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Shearly Wonderful

Dear Kay,
Thank you for sending down the St. Bernard with the little casket cask (whoopsy! thanks, Michelle!) around its neck with the brandy in it and everything. I really am fine, I promise, under this avalanche of school-end foolishness and miscellaneous hooha. If I had any more room on my back bumper, I’d add a new bumper sticker: “I’d rather be knitblogging.” Or “My other car is a basket of yarn.” Or “My sweater is an honor student at Grassland Elementary.” Or “If you don’t like my knitting, call 1-800-Kiss-My-@$$.” Anywaaaaaay . . .
Now. Can we talk about Gale, now? I’ve been dying to talk about Gale.
One of the year’s biggest new knitting books is Gale Zucker’s Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn.
Shear Spirit cover.jpg
How big is this book? People, it is currently the Number One Best-selling Animal Husbandry Book on Amazon! It is kicking The Chicken Health Handbook’s feathered behind!
But more important, it’s deluxe, and lush, and very beautiful. It doesn’t look very much like The Chicken Health Handbook. And it’s because Gale’s photographs are so special.
Gale and her co-author, Joan Tapper, traveled across the country to visit fiber farms where people are living out their dreams of working close to the land. At one point, I do believe Gale spent the night underneath a Navajo rug loom.
I had the chance to see early proofs of this book, and since then, I have kept in the back of my head Gale’s images of beautiful places, memorable people, and sheep who look a lot like people. A lot of big sky.
You don’t have to be a spinner or dyer (or animal husbander, for that matter) to love this book. In fact, the less you know about this world, the more fascinating it becomes. “I trade time for temperature,” says Nanney Kennedy, a Maine fiber farmer who does her dyeing in big tubs in her yard. She lets the sun heat the vats–a slower process, but no carbon footprint for her! She hauls saltwater from the Damariscotta River, uses it as as a natural mordant for her dyes.
The Shear Spirit blog has a lot of juicy tidbits about the book.
And there are a bunch of patterns, too. (What’s a fiber book without patterns?) This book is my favorite sort of mash-up: stories, patterns, superlush photographs. If you put it on your bedside table, it will leave you with a lot of nutty yarn-related dreams.
The Brush with Fame Part
I first discovered Gale Zucker while trolling knitting blogs, several years ago. Her blog, She Shoots Sheep Shots, struck me immediately. Gale was always knitting something interesting, but it was her photographs that really knocked me out. The photographs were really beautiful, like magazine photographs. They were composed. They tended to be rich in color and humanity. It didn’t really matter that there were often no people in them–they were intensely human.
On the front page of her blog is a photograph that I have gazed upon many, many times. See those sheep? That’s a portrait.
It took me a while to figure out that Gale was not simply an unusually fine knitting blog photographer. She’s a serious, professional photographer, which was instantly clear to me once I discovered her portfolio.
Back when we were trying to figure out the look we wanted for our second knitting book, I kept thinking about those sheep, and the people that she photographed so well, and the funny sensibility that came through her pictures.
So, in the fine tradition of discovering great friends via the Internet, we emailed Gale and asked if she had any interest in taking the photographs for our new book. We finally met in person, for lunch in New York, on a sunny, chilly day more than a year ago. By the end of lunch, which of course involved viewing sheep shots on her laptop in the middle of the restaurant, which seemed like a perfectly sensible thing to do, we hoped against hope that she’d risk her sanity to help us out.
I think it was the double-teaming that did it. We wore her down, and she realized it would be easier to say yes than to listen to us anymore. I can hardly describe how delighted we were.
And are, especially now that the photographs are done and off in China being printed.
So there you go: the co-author of the Number One Best-selling Animal Husbandry Book on Amazon, the fabulous Gale Zucker, is the photographer for Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines.
We couldn’t be prouder that we had the chance to work with Gale.
We have a lot of tales from the travels she took with us last summer, which I’ll share in the days to come.
PS We just got the bound galleys–very exciting to see it looking more like a book and less like a pile of Post Its:




  1. OH MY GOSH! It’s your book!! I cannot wait..
    And you just made me really want the Shear Spirit book, too..I mean, hello, if it’s the no. 1 animal husbandry book, how can I resist?

  2. I really don’t know how I will last until September 16th! My significant other is tired of finding me in the middle of a yarn-strewn living room, curled into a fetal position, and clutching my very worn copy of “Mason Dixon Knitting: Part the First.”
    He’s threatening to take pictures to use at my commitment hearing….

  3. Gale is the best – she deserves this attention. I met her online via the REd Scarf project. She photographed and created the poster for the project. Shear Spirit is a beautiful book and the photos are gorgeous.

  4. Ooh, it’s got a lovely look of The Believer magazine about it – my favourite magazine (about non-knitting things, mind), and a terribly beautiful one at that.

  5. Oh lawdy, I CANNOT wait!
    And, I’ll have to check out Gale’s book – I was dreadfully unaware of it until you posted about it.

  6. Woot! I can’t wait for Mason-Dixon Redux!
    I had the great pleasure of meeting Gale at the Sheep and Wool show last Saturday and I bought a copy of her book so that she and Nanney Kennedy (a.k.a. Chapter One) could sign it. Even though I have a copy coming to me from Amazon. It is a gorgeous book and I will be giving my unsigned copy away as soon as it arrives.
    And as soon as I can come up with a decent blog contest.

  7. So exciting!! I can’t wait until it is published.

  8. Ahh, something to look forward to after the kids start school again in the fall. (And, I thought just having the kids back in two schools rather than three would be a treat.)

  9. Ahh, something to look forward to after the kids start school again in the fall. (And, I thought just having the kids back in two schools rather than three would be a treat.)

  10. wow! yay! and other three letter words.

  11. I cannot wait to get my hands on the new book!

  12. I was looking for Shear Spirit at the bookstore the other day and couldn’t seem to find it…oh well, guess I’ll have to go back. Darn.
    And look at your book! So exciting!

  13. awwwwww, shucks you two!
    (and for the record, it didn’t take much arm twisting to sign me on for book2, you had me at..would you like to….?)
    frm the co-author of the leading book on (gulp) animal husbandry , with 20 patterns. I think we may have broken literary ground here.

  14. Oooooh the book!!! Mine’s been on order for ages and I’m anxious to receive it. πŸ™‚ Hurry up Amazon! Send my book!

  15. Wow. There are so many knitting books that some of us will have to forgo yarn to get them all!

  16. Aside from being super excited about your second book (which I am–but must put it out of my mind since I can’t read it NOW) it was really the bumper stickers in this post that had me ROTFL. Will you please do a third book, just of bumper stickers? Thank you!!

  17. OMG…
    wow. WOW! those photos are amazing.
    i love the one of the little lambey bleating with it’s little tongue sticking out, eyes bulging out a bit. a little freaked out. like sheeps usually are. :o)
    OMG it’s your guys’ Book!!!
    wow. i cannot wait to see that in person…
    i’m currently trapped by miters and how they look knit up in Nature’s Palette bulky thick/thin merino yarn…*drool*
    :o) ek.

  18. Not that I wasn’t excited about MD2 already, but add Gale’s pictures to the mix? Wow.

  19. Because I am a word freak, I was a little disturbed by the mental image of a St. Bernard wearing a casket around its neck, brandy or no. However, “mordant” sent me racing for my dictionary (okay, Wikipedia…whatever). Apparently, you can’t just throw color at yarn and expect it to stick, so the mordant is a chemical agent that allows the dye to form an insoluble bond. Who knew? Thanks for the new vocabulary word.

  20. i know gale from red scarf
    i just simply can not wait
    for all the new books out
    come fall
    it was 91 plus here in
    manatee county fl
    keep me busy i will be
    in the ac long time

  21. Ooh, ooh, OOH!
    Yay, Gale! I didn’t put She Shoots Sheep Shots and the book together, and even this non-animal husbanderer (but avid knitter and photographer) wants to get her new book now.
    and Yay, Ann & Kay’s new book with photography by Gale with a most excellent cover just hinting at the treasures within! Woo-hoo with a w00t for good measure!

  22. Hi Ann! So happy that you are A-OK! Please come to Seattle on your book tour and bring Buffy with you- I have a burger joint she HAS to go to. Cannot wait for your new book and to pick up Gale’s.
    What are you knitting?

  23. I did a wee little road trip with Gale on the coldest day of the Century, as I recall, and I’m jealous I wasn’t tagging along with the three o’ youse last year. THAT would have been some whacked-out FUN!

  24. Congrats on the book, how exciting! It finally is starting to seem more real that you guys are doing another! Add me to the “I can’t wait” list!

  25. Congrats on the book, how exciting! It finally is starting to seem more real that you guys are doing another! Add me to the “I can’t wait” list!

  26. Yay! Finally, the book. Well, finally in September. And Gale’s photos are incredible, can’t wait to see the ones in the book itself!

  27. Oh boy I can’t wait!

  28. I cannot wait!

  29. Ooh, gooody – *two* new knitting books — one for now, one after a bit. (Am waiting rather impatiently.)
    I love Gale’s blog and photos; so glad you two teamed up with her on your new book.

  30. It’s getting so real, I can’t wait, while I’m still in love with the first it’s going to be great to have a second one! Hurry up September!

  31. Really exciting! When is your new book out in England? I can’t wait xx

  32. Why are animal husbanders always called Gale or Gail? Hmmmmm.

  33. Wait, I thought Ann was going to have to wear the cowboy hat on the new cover?

  34. I adore Gale. She’s someone who brings the sunshine into a room with her.
    And I can’t wait for the second BOOK!

  35. Ahhh!! I feel a little tear – I just love ya’ll. I’m so excited to see the new book. I tell people all the time that I would have quit knitting a long time ago if it wasn’t for Mason-Dixon Knitting. I’m so happy for you both and I can’t wait to have this book in my hot little hands.

  36. Woot! Wooot!

  37. Oh, my… I’m so with you about that sheep portrait… absolutely gorgeous.
    And the new book… so exciting to see the proof! Whoohoooooo!

  38. Another fine poster-worthy cover (I’m still waiting for the poster of the first cover to come out…somewhere…anywhere!). Can’t hardly wait for it to come out! And I’ve already been stalking the bookstores for Gale’s book. I’ll stalk harder with youse guys’ recommendation. πŸ™‚

  39. What a fabbo-licious choice for a photographer! Gale is sooooo talented; the three of you are quite the Knitting Tiumverate, don’tchaknow!
    Can’t wait for the new book!

  40. I love nutty yarn dreams! Just last night I had one that you had asked me to design a new Mason-Dixon headquarters (secret lair?). I’m not sure what it was going to look like, but let me tell you that ball band dishcloth motifs were going to be prominent. Looking forward to the new book!

  41. Can’t wait for your new book and hope that the stash contains a yarn to cast on one of your patterns. I started the Welsh Traveling Socks from Gale and Joan’s book the day after it arrived, which was two days after release.

  42. Sounds wonderful, Ann and Kay! Congratulations!

  43. Why is your book being printed in China? I’m sure a US printer could have done the job, with some good old American workers. We all need to support local businesses.

  44. That is some score, to get Gale to do the photos πŸ˜‰ I already love my copy of the Shear Spirit, and I had such a great time in Knitty City with you and all the other knitters!
    You gave me wonderful moments to remember NY by (among others) πŸ˜‰

  45. Ups, I’m sorry I sorta switched you guys around. I’ve just realised that it must have been Kay that I met at Knitty City (sitting here blushing at my computer)… I guess I was just so star-struck that I couldn’t figure things out right.
    Hope I’m forgiven…
    … PS still a good score to get Gale to do the photos!

  46. yay!


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