14 June 2011

Blog Tour: Melissa Morgan-Oakes Interview! (And Giveaway)

It is my pleasure to host my first-ever interview with author Melissa Morgan-Oakes as she ventures into her first-ever blog tour for her latest book, Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting. Melissa is a knitting instructor (I took her sock knitting class at WEBS over a year ago. I still need to Kitchener the toe. On the first sock.) and pattern designer. You can find her at Melissa Knits. My review for the book will be up tomorrow.

The obvious first question: when did you first pick up those knitting needles?

I usually get "when did you learn to knit" which is actually a very different question. Knitting needles were a part of my life since my birth. Every adult female in my family knit. Aunts, great aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers all had their yarn and needles nearby. By my mother's generation the fervor had waned a bit, but still at holiday gatherings my mother and her sister pulled out their knitting right along side "The Aunts" Kay, Blanche, Irene and Agnes. When I expressed an interest in knitting a whole group of women jumped on board to teach me, all with such diverse styles in their knitting and their teaching that my interest quickly turned into anxiety. I didn't touch needles again until around 2000. The exact date is lost to memory. All of those elder relatives had died, and I could finally sit down with a book and not fear the inevitable adult over my shoulder telling me I was doing it "wrong". From there it was a rapid ascent to where I am today. Without anyone to say no or to tell me a thing was difficult, I just forged ahead. "Just figure it out as you go" was my motto. I moved quickly through a series of obsessive knitting projects that left me with a huge wealth of practical knowledge. I have added more formal study since, but really the information I culled from my self-taught experiences has been the biggest asset to me as a knitter, a teacher and a designer.

Do you do other fiber work?

Yes! Not as much in the last few years as I did before 2-at-a-Time Socks came out, though. It's been a very busy few years since then! I spin, crochet, needle felt and sew... in the past I have embroidered, cross-stitched, quilted and so on. I find piecework to be very relaxing and fulfilling. I hope to spend more time in the next year or so indulging in some of those other crafts.

Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting is your third book, after 2-At-a-Time Socks and Toe-Up 2-At-a-Time Socks. Is circular knitting your favorite way to knit?

Circular knitting is by far and away my favorite way to knit. I am big on efficiency and I consider circular knitting to be much more efficient than back and forth knitting. Working a sweater, for the sake of argument let's say a bottom-up raglan pullover, in the round saves so much time. Knit the body to the underarm, knit the sleeves to the underarm, then work everyone on to one needle and keep knitting to the neck. Poof, done! No turning the work at the end of each row - imagine how much time that saves alone. Then there is the finishing aspect - a garment body and sleeves worked in the round have no seams; more time saved! Working patterns, such as cables of color work, is made so much easier if the right side of the work is always facing you. You can track the progress of the pattern as you go. Errors, should they occur, are quickly spotted and remedied. I could go on for hours on this!

Is there anything that you have not knit before that you still aspire to do?

In my office right this minute is a Bohus kit that is begging for my attention; two, actually. There is a sweater kit and a mitten kit that I bought for myself to celebrate 2-at-a-Time Socks. Beyond that which never seems to find it's way on to my needles, I have stacks of plastic bins of yarn, and almost all of that yarn has a specific purpose. Someday I hope to knit it all. Right now though I think my biggest goal is to finish the sweater that I started for my husband in 2005. Somehow it just never seems to get done!

Who are some of the people that have inspired your knitting?

My GW, Grandma Winnie, would probably be my biggest inspiration. She was my father's mother and had the most profound impact on many areas of my life. She and my Auntie Gert would knit at the table after dinner and dishes were done and put away, watching whatever Uncle Joe had on the television from their kitchen haven. The memories of being in that house, watching them always at work at something, had a deep and lasting effect on me. The black coffee and Lorna Doone shortbreads helped, too.

While you are certainly well-known for your knitting prowess, I also know about your commitment to your farm. How has that grown over the years?

In 1999 we got 6 baby chicks from our local Farmer's CoOp. Today we have a very small and (still very new) farm of about 200 birds, selling meat and eggs to customers in the area. What started as a family experiment in simplicity and sustainability has turned into something a little bigger, and something that I hope continues to grow. Farming is, for us, not remotely lucrative. I am not sure it is for any small farmer. For me rearing birds and selling eggs has been more about education, both of myself and of others. We just about break even when all is said and done, and any profit I managed to eke out is turned right back into the farm for new equipment and more birds. It is much more about the ethical and moral side of things, but without, I hope, being preachy. And I can get pretty preachy! I am not a vegetarian nor do I intend to become one. What I strive to be, and often - being human - fail at miserably, is a conscious consumer of ALL things, and that includes meat. Knowing how my food lived, whether it's a carrot of a chicken, is very important to me. I am very grateful for the opportunity to share the how and why of that with interested people, and the farm helps me to do that.

It seems you are not the only family member that blogs? :) Can you tell us about Yoshi?

Yes, I am not the only member of my family who maintains a blog, although the only other member who does blog is a four-legged, fur-bearing bundle of adorable. Yoshi is my Shiba Inu puppy. His blog came about as a way for me to record and share his experiences with his breeder and my family and friends. Some weeks he gets more hits than I do! I hope - and so does Yoshi - that readers of his blog (called 100 Days of Yoshi, which is found at http://melissaknits-yoshi.blogspot.com/) come away entertained and maybe a little better educated about responsible dog ownership, and about the potential for the relationship between dogs and their human caretakers. I do nothing without putting in a lot of research before hand. I knew we wanted another dog - we have a 9 year old Bernese Mountain Dog already. I had researched dog breeds and decided on a poodle or poodle cross. Then my friend Kathy (Elkins of Webs) sent me images of Shiba Inu puppies, and I thought back to my Akita, Kioshi, and everything changed. It turns out Kathy knew more than I did about what I really needed. After speaking at great length with Charleen Maxim of Cape Cod Shibas and making a visit to meet adults dogs and puppies, it became pretty obvious that what I really wanted was a Shiba! We went back to the cape a month later and brought home this boy. He is smarter than any dog I've ever had. He's about as tractable as a flagpole wedged in concrete, retaining the full use of his own mind at all times - and he's not afraid to use it against me! Yoshi has long-range plans to be a therapy dog working with the elderly and children, and he hopes to do some work in obedience and agility some day as well. He will continue to blog as he grows and experiences with world around him, I hope, although I guess that will be up to him!

Thank you so much, Melissa! You can catch Melissa's next blog tour stop at OMG! Heart tomorrow.

Now, onto the giveaway! Melissa has graciously provided one lucky reader an autographed copy of her latest, Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting. All you have to do is complete the form at the end of the post. Entries will close at 9 PM on Friday, June 17th and the winner announced on Monday, June 20th. Good luck!

Rules:
  • Form must be filled out completely.
  • Comments will not be accepted as entries to the giveaway.
  • You must be 13+ to win.
  • Winning comment will be chosen through Random.org.
  • This giveaway is open to US and Canada only.


This giveaway is now CLOSED! Winner will be announced on Monday!