ha! Just arrived in Florida yesterday for the winter, my husband is ecstatic, but I am a little sad, leaving my NH home, just when the cold is starting and the leaves are spectacular- helped to read this as I need a little inspiration for knitting- loving the website and Clara, of course…..

    • And New Orleans….

  • OMG is right. Love the new site, but so very dangerous. One could spend the whole day here and buy stuff too! Thank you, ladies, for so much joy

  • I want Clara’s pastry recipe! (Pretty please)

  • Wool and cheese, is it any wonder she is a NYT bestseller? Clara, you’re a genius.

  • wonderful Clara…. thank you for letting those who can only afford that 3.99 ball of yarn be proud too

  • Love it!

  • Love the new concept. BUT. Just HOW does one go about submitting a question to “Ask Clara” ?

  • Thanks and welcome to my house !

  • Mason, Dixon and Clara, too? Be still my heart!

  • I think it definitely makes a difference what yarn you use. Why put a lot of hard work into a yarn that is not worth putting all your hard work into. I love good yarn!

  • So encouraging to all knitters.

  • Yea Clara. Always jn point

  • Love love love the new look and Dear Clara! You guys rock! I look forward to the weekly snippets.

  • I love Clara and have missed her insight since knitters review is no longer. Had the pleasure to meet this sweet lady at Graves Mtn. At two different retreats. You are off to a great start!

  • “…fluidity and slink of a cat…” Such evocative description warms my heart and tickles my brain cells. The new site is genius, pure genius.

  • Enjoying this site and am looking forward to my birthday in January as I have ‘hinted’ I would love to see your book Knitlandia in my pressies !

  • Congratulations on this new website and Snippets!! Lots of wooly fun ahead.

  • Nicely stated.

  • Oh, Clara, I am so glad I found you! I am sort of a yarn snob.

  • I look forward to more snippets!

  • This makes my knitting heart very happy.

  • Dear Clara:

    I loved your book so much that I read it twice, and gave a copy to several Yarnies. Thanks so much for writing it!!!

  • I vote for Clara!

  • This is the BEST! All of this website, but especially this new column and this particular answer! ❣️

  • Clara is a wonderful addition to the Modern Daily experience we all enjoy.

  • So please tell us why we know so much about all the different sheep breeds and the yarn from them that we so enjoy, but alpaca is just generic alpaca (albeit in a graded system)?

  • I’m one of your many super fans. What MDK is putting together is wonderful. Having you involved just shows how smart all three of you are. Can’t want for the next installment.

  • Love the new site, love seeing Clara here! Congratulations to all.

  • Will there be a yarn tour group to the Tikikeet Valley or will we have to make our own travel arrangements?

  • Will there be updates on and photos of Olive?

  • I agree that this site will cause me to leave my housework behind, and my knitting untouched for far too long. I am enjoying this with my second cup of coffee of the day….how many will I stay for?

  • Next, maybe a podcast?

  • What a horrible sentiment that not only do sheep provide us with their wool but we can also kill them and eat them. Goodness. Does these poor animals not count for anything? I was actually enjoying that piece until I got to the point of ‘nourishing milk and meat’.

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