British Columbia

What's so funny about wool?

Author and knitter Stephanie Pearl McPhee makes a living out of making other knitters laugh.

Canadian knitting humourist leaves sold out crowd in stitches at Vancouver yarn weekend

Knitting humourist Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (centre) shares a laugh with fellow knitters at Knit City 2016 in Vancouver on Saturday, Oct 1. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

Louis CK may be the big name comedian whose upcoming Vancouver shows have been making all the news lately but another funny performer was on stage in front of a sold out show in the city last night.

Admittedly it was a much smaller venue, and a very niche crowd, but tickets were just as coveted.

It's really a niche market. There's kind of only me in it.- Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

The speaker was Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. And although it's quite likely you haven't heard of her, she is famous among a certain group of people. That's because she's what's known as a knitting humourist. Truly. 

Toronto based author and knitter Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is perhaps the country's only "Knit Humourist". (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee/Instagram)

The 'Yarn Harlot'

Pearl-McPhee goes by the pen name The Yarn Harlot. She is a knitter, blogger and author of eight books, mostly of knitting humour.

She acknowledges hers is a unique career. "It's really a niche market. There's kind of only me in it." 

One of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's first books of knitting humour. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

Based out of Toronto, Pearl-McPhee says she never thought she could make a job out of making knitters laugh. But one day many years ago, she found herself without work. 

"And I thought, 'Okay think. What are you good at?' And I'm like, 'Well I'm a good writer, and I'm a good knitter.' And my next thought, honestly, was I am in big trouble," she said with a laugh. 

Despite her own concerns, she has managed to combine those two skills and become quite popular while doing so. 

Pearl-McPhee was in Vancouver Saturday to speak at the 5th annual Knit City convention.

All 300 tickets to her talk sold out months ago. 

Knit City, a yarn and craft convention in Vancouver, is having its 5th anniversary this weekend. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

Amanda Milne and Fiona McLean are the creators and organizers of the convention. Milne says getting Pearl-McPhee involved was a huge help. 

"She was our first big name that we were able to convince to come all the way out here to our little show."

Friends and knitters Amanda Milne and Fiona McLean decided to start the Knit City convention in Vancouver five years ago after searching for a similar event locally and finding none. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC )

McLean says attending one of her talks is almost like viewing a comedy show. 

"She's really good at putting into words things that everybody goes through. Be it knitting related or just life related. And she's good at taking those things and making them hilarious."

So what's so funny about wool?

Although her works are often laugh-out-loud funny (at least to knitters), Pearl-McPhee's writing is at times poignant as well. The books often take the form of self-deprecating tales of wool-based woes, knitting mistakes, and seemingly crazy life decisions heavily influenced by her passion for yarn. 

She also believes it's precisely the niche aspect of her topics that keep her readers in stitches. 

"I think they read for the same reason I write. It's because being really supernaturally interested in something puts you in a club with other people, but it can also make you seem really strange to regular people," she said. 

"So when you find somebody you can connect with this way, it can be extremely powerful."

Perhaps an example of knit humour? "Lady Ba-ba" the sheep, on display at Knit City in Vancouver on Saturday, Oct. 1st, 2016. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

The humour, she says, isn't about the wool, but the obsessiveness and passion that often goes along with a craft. 

"Well wool isn't all that funny really by itself, it's what we do with it that's kind of hysterical, you know? 

"It's a wonderful sort of metaphor for the way the human mind works. About hope, about making things, about thinking things are going to work out. Knitting brings out optimism in human beings and that's funny because mostly it doesn't work out." 

She says those ideas seem to be relatable across genres. Take for example her anecdote of a man who once came to her book signing even though he was not a knitter:

"And I'm like, 'Oh, but you like this book?' And he said, 'Yeah, you know every time I come to the word knitting I just put in fly fishing.' 

"It turns out that these ideas about being super passionate about something are universal. And that's why it works. That's why it's funny."