Kay Gardiner and Ann Shanyne are well known for their long-distance knitterly friendship, chronicled for the rest of us to enjoy at Mason-Dixon Knitting. Their first book, also called Mason-Dixon Knitting, brought some of their zany and clever crafitness to paper and taught knitters everywhere to love kitchen cotton again.
Their second book, with the incredibly long title of Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines: Patterns, Stories, Pictures, True Confessions, Tricky Bits, Whole New Worlds, and Familiar Ones, Too, brings more of the same in their fun, encouraging style.
The idea behind this book is that there's really nothing you can't do in knitting, given proper inputs of time and patience, and that a lot of things in knitting seem difficult just because you've never done them before.
The book follows the rules that knitting should always be fun and that the more you knit, the more you learn to take knitters through projects that include lace, Fair Isle, some fancy geometry and, of course, projects for the kitchen.
The book is divided into general categories including knitting for yourself, Fair Isle for beginners, items for small humans (babies and those "who have reached the age of reason"), occasional knitting (Christmas, home decor, bags, etc.), and kitchen knits.
There are essays and instruction interspersed among the patterns, as well as wacky stuff only the Mason-Dixon knitters would include in their book, such as a collection of fashion disasters through the years and a narration of what happens when you get pulled over by the gauge police.
The book includes 31 patterns ranging from basic sweaters and socks to gorgeous (and large) Fair Isle projects, adorable baby stuff (you will feel a grin spread across your face when you see the Heartbreakingly Cute Pilot Cap -- it really is), fun decor and wild kitchen accessories (including a reusable knit pad for your Swiffer and knit additions to rubber gloves).
Most of the patterns are accessible to new knitters, and any strange techniques are explained. Even the Fair Isle projects (a beautiful rug, baby blanket, and wrap) are knit on large needles so as not to be too intimidating to people who haven't used the technique before. They do, on the other hand, use steeks, which can be a little scary.
It's hard to pare down a list of just a few of my favorite patterns, but I will need a Belinda, a fine, two-color knit wrap that looks like plaid. The Emma Peel dress for a little girl is adorable, but I'll have to find a little girl to knit it for. I also enjoy the Fern coat, again for a little girl, made with lovely stripes like a thing straight from the woods (the story behind this one is a hoot, too); the felted Picnic Bag, which is cleverly "poached" before adding the design, then felted again; the Monteagle Bag, a perfect string bag; and the Mitered Hanging Towel, which should remind you of grandma's kitchen in a good way.
People who already know and love Gardiner and Shayne will want to pick up this book just to see where the adventure leads. But those who haven't been exposed to their infectious enthusiasm for knitting are sure to enjoy this zany romp through some skills that may be new to you, as well as plenty of projects you'll want to knit (especially if there are kids in your life).
Publication date: September 2008.