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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Book review: Mason-Dixon Knitting

My friend Stephanie's mom is a Book Junkie. Seriously. Barnes & Noble should offer the woman stock in their company, cause I'm pretty sure she's the main customer keeping them afloat. Stephanie's mom is also a knitter. Stephanie recently learned to knit and, lucky for her, she has a very generous knitting mother who loves to encourage Stephanie's reading and knitting habits by sending her books. I, as Stephanie's friend, benefit enormously by being able to borrow the newest fiction, non-fiction and now, knitting, books, without having to plunk down a red cent for them. (Can I just tell you how many times I played with the commas in the previous sentence and I'm still not sure I got them right? A lot. A lot of times)

Anyway, I pride myself on the size and quality of my knitting book collection. Sure, it's not complete, but as a voracious and very speedy reader who almost never actually purchases books cause let's face it, when you can start and finish a 200-page book in a day, what's the point of paying for them when you can bum them from friends or the library, my knitting book collection is pretty decent. I've got your Stitch n Bitch, your Knitting Without Tears, your Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, your Color in Spinning, your Knitters Book of Finishing Techniques and so on and so forth.

I do try to be selective about which books make it into my library. I will NEVER buy a book that features primarily fun fur patterns, for example. There are TONS of knitting books out there; the canon is growing exponentially, and as a result, one must certainly be a little discerning if she wants to have time and money left over to buy yarn and actually knit something.


Which brings me to Mason-Dixon Knitting. At first glance, it's nothing too special--most of the patterns are of the sort where you look at them and go, "Well, I could've thought of that!" They make good use of everyone's stand-by, garter stitch, and the yarns that the Kay and Ann use aren't of the $50-for-100-yards variety.

However, as I was going through the book a second time, I was struck by how enamored of knitting the authors are, and how well that comes through in the book:

Ann, on learning to knit: "The agony of knitting beat the daily grind of my job at a publishing house in Manhattan. Knitting was the perfect antidote to a job filled with the endless piles of manuscripts that would never be published yet had to be read, or at least stared at, by me. Knitting was nonverbal. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. The problems of knitting were solvable: the worst thing that could happen was that I had to rip something out. Mistakes would disappear, just like that. I would complete something" (page 16).

And in the end, or in the beginning, isn't that why we learned to knit? It gave us something to do with our hands, something that was repetitive and fun, something that relieved stress and allowed us to revel in something non-work related. I think that, too often, I forget that moment when I first learned to knit and I finally got it. When I stopped having to look at my little American School of Needlework pamphlet to remember to pop the stitch off the needle; when I loosened up enough to be able to complete two rows of knitting without wanting to cry from frustration; when I mastered a simple k1, p1 rib. What happened to that feeling of pure joy?

In Mason-Dixon Knitting, Ann and Kay have figured out that we are not all perfectionists; that we have lives and jobs and--some of us--kids, all of which means that we have limited hours in which to knit; and that blemish-free knitting is impressive, but my God, a wobbly row here and a clashing color there is not the end of the world.

So thanks, Ann and Kay, for reminding me that knitting isn't a job or a chore, and handknit items do not have to look perfect or be perfect to be beautiful and well-received.

3 Comments:

  • I want you to know I looked at your blog Tasha!!! And you even mentioned me (and my book-loving mom)!

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 10:56 AM  

  • Dude, you would have never learned how to knit if you a)I wasn't relearing it with you and b)You weren't so damn competitive and you didn't want me to "beat" you at it. If you'd only know that not only have you "beat" me, but I wondered away halfway though the race... but that's to be expected.

    By Blogger Aundra, at 7:56 PM  

  • dude. it's funny that i'm not at all competitive except when it comes to two things: knitting, and boys. what does that say about my character?

    By Blogger Tasha, at 11:03 AM  

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