Sunday, February 1, 2009

Book review: Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines

This was one of those books on my Christmas list that I didn't get for Christmas, so I bought it later with Christmas money. I was very interested to see if this book was as good as the first one, Mason-Dixon Knitting, which came out a few years ago. I had a first look at that book at my friend Steven's house (how well I remember that trip... dying sock yarn, watching Cars in HDTV, and searching Austin grocery stores for the right brand of soy milk for a picky toddler), and found myself drawn in. I didn't think I would be that interested in these projects, but all of the sudden I was reading, and reading made me want to knit them. These authors have a clear point-of-view that is persuasive and infectious. I bought my own copy and read it cover to cover.

I've only made one project from that first book so far (felted boxes for a Valentine's gift), but I liked it a lot. Those boxes are great to have around -currently one holds all my Knit Picks Options needles, and another is full of marbles (no snarky comments, please - they're not lost if they are in the felted box).

The same thing happened with this book: I read it cover to cover, just like a novel. Authors Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne are hilarious writers (check out their blog for an archive of their writing), and I often paused to read something aloud to my family. The photos (by Gale Zucker of Shear Spirit fame) were fabulous, as well.

So which projects have my attention? Believe it or not, some of the sweaters! The Cardi Cozy is an open, lacy, sheer mohair cardi to wear over another sweater, and it is oddly intriguing. Is it "me"? Probably not, but I like the idea nevertheless. I liked the "coaty coats," as well, knitted coats that are tailored like coats and don't look like oversized sweaters. Metropole is downright urban in its aesthetic, and Yank would be perfect for tromping around my small town. The Daily Sweater is the one I'll probably cast on first. This is a basic top-down raglan sweater with a few modifications that seem like big improvements to me. I am in love with the Periodic Table of Elements notation - it makes perfect sense to me, and I'd like to give it a try. Soon.

There is a good-sized chapter on Fair Isle that breaks down the techniques into comprehensible chunks. I've never been a big fan of stranded knitting, but this almost makes me want to try. There are no Fair Isle garments in this book - all the projects are flat things that were knit in the round and then steeked (rugs, blankets). I like the idea of getting started with stranded knitting in a non-garment piece, but I'm not sure I want to do it on size 15 needles (as the felted rug is knit). Still, there is a polka-dotted blanket that has real possibilities.

Another chapter is devoted to knitting for babies and children. The Fern sweater is gorgeous - just my kind of colors, and with a fiddlehead fern detail around the bottom. So sweet for a little girl. The helmut-style baby hat is pretty cute, too - and qualifies as a one-skein wonder since it requires only one hank of Koigu.

The final chapter is about "occasional" knitting - things like Christmas stockings (K, you have to read this part), bags, a table runner, a paper lantern cozy, a Swiffer cover (!), etc. The table runner is really pretty and I can see it on a piece by my dining table. It's knit from Euroflax linen, which reminds me - Steven, how is that piano bench cover coming along?

This is a fun book to have in one's collection, whether you're a newish knitter or a more advanced one. If you're uncertain, grab a library copy and see what you think. The Mason-Dixon gals manage to blend hardcore patterns and knitting humor seamlessly. I predict you will giggle out loud!

Now I have to go reassure my Must-Have Cardi that she is my #1 sweater right now, lest she become jealous of my flirtation with The Daily Sweater. I'm motoring through the right front today.

1 comment:

Steven said...

Awesome review. The only thinkg I've mad from Mason Dixon Knitting is the Big Dotty piano cushion. And by made, I mean made halfway and left to languish. It's me -- not the pattern, but you're review has gotten me revved up about it again. A few things to finish first...

I'd forgotten about searching for soy milk!