(Stopover: even looks good blurry.)
Mucklestone herself, however, doesn’t seem to do much stop-overing. Just during the first six months of 2016, she criss-crossed the U.S., from Maine, where she lives, to North Carolina to Alaska and to points in between. By October, she had been to the Shetland Islands thrice, in partnership with Gudrun Johnston, aka the Shetland Trader. “Stopover” itself was inspired by a trip to Iceland in 2014; next, she’s plotting a trip to poke around Patagonia.
(NBD: Mary Jane knitting beside a glacier.)
The peripatetic Mucklestone traveled with her family as a kid, “and textiles were always my favorite souvenir. You can always find some fabulous textile wherever you are,” she says. “It might be totally unexpected and nothing you are used to—and contain endless inspiration.”
Mucklestone’s career in textiles started in the fashion industry in New York City, which is where she moved from her native Northwest. But after her move to rural Maine with her then-small children in the 1980s, she couldn’t translate her big city skills.
“Knitting was something I could do,” she remembers. “I didn’t have enough money ever to buy sweater quantities of yarn. So I would go to the sale bin. I had all of these weird balls of yarn that were just pretty colors and I’d just try to figure out how to use them all. It made me make up patterns and learn things.”
(Mary Jane’s Station Wagon Blanket anchors Field Guide No. 1.)
From those weird, pretty balls, her career as a stranded colorwork guru was born. Her first three books—Fair Isle Style, 150 Scandinavian Motifs, and 200 Fair Isle Motifs—give a knitter all of the building blocks she could need to roll her own design. Mucklestone’s latest book, Geo Knits: 10 Lessons and Projects for Knitting Stripes, Chevrons, Triangles, Polka Dots and More, was published in October. Mucklestone’s classes give knitters even more permission to play with color—and to embrace the happy accidents that inevitably occur.
“In the classes I teach we often knit the same thing, like everybody will knit the same little wristlet, but everybody will have her own colors. I’m always imploring my students, ‘Please don’t rip it out! Or if you really want to rip it out, ask me first because I’m not going to let you rip it out. Even if you don’t like it, one of your classmates will.’
“People often find out that the project they hated is the universal favorite—and that gets them to look at their own choices in a different way. That is empowering if you’re a person who likes to swatch, which I do, because you feel less limited. Often people will say, ‘I don’t have the right colors. I have to go buy some new ones.’ You might. But you might just be able to use the colors you have in a different way that might not be your initial plan but that can be pleasing,” Mucklestone says.
“I think there’s no bad knitting project, to tell you the truth. You say it is way too big and the arms are really, really long? Then cut it up, turn it into felt, and make something else. Those really long arms could be a series of beer cozies! It’s never a lost cause. Unless it was such a horrible experience that you want to have the satisfaction of burning it up.”
That “no bad knitting project” ethos is the one Mucklestone takes on the road. Her Instagram feed is full of inspiration for both unexpected color combination and for dreamy travel destinations. Her wanderlust brings fresh inspiration to all who collect fibery souvenirs like odd balls of yarn as we plot Stopovers of our own.
Mary Jane Mucklestone's genius Striped Garter Blanket
P.S. The video in the header, by Mary Jane Mucklestone, is a love song to the lopapeysa, Iceland’s national sweater.