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Book Review: Mason Dixon Knitting – Outside the Lines by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne

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Mason Dixon Knitting: Outside the Lines by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne goes far beyond the standard pattern books or instructional knitting books. It collects not just a handful of patterns, but offers new techniques, anecdotes, and words of wisdom. Each pattern or technique includes a little story behind it, how the designer came up with it, the difficulties she overcame, the failed attempts before it. There is even a tale of competitive knitting. One of the great things about the patterns is that, instead of listing a standard unit of difficulty, each pattern gets a little description about what exactly makes this pattern easy or difficult.

One of my favorite patterns in this book is the “Belinda” wrap, a lightweight, double-layer wrap made with laceweight mohair that mimics plaid. The “Metropole” jacket is a thigh-length coat with simple colorwork at the cuffs. It makes me think of autumn on the east coast. “Flaptois” is an intriguing scarf – smooth on one edge, grooved like a machine gear on the other. The “Margaret” sweater is beautiful and quite unique. Its long length and skirted bottom are flattering and romantic, but the real draw is the subtle tone-on-tone wording that decorates the bodice. Plenty of room to write a favored quote or message. The “Kiki Mariko” rug is made with an entire spectrum of colors, arranged in neat chevrons. The simple yarn and orderly pattern make the colors fun, not overwhelming. “Baby Dotty” is a polka-dot baby blanket that is just adorable. The “Liberty” blanket is a complex intarsia Baroque pattern that will be the pride of your knitting portfolio – if you can get through it.

There is an entire chapter of children’s clothing in this book. But instead of cutesy puppy-dog sweaters, there are patterns that your kids might actually wear. The “SK8R” sweater is a unisex pullover with random “seams” that make the sweater look slashed. The “Emma Peel” is an adorable A-line dress that turns any little girl into a superhero. The “Jane Austen Dress” is really just an eyelet-knitted bodice with a skirt sewn to the bottom. The empire waist and only a hint of ruffle make this romantic, but not saccharine. The “Heartbreakingly Cute Pilot Cap” might be one to skip – the kid wearing it looks like he is wearing an “I’m-prone-to-head-injuries” helmet.

Mason Dixon Knitting: Outside the Lines is a great addition to any knitter’s library. Wearable patterns, excellent instructions, readable stories, wonderful tips and techniques, and a big shot of humor equal a fantastic knitting book.

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