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A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

Mason-Dixon Knitting


Back in February 2007 I had the pleasure of reviewing an exciting new knitting book, Mason-Dixon Knitting. No one then could dream that, 3 years later, more than 6,200 of their Ball-Band Dischcloth would have been knitted and posted on Ravelry (the universe alone knows how many of these have truly been knit) or that their Nashville homage, Pardon Me (I Didn’t Knit That for You), would become a viral sensation.

To celebrate the release of Mason-Dixon Knitting in paperback, Gardiner and Shayne have launched their newest homage (to the documentary Grey Gardens), Grey Garments. So grab your needles, your copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting and some cotton to knit a dish cloth with Ann and Kay. They’ll have you in stitches!

BOOK REVIEW: Mason-Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne


In 2002, Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne met on the Rowan Yarns online forum and a legendary correspondence was born. Yankee Kay and Tennessean Ann are the personalities behind Mason-Dixon Knitting and over the years they have developed a dedicated following of knitters who enjoy their irreverent correspondence and breezy guidance through Knitopia.

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide: Stories, Patterns, Advice, Opinions, Questions, Answers, Jokes, and Pictures is a superb collection of thirty-four patterns that has knitters around the world obsessively knitting Baby Bibs O’ Love and Mitered Square Blankets.

The projects here are useful, sure to inspire beginners and experienced knitters alike. Beginners who are tired of scarves can choose from washcloths, towels, bibs and rugs, as Kay and Ann tell us “Remember: No project is too ambitious if you crave the result enough.” To that end they’ve included patterns for beautiful nightie and robe set made from linen yarn, log cabin bedspread and an elaborate lace lining for Moses baskets.

Kay and Ann provide knitters permission to experiment and play with yarn. Their Mitered Square Blanket proves that playing with colour is the “most fun part.” This basic pattern can be knit in anything from two to forty colours, as a blanket or bedspread. The project is limited only by the knitter’s imagination.

Full of Kay and Ann’s trademark wit and style, Mason-Dixon Knitting is a must have for all knitters. Expect it to quickly bear all the signs of a well-loved favourite.

Try out the Log Cabin throw (PDF download).

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307236056
ISBN13: 9780307236050

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: March 28, 2006
Author Website:
All important Pattern Errata for Mason-Dixon Knitting


Knitting Book Reviews – Master List


This is a list of the knitting books I’ve reviewed to date. They cover a wide range of topics and “categories” of knitting books. If you have a knitting related book you think is a must have of every knitter, or the best look at a topic, please leave a note in the comments here and I’ll try and review it.

* The Natural Knitter: how to choose, use, and knit natural fibers from alpaca to yak – Barbara Albright

* Knitting Classic Style – Véronik Avery

* Pretty in Punk – Alyce Benevides & Jacqueline Milles

* The Knitter’s Guide to Yarn Cocktails – Anastasia Blaes and Kelly Wilson

* The Best of Interweave Knits – ed. by Ann Budd

* Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave – Ann Budd and Anne Merrow

* Twinkle’s Big City Knits: 31 chunky-chic designs – Wenlan Chia

* Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time – Betty Christiansen

* KnitKnacks: Much Ado About Knitting – introduction by Kari Cornell

* Home Knits: Luxurious Handknits for Every Room of the House – Suss Cousins

* Suss Design Essentials – Suss Cousins

* Pretty Knits – edited by Susan Cropper

* The Northampton Wools Knitting Book: the Store Patterns – Linda A. Daniels

* Mother of Purl: Friends, Fun, and Fabulous Designs at Hollywood’s Knitting Circle – Edith Eig

* Inspired Cable Knits: 20 Creative Designs for Making Sweaters and Accessories – Fiona Ellis

* Inspired Fair Isle Knits: 20 creative designs inspired by the elements – Fiona Ellis

* Knitting Beyond the Edge – Nicky Epstein

* Knitting Never Felt Better – Nicky Epstein

* Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Flowers – Nicky Epstein

* Kaffe Knits Again – Kaffe Fassett

* Mason-Dixon Knitting – Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne

* Knitting Nature: 39 Designs Inspired by Patterns in Nature – Norah Gaughan

* Indigo Knits – Jane Gottelier

* Andean Inspired Knits: Designs in Luxurious Alpaca – Helen Hamann

* Knitting Little Luxuries – Louisa Harding

* Miss Bea’s Seaside – Louisa Harding

* Natural Knits for Babies and Moms – Louisa Harding

* Knitty Gritty Knits – Vickie Howell

* Wendy Knits – Wendy D. Johnson

* Runway Knits: 30 Fashion-Forward Designs – Berta Karapetyan

* Every Mother is a Daughter: the neverending quest for success, inner peace, and a really clean kitchen (recipes and knitting patterns included)– Perri Klass & Sheila Solomon Klass

* Classic Knits & Glamour Knits – Erika Knight

* knit.101 – editors of knit.1 magazine

* The Yarn Lover’s Guide to Hand Dyeing – Linda Labelle

* Knits from a Painter’s Palette: modular masterpieces in handpainted yarn – Maie Landra

* New Ideas for Today’s Knitting – Jean Leinhauser & Rita Weiss

* Andean Folk Knits: Great Designs from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia – Marcia Lewandowski

* Naughty Needles – Nikol Lohr

* Morehouse Farm Merino Knits: more than 40 farm-fresh designs – Margrit Lohrer

* Knitting Color – Brendon Mably

* The Elegant Knitter – Gina Macris

* Nature Babies – Tara Jon Manning

* Knits Three Ways – Melissa Matthay

* Knitting Lingerie Style – Joan McGowan-Michael

* The Museum of Kitschy Stitches: a Gallery of Notorious Knits – Stitchy McYarnpants

* Greetings from Knit Café – Suzan Mischer

* Romantic Hand Knits: 26 Flirtatious Designs that Flatter Your Figure – Annie Modesitt

* Big Girl Knits: 25 Big, Bold Projects Shaped for Real Women with Real Curves – Jillian Morena & Amy R. Singer

* Luxury Knitting: the Ultimate Guide to Exquisite Yarns Cashmere ? Merino ? Silk – Linda Morse

* Knitting Memories – edited by Lela Nargi

* Knitting Through It – edited by Lela Nargi

* Spin to Knit: the Knitter’s Guide to Making Yarn – Shannon Okey

* The Knitter’s Book of Yarn – Clara Parkes

* Field Guide to Knitting – Jackie Pawlowski

* Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

* Knitting Rules! The Yarn Harlot’s Bag of Knitting Tricks – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

* Crazy Aunt Purl’s Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair – Laurie Perry

* knitspeak: an A to Z guide to the language of knitting patterns – Andrea Berman Price

* Punk Knits – Share Ross

* Lacy Little Knits – Iris Schreier

* No Sheep for You – Amy R. Singer

* Victorian Lace Today – Jane Sowerby

* Knitting for Him – Martin Storey & Wendy Baker

* Knitting America – Susan Strawn

* Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today: more than 50 patterns to knit and crochet – edited by Nancy J. Thomas and Charlotte J. Quiggle

* Expectant Little Knits – Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott

* Knit 2 Together: Patterns and Stories for Serious Knitting Fun – Tracey Ullman & Mel Clark

* The Best of Vogue® Knitting – by editors of Vogue® Knitting magazine

* The Vogue® Knitting Stitchionary Volume Three: Color Knitting by editors of Vogue® Knitting magazine

BOOK REVIEW: Mission to America by Walter Kirn


The shrinking population of the Aboriginal Fulfilled Apostles (AFA) has led to a crisis – new bloodlines must be introduced into the community if they wish the community to continue, as it has done for more than 147 year. This isolationist sect has lived apart from mainstream society, tucked into the hills of rural Montana and led by matriarchs, who follow the edicts of their Seeress to maintain a life of modesty and nutritional vigilance called Edenic Nutritional Science. The only wealthy member of the faith, Ennis Lauer, has hand-picked a group of young men to prepare for an unheard-of mission – seeking out “brides” in mainstream America. Mission to America tells the story of one of these pairs of young men, Mason LaVerle and Elder Stark, as they leave Bluff, Montana and travel to Colorado in a decrepit van, bringing their message of clean living and healthy digestion to world-weary Americans.

Walter Kirn’s fifth novel focuses on Mason, a naif bewildered by the choices and depravity all around them as they begin their journey. Dressed to look like Jehovah’s Witnesses’ younger cousins (to take advantage of the good will that group has engendered), they follow the techniques taught by Ennis Lauer – essentially sale closing techniques used by con men and used car salesmen.

Where Mason’s overriding characteristics are naïveté and a calm presence, Elder Stark’s are all sharp edges and chaotic energy. Asserting his leadership in their relationship early on, Stark quickly develops a maniacal appetite for reality television and the worst of America’s junk food. His character soon belies the images created by his name, becoming the polar opposite – a beast controlled by his appetites. These appetites are what make him the natural choice as Lauer’s ambassador in his bid to usurp leadership of the AFA.

When lampooning America’s hunger for spiritual gurus, Kirn is at his best. Using Mason to mirror America’s lack of moral compass works to illuminate the fear and dearth of spirituality at the core of most of the selfish choices made each day. In a post 9-11 world, this novel can be read as an indictment of the spiritual journey upon which many Americans claim to have embarked although in reality, they are caught up in the soulless world of reality TV and idle consumerism. Occasionally he gets bogged down in describing the belief system and mythology of the faith he has created but at its core, this is a strong, thought-provoking and humourous novel.

Mission to America leaves the reader questioning the nature of faith, the quest for understanding and wondering how much of Kirn’s early childhood experiences with the Mormon church are reflected within the character of Mason.

See the review as it appears at Armchair Interviews – Mission to America.

posted under fiction | 2 Comments »

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