Mason Dixon Field Guides Review

Mason Dixon Field Guides Review
The inquisitive minds at Mason Dixon Knitting seem to never stop working. Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, two of the most erudite thinkers in the “knitiverse”, have started a collection of what they term “field guides” – small books that explore a single topic related to knitting, complete with articles, reminiscences, and patterns. Want a bit of inspiration along with the directions? You’ve come to the right place.

Every knitting publication has its own personal aesthetic, and MDK Field Guides are no exception. The best descriptor for this series would have to be ‘educational’ and ‘quirky’ – these are written for the knitter who likes to play, who likes to intellectually ponder the possibilities inherent in creating with two sticks and some string. Thus, the patterns call for specific yarns, but they also require a certain willingness to experiment and see what happens. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself using certain directions on repeat, varying the results just enough to personalize and to make a technique your own.

The first four books in the series all examine the idea of color knitting through various techniques. Book 1, “Stripes”, plays with proportion and multiple colors (note that the last pattern could more accurately be called ‘color blocking’ rather than ‘striping’); Book 2, “Fair Isle”, continues this theme, but focuses on stranded knitting. In books 3 and 4, “Wild Yarns” (hand-painted fibers) and “Log Cabin,” (the technique), Shayne and Gardiner add pattern and balance to the mix; by the time the reader is through with these four tomes, s/he has a much deeper appreciation of color knitting in general and possibly a favorite technique or two that will warrant ongoing study. With books five, six, and seven (“Sequences”, “Transparency”, and “Ease,”, the field guides turn to surface pattern, examining knit=purl combinations and the use of lightweight yarns, again allowing the knitter to explore and idea in depth. Each book contains three or four patterns created by well-respected designers. The projects are mostly accessory-sized, although there are a few blanket and sweater patterns definitely worth a look or two.

In the end, I think readers will either really like or dislike the books in the series because of the aesthetic presented. These aren’t fashion-forward designs, but they aren’t derived from classic clothing traditions either. They will appeal to those interested in well-written patterns, straightforward knitting, and finished projects with an arty, somewhat ironic feel. There are lots of rolled edges, for example, which will strike some as bohemian and others as simply sloppy – but it’s not that difficult to add a seed stitch border to an otherwise straightforward shawl with a fascinating take on intarsia. Think the color combinations in “Log Cabin” too blocky? Substitute something more muted, perhaps analogous colors or neutrals.

You probably won’t find these booklets in retail bookstores or on Amazon, but they are available at many local yarn shops, at some online yarn retailers, and at the Mason-Dixon web site itself. Each one is somewhere around fifty pages and costs between ten and fifteen dollars. If you’re nervous about purchasing sight unseen, you can examine the patterns more closely on the web site or at Ravelry.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Mason Dixon Knitting. I purchased my copies with my own funds.

Mason Dixon Knitting –

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