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An Interview with Mason-Dixon Knitting, Part 2

(Continuing our interview from Part One…)

Do you try to branch out into different yarns for the books? Or do you tend to stick with yarns you already know?

  • Kay: We have our favorites, but the lure of new yarns is so compelling…..the book has a broad mix.
  • Ann: I’m happy about all the wools in the book. I spent a lot of time squeezing skeins, and it was educational and also big fun.

How much do you collaborate on the patterns? Or do you each do your own thing, and then just pool them for the book, like you do for your blog posts?

  • Kay: We collaborate a lot on our patterns. A lot. Not so much about the details of construction, but about color and the overall look of the thing. We talk a lot about what this thing refers to, what it conjures up that makes us want to knit it, wear it, own it. The coats are a prime example of that–we talked and talked about coats we loved, and why we loved them, and TV heroines who wore great coats. Wearing a great coat or jacket can change your whole day, but why? We wanted to knit that kind of coat. Bonne Marie and Mercedes totally got what we were talking about. The same with the Cardi Cozy (a featherweight, transparent cardi, to be worn over a … cardi). We literally talked that pattern into existence. “Wouldn’t it be cool if….”
  • Ann: I often find myself paralyzed by a shade card. Kay is really good at talking me down from the bell tower when it comes to color.

Last time, you had a bunch of patterns by other designers—are they back for Outside the Lines? Or are all the designs from your own brains?

  • Kay: Working with people we admired was a big geeky thrill for us. We called on people whose work we know and love. Our designer contributors to this book were Anna Bell, Ann Hahn Buechner, Bonne Marie Burns, Mary Neal Meador, Cristina Shiffman and Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

You’re going on book tour next month and looking at the stops, I’m curious. You’re visiting the Southeast US, New York (state and city), and … the Northwest? What did Seattle and Portland do to get you to cross the Rocky Mountains?

  • Kay: Don’t forget about Minneapolis! We’re thrilled to be going to all of these places, but to be honest it’s the publicity department that selects the cities. There are always more places we’d like to go.
  • Ann: Actually, it’s pretty much due to the availability of coffee. We heard that in Portland and Seattle, coffee comes out of the taps, so that tipped it for us.
    (Editor’s Note: Of course, the coffee. How could I have missed that?)

Do you travel together on tour? Or just meet up in each new location?

  • Kay: It’s arm-in-arm, all the way. Off we go!
  • Ann: You learn a lot about somebody when traveling together. Last time we were on the road, I saw with mine own eyes the fact that Kay could complete an entire blanket within, like, two weeks. It was the Tour de Blanket. It was incredible.

Dangerous question: Are you at all nervous about leaving your husbands in charge of the house while you’re touring?

  • Kay: Yes.
  • Ann: I’m more nervous about coming back. By the time I return, the music studio in the basement could well have expanded into the den, the kitchen, and our bedroom. Hubbo may rent out the extra bedroom to a slide guitar player. Heckyeah, I’m nervous!

What part of the tour do you most look forward to? The crazy knitting parties? The junk food? Seeing lots and lots of knitters (and new yarn shops)?

  • Kay: The people, for sure. The people who come to our events come with handknits, and they come with stories, and they come ready to have a good time. The only thing I didn’t like last time was that sensation of everything going by in a blur.
  • Ann: Really looking forward to seeing people who are as committed to the all-knitting lifestyle as we are.

Looking at your “Superthrilling Sneak Peek,” that blue (purple?) sweater looks gorgeous—but I can’t read the back. What does it say? Something about a small group of citizens changing the world?

  • Ann: Mary Neal Meador, the designer, quotes Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and on the back, Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever did.”
    (Editor’s Note: LOVE that quote.)

You had a list of “Must Knit TV” in book one–I loved the Frontier House and Colonial House series, too, by the way–any new shows you’d like to add to that list?

  • Kay: Ann is going to say Project Runway. Ann is all about the Project Runway. Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS are still my most reliable butt-on-sofa series. Cranford, with Dame Judi Dench as Miss Matty Jenkyns, was the best knitting TV I’ve ever known. Earlier this year PBS ran one Jane Austen series after another, which was also choice. My daughter and I are both addicted to Little People, Big World and basically everything else on TLC. Much knitting gets done.
  • Ann: My Tivo is collecting all sorts of choice knitting viewing: Mad Men (a new obsession); of course Project Runway and Top Chef which really is not quite as sublime but perfectly OK; any election coverage because I love to yell at my TV; and the ultimate, Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report.

Any socks in your future? Because, if you hadn’t noticed, they’re really quite popular…

  • Kay: I’m not going to tell her. Ann, you tell her.
  • Ann: Yes, we have socks in the book. I’m the sockist in this duo. The fact is, I named a sock pattern for Stephen Colbert. I wanted to name the book for him, but Kay thought that might seem sort of stalkerish. He is the funniest person on television, now or ever. Just brilliant.

Name one yarn you’ve never tried but would love to knit with.

  • Kay: I’d like to see linen mixed with more fibers, because it has such drape and the colors are so intense. Linen and silk. There needs to be a yarn that is linen and silk, a fine strand of each, plied together. Habu probably has it! I think of linen as the greatest most underappreciated luxury fiber. Occasionally I run into a knitter who loves linen as much as I do. I think Ann loves it as much as I do.
  • Ann: Love it? I’m going to name a pet for it. I’ve never knitted cashmere. That seems like a very good idea.

What is the one thing you would want to say to a new knitter?

  • Kay: This is going to be one of the best, happiest things in your life. Really. Keep at it, and never knit anything you don’t want to knit.
  • Ann: Have confidence about what you’re doing. And assume you’ll do some goofy stuff on those first projects! I once sewed a sleeve to a side seam. It looked like a Bat Cape.

If you could have a superpower (knitting or otherwise), what would it be?

  • Kay: Time travel.
  • Ann: Totally, time travel. I dream about it all the time. It’s why sometimes I dress up like Queen Elizabeth I. It’s as close as I can get.

Since this IS a site for book reviews–two questions: What do you look for in a book review?

  • Kay: Kindness to the authors! Seriously, I look for a sense of what the book is really like, a taste that doesn’t tell me everything, so that I’m still excited to read it myself.
  • Ann: Yes, I like to be intrigued but maybe not totally sated. The joy of a knitting book is that each page is a surprise. I don’t really want to know every little detail ahead of time.

And, since I’m slowly working my way through my knitting book collection, are there any particular books–other than your own, of course–that you’d like to see reviewed? Maybe I could bump something up the list for you?

  • Kay: You’ve got a great list. Pretty much anywhere you want to start would be fine by me.
  • Ann: Ditto.
    (Editor’s Note: Drat. That answer was no help at all.)

Thank you so much, ladies, for stopping by. This was such fun!

Don’t forget, everyone, their new book is Mason-Dixon Knitting: Outside the Lines, published by Potter Craft and is out on Tuesday, September 16th.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kim September 11, 2008, 9:36 am

    Part 2 was an excellent as Part 1. You scored big time with this interview. I loved the question about a superpower. Mine would also be time travel.

  • Chris September 12, 2008, 7:06 pm

    That was a great interview, Deb – thanks!

    I’m contemplating going to their signing over in St Paul in October…

    Chris’s last blog post..If I offer you a nectarine, you might want to wash it again…

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