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Review: Mason-Dixon Knitting


First, the facts:

Title: Mason-Dixon Knitting

Authors: Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne

Published by: Potter Craft, 2006

Pages: 158

Type: Patterns, Design.


1. Being a Beginner
2. Knitting Around the House
3. Log Cabin Knitting
4. Fambly Projecks
5. Over the Top, Or True Artists
6. Community Knitting


Pattern Size Range: Not really applicable

The In-Depth Look:

Ranging from the simple (“Warshcloths”) to the sublime (those Log Cabin afghans), this book absolutely lives up to its subtitle of “The Curious Knitters’ Guide: Stories, Patterns, Advice, Opinions, Questions, Answers, Jokes and Pictures. Created for Knitters Everywhere who Share the Give’em Hell Spirit of Just Picking up the Needles and Making Stuff.”

Really, that says it all.

First, the tone of this book is friendly and accessible–like Kay and Ann just dropped in for coffee and are pulling amazing, simple things out of their knitting bags to show you what they’ve been up to. And what a great batch of stuff it is.

The signature item has to be the Ballband Warshcloth. (Yes, the “r” is deliberate.) Taken from the ballband of the Peaches & Creme yarn they use to make it, this pattern has exploded with popularity and has been knit by literally thousands of people–and it’s encouraged by these two to help stave off the dreaded “Precious Knits Syndrome” that makes a knitter want to treasure forever whatever they’ve made–even when it’s meant for wiping dishes. If you’re scrubbing tomato stains, you’re not going to look at your handknits in exactly the same way again.

Ditto for knitting a rug, like the very cool, spiralled Circle of Fun rug or the Dizzy Rug. Or the more-square Tailgate Rag Rug, or Snazzy Bath Rug, because, again, if you’re going to walk on it, you can’t treat it like a holy relic. (Although, personally, I’d still insist on no muddy shoes. Slippers, bare feet, socks, though? All okay.)

And, oh, let’s not forget the blankets. There are lots of blankets–all beautiful. Take the Log Cabin blanket, for example. In fact, there are several to choose from, depending on which color and layout you prefer, but the basic structure remains the same. Just like with quilting, you start with a center square and start knitting strips outward. The color possibilities are endless, as are the practical applications. That “Snazzy Bath Rug” I mentioned a couple minutes ago? That’s a Log Cabin knit–just, in sturdier yarn than the one designed to go on your bed.

I love the Mitered Square Blanket, for example, and the Flying Geese Blanket–squares bordered by lots of tiny triangles flying in formation–is really lovely, too. My bed would be honored to have any of those. Especialy since it doesn’t look like I’m going to be finishing my most-recent patchwork quilt any time soon–since it’s been heaped in the corner for six years now. But knitting? Knitting I still do.

There are other knits for your home here, too. Like the Bubble Curtain–inspired by bubbles rising in champagne, or the Big Dotty Cushion for your nearest piano bench (or whatever other hard seat you might have nearby). Don’t forget the Moses Basket cozy for a new baby, either–which is definitely the type of knit you DON’T want used for scrubbing dishes or being trod on. That’s the kind you want to keep as an heirloom.

It’s true, most of the patterns are the mostly-square variety, but there are a couple clothing items as well. The Heartbreakingly Cute Baby Kimono is an adorably fast knit for a baby. (I know, I made one of these for my niece-in-law a couple years ago.) And the Mason-Dixon After Dark nightgown/robe set are both really lovely. (And, possibly, help lead to the baby who’s going to need that sweater and Moses Basket?) Add in some shawls and some creative use of Potholder loops, and … well, lots of patterns.

What’s nice is that they’re more or less simple patterns, as in simple to DO, but not boring-simple. I mean, a square is knitting’s fundamental shape, but making these is anything but boring. Either the construction is unique, or the color combinations are. Or the way they’re pieced together. But it’s not like making endless swatches (ugh).

Then, between the patterns, you get the fun stuff. (As if the patterns weren’t enough fun.) Wondering about what you can tune your television to while you knit? Catch the “Must Knit TV” segment. Worried about making newbie mistakes? Check out the list of “Mistakes You Will Definitely Make,” and let me tell you–you will. (At some point or another, I’ve done every single one of them.) Don’t miss the “Places We Have Tried to Knit and Failed” list, either.

The text is breezy, light, neighborly. Friendly. And even more, there are a few times when Kay and Ann step back and let another knitter talk for a page or so–about why they love lace, or how important it is to finish your knits neatly, or how an endless creativity is a great thing for a knitter (or anyone). See? Going back to that friends-over-for-coffee analogy–not only do Kay and Ann come by and show you all these amazing things, they let other people talk, too. (I bet they even brought the coffee cake.)

Now, the last few, technical details. The pictures are great and give you a crystalline idea about what the knits really look like. (This is always important, even in a book where many of the items are meant to lay flat.) There are schematics and helpful sketches where relevant. In the book’s back matter, they not only have a list of abbreviations, but a list of sources for inexpensive yarn, and a list of the authors’ favorite knitting books. See? I told you these are good friends.

And–I really, really love this–not only are all the projects listed in the Table of Contents, they are also mentioned in the Index, AND there’s a separate index just for the projects in the book. This is unheard of organizational bounty so far as I’m concerned. THREE complete listings of the projects. I’m in love.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: How can you not like this book? It’s friendly, it’s playful, it’s fun. It’s immediately accessible to all levels of knitters and has projects that are totally unique. (How many other curtain patterns do you have?) It’s a treat and a pleasure to have, and darn it, I want both of them to come for coffee–I’ll even make the coffeecake myself. From scratch! Other reviews for these authors:

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