i am so excited to have melissa morgan-oakes stopping by here today as a part of her blog tour. if her name sounds familiar, melissa is the author of 2-at-a-time knitting books (about which i’ve written before). she has also written a new book in the teach yourself visually series, this one all about circular knitting.
the mystery behind circular knitting (also called knitting in the round) is solved for the beginner knitter, and more challenging techniques are presented for seasoned knitters (including steeking. eek, yes! cutting your knitting!), along with projects organized into various ability levels throughout.
as the title implies, this book is loaded with photos of techniques to get you comfortably knitting in the round. you might sense that my own blog is visually driven, and that’s just my own preference. i learn by seeing, then doing. and because this book has so many photos of key techniques, accompanied by straightforward and thoughtful explanations, i think it may motivate and inspire others who might not otherwise get a chance to learn.
i was thrilled to have the opportunity to ask melissa some questions, so read on to learn some of the interesting things she shared. now, blogging etiquette and rules dictate i should tell you, dear reader, that i was sent this book in exchange for a blog post about it. if you’ve been around here for a while, you know that i love writing about things that encourage others to take up a craft or to learn a new technique. my gushing about her latest book is genuine. the book is well laid out (though i would’ve loved a coiled binding like her other books!), and the next best thing to sitting beside another knitter. if you still think i may have been swayed by being given a free book, quit whining because one of you will get a copy too, read on ;-)
thank you for inviting me to be a part of your blog tour, melissa. do you feel like a rock star? how are the hours? the paparazzi can be relentless no?
I LOVE the hours! I’ve grown used to the constant stream of paparazzi and stalkers now. So we had to heighten the security here at the compound a little, and I still can’t make it to the car without hearing at least one shutter snap, but it’s all worth it! Of course I’m kidding – I really don’t feel like a rock star, or I don’t feel like what I think a rock star might feel like. In fact when people cal me that I get a little confused look on my face, which I hope doesn’t come across as anything other than confused but flattered! To me I am just me, friend, knitter, farmer, dog-mom, pain in the butt, people-mom & Omie (grandmother). Thank heavens there is no knitting paparazzi, or I fear the photos of me would end up on one of those rags in the grocery check out line, like The Enquirer – “MMO Filthy to the Knee – EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS INSIDE!”
oh yes, i hear you… “imadeitso blogger unravels in public!” but seriously :-) … you’re a self-taught knitter. i’ve also read that you were taught to sew, crochet and tat at a young age. what made you pick up the needles and yarn for the first time?
In the very beginning, when I was a wee lass at the knee of assorted grandmothers and great aunts, it was because I coveted the things they were making for me; baby bootees for dolls, Barbie clothes, that kind of thing. I wanted to do it myself. I never got past “swatch”. After my long hiatus, I picked up needles again because we had a huge amount of handspun and I was getting bored with the crochet patterns available, and I still coveted the knitted items I saw around me. And there’s only one way to get knitted things, unless you’re independently wealthy and can pay someone to knit them for you. So I grabbed needles and yarn and set to work.
i find birth stories of all kinds fascinating. how did this book come to be?
Well Ana, you see, when a mommy and a daddy book love each other very much…. Really this book was born out of my desire to begin to transition from the 2-at-a-Time Sock girl into something a little more broad. I was looking for a project that would begin to move me out of that niche – not that I do not love 2-at-a-Time socks, of course I do and always will, but I think I really wanted the world to see that I am not a one trick pony. I do more than socks. I love to teach, so a book that delivers a learning experience was the perfect vehicle.
i share photos on the blog because i enjoy photography but also, because i think it helps tell a story without as many words (though sometimes, i use loads of words as well. case in point. on with the question, ana)…the book is full of colour photos (credits to matt bowen) that help describe the techniques in detail. did the process of writing this book feel different than other books you’ve written?
Very different! With my first two books I was translating a technique that I had developed myself. Although derived from other techniques, they really are my own. This book was another basket of kittens entirely. The book teaches four basic methods of circular knitting all of which are known in the knitting world. There is a lot of other information in there as well, but none of it can really be said to be original, or of my own devising. In addition, the TYV series has a template that pretty clearly outlines how you need to write the book. Because I am a sort of free form kind of person, trying to write things within a structure was very difficult. I had help from Tamara Stone-Snyder, the technical editor on the book, with the organization part. I am not so good with structure!
i’ve written about hands and how they help express creativity. knitting is such a good example of this. are those your hands on the cover and throughout the book? and do your hands get fidgety when you don’t have a project in them, or are you happy to give them a rest for a little while?
I get asked that a lot at book signings and in classes. I am sad to report that those are not my hands on or in any of my books. I would love to have been my own model, but I have very short fingers that in photos bear a striking resemblance to cocktail wieners. They are just not attractive. So hand models were used for everything. Do I get fidgety – YES. If I have no knitting and am bored or trying to focus or listen, you will find my playing this ridiculous matching game on my iPhone to keep my brain free. My hands are always moving, almost as fast as my brain goes, but not quite.
as a knitting instructor, you’ve taught many to knit, through workshops, classes, your blog… you taught me 2-at-a-time socks through your books… i’m curious what lessons you’ve learned through all this. (about knitting, about yourself, about others, etc…)
The biggest lesson I have learned is that teaching is really only a small part of the job. Enabling and encouraging people to learn is really what it’s about. Children are very clean people – they have not yet been smacked around by life, and don’t really understand failure in the same terms that we as adults do. Kids just get up and try again. Adults, train to expect near perfection from their efforts, can be harder to teach. The subject matter may be identical, but as adults we have learned that failure can hurt or cost us money or position and we apply that to our whole lives, crafts and hobbies not excepted. As a result many of us are hesitant and insecure when we are learning something new. We demand a high level of performance, and we expect understanding of topics we have not even really “met” yet. Most of what I do is reinforce to students that they can do what I say they can, and they have to trust me when I say that. I think that is the biggest thing I have learned from teaching.
you are perhaps best known as a knitter, teacher and author. outside of those, what three things would you like people to know about you?
Three things. Hm. This is a toughie, choosing three!
OK – ready? I once won the locally coveted prize of “Homemaker of the Year” at our local county fair. I was interviewed in the local paper – a full page and everything – as a result. It was most flattering. I was so excited I cried, and when I told my husband he got weepy too. In retrospect it makes me laugh, but at the time it meant everything to me and gave me a huge sense of fulfillment. I’d always entered things in the fair before and done well, but this was the pinnacle!
Let’ see, what else. Oh! I am obsessed with my puppy. He has his own blog and is spoiled beyond belief. I said I would never do what I have done in the last six months, from buying a raincoat for a furbearing animal to letting a dog lay down on my dining room table so that he can be part of the conversation. It’s really bad!
And last – after a lifetime of dreaming, I am finally able to say that I am officially a farmer. I have wanted to say that since I was about six years old, and it feels wonderful! I raise chickens for meat and eggs and sell directly to my community. I try to focus on natural and sustainable farming practice and I think I do a good job. My birds are drug free, hormone free, and free ranging. It makes me very happy!
what’s next for you melissa?
I have no idea! For now I am enjoying a little break – those three books came into the marketplace pretty quickly. I am really enjoying having some downtime after back-to-back projects. I can garden, teach, play with my sewing machine – I miss that a lot – and just get some breathing room. Then we’ll see what’s next!
enjoy the rest of your tour melissa. sincere thanks for stopping here and sharing. (you can sneak out the private exit out back, the paparazzi wont hound you there.)
Thanks so much for having me! Now, let me see…I have my huge dark glasses. Where did I put them? Oh, and my big floppy hat, too… I appreciate the back door escape! ;)
melissa has kindly sent an autographed copy of teach yourself visually circular knitting for one i made it so reader. finally! a perk for visiting here, beyond the obvious good looks and fabulous writing ;-) (or, you know, suffering through my sense of humour and lower-casity… whatevs).
just leave a comment (include a valid email) by wednesday june 29th at 11:59 pm EST, and i will announce the winner on
friday oops, thursday june 30th. that’s it! no jumping through hoops or backflips needed. but if you can do those things, my goodness, blog about it already. with photos please.
good luck everyone!
(and thanks again melissa!)