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Dear Ann,

Whee! It’s so fun having a new Field Guide to play with. Like the Grinch’s heart, the list of people I am knitting for this autumn and holiday season grew several sizes yesterday. Kay Gardiner: Gift Knitter—can you believe it? This is a major personality overhaul, for which Thea Colman is entirely responsible. How can I not knit an entire extended family’s worth of amazing hats, mitts, and cowls (not to mention coasters)? I’m a goner.

Having said that: I have yet to knit a single item from MDK Field Guide No. 8: Merry Making. While I tap my toes waiting for the magic box o’ yarn from Nashville, I wanted to give a high five to a group of wonderful people who really have their act together: the test knitters of MDK, and their fearless leader, Nell Ziroli.

Nell is a direct descendent of both Eleanor Roosevelt and Cindy Lou Who, radiating knitterly know-how and also kindness. Nell and her darling daughter Haley knitted all the photography samples for Field Guide No. 8, piles and stacks of perfection, like it was NOTHING. They said it was fun!

One of the pleasures of Launch Day yesterday was checking out the Ravelry projects posted by Nell’s intrepid test knitters. The very soul of discretion, they’ve kept them under wraps for weeks and months, and now they’re free! Thank you, dear test knitters, for doing the mitzvah of knitting brand-new patterns, and especially for making notes and comments that will help the rest of us as we embark.

That Cowl Though

I remember where I was when Thea emailed the sketch for the Chalice Cowl. (In Most Moisturized Mom’s kitchen in Omaha.) The combination of two of my favorite things in knitting—garter stitch and on-the-bias—got me hyperventilating. And the kicker: an unusual and totally reversible cable!  I don’t have a favorite project in this Field Guide—that wouldn’t be right—but I like this one a super lot. It is Special To Me.

Cristina’s Chalice Cowl

Just because I haven’t knit the Chalice Cowl yet doesn’t mean I don’t have one to show off.

This is the smallest size, in the fittingly named Happy shade of Julie Asselin’s brand-new yarn, the luscious and lustrous Douillet.

The attractive, well-put-together knitter who made it is Cristina Shiffman, MDK’s social media boss and éminence rose.

Cristina’s planning to wear her Chalice Cowl with her black Pendleton coat this winter.

Come ON, mail carrier, you’re killing me. Get me that package!



Leave a Comment


  • My field guide and yarn are on their way too! I got yarn to make the Chalice cowl and yarn to make the mitts. Signed. Sealed. Now Mr. Postman please Deliver!

    • I’m also awaiting the box with the cheery orange label, for my new Field Guide and yarn for the mitts (or coasters…can’t quite decide!). Hurry up!

  • Kay! I love Eleanor and Cindy Lou. Thanks for the kind words and the very fun projects. This yarn is amazing and the cowl is fab times 3.

    • It’s good to see your smiling face! Can you tell me the name of the lovely shawl you are wearing in this photo?

      • Second on the shawl q!

        • Thanks!! The pattern is Hiru and should be published in the next day or so.

  • Your Field Guides are amazing and precious! I’ve just placed my order and can’t wait till it arrives! Thea Colman is one of my all time favorite knitwear designers, so this will be an oft used treasure!
    Thanks Ladies!

  • I need a beginner’s guide for knitting gifts for non- knitters. I fear….disappointment. My family feels it is allergic to wool, when their entire experience of wool is Army blankets at the Lake. I want to cover them in love and stitches, but I am not a fast knitter. (I’m not a slow knitter, either. I’m a half-fast knitter. bad um bum).

    what advice do more experienced gift knitters have have for me?

    • A few years ago, I knit a wool hat for my aunt, which she loves. Recently I offered to knit her a cowl, and when I asked for yarn preferences, she specified no wool. Hmmmm. So I asked, what if I used something like the yarn from which I made her hat? She thought that sounded great. Long story short (too late!), we’re Irish, and her idea of “wool” was rough (indestructible!) Irish wool that my granny used to knit Aran cardigans and jumpers. I made her cowl out of silk and merino, and she loved how soft it was. I’d recommend handing your family some soft wool items and ask whether the fiber in them is OK— it very well might be. 🙂

    • Get Field Guide 7, some cotton or linen, and knit up some Bohdi washcloths. Throw in a nice bar of soap and you will have a wonderful gift for those non woolly relatives.

    • Use washable wool for anything that is worn a lot, close to the body. Hats and mittens get dirty. Giving someone a gift that they have to hand wash imposes a bit of a burden.

    • This feels like a great question for The Lounge – see upper left corner!

  • I have been knitting with the fabulous Nell since she taught me to knit almost 10 years ago! I am so fortunate to have her as my knitting fairy godmother. Yes that’s what we call her. And as a dear friend. Her talent knows no bounds. She is the secret weapon that makes my knitwear shine. I have knitted several of her original designs and she has had a tip or “betterment” in every one of my finished projects! Haley, her darling daughter, has also saved me with her high speed knitting perfection, taking in my “Merry Knitting” when all eight of my nieces and nephews want hand knitted goodies in their stockings. I look forward to making a few of my own this year from the Field Guide, but am pretty sure I will be calling on the dynamic duo of Nell and Haley for advice, friendship and maybe a few actual stitches. Thanks for everything you have contributed to our kindness of knitters. And to me! And thanks MDK for the inspiration, entertainment and wonderful yarns we dream of working with soon. Xo.

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