Any knitter worth her or his pointy sticks knows who Melanie Falick is, even if he or she doesn’t know they know who Melanie Falick is. Her true contributions aren’t iconic patterns, a specially spun yarn, or reams of essays; instead, her work is the feeling that radiates from a page that she has shepherded into being.
Or those from her stint as editor-in-chief of Interweave Knits magazine. Or from her eponymous imprint with Abrams, which published books by Natalie Chanin, Kaffe Fassett, and Norah Gaughan, among many (many) others. The sense that when you open a knitting book and know that every detail has been fussed over just enough to make you crave casting on? That’s Melanie.
“When I look back at my career, I feel like I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had the jobs that I’ve had, to have had the opportunities that I’ve had,” Melanie says. “I tend to like to do the same thing for a while and get good at it, and then I like to do something else.”
Currently, she’s working on that “something else.” She’s left the big city publishing business and settled in Beacon, N.Y. Melanie’s gone freelance, in other words. Among her current projects: a new book, tentatively titled Making a Life, about the role of making by hand in our lives and culture, a column for Uppercase magazine, several editing and creative direction gigs, and a lot of travel.
Her website provides a tantalizing glimpse into her thinking as she explores the endless topic of the creative life and how to live it.
“I feel excited about freshening up my own attitude and looking at things from a different perspective,” she says, which is an attitude she brought to the development of the Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guides. “I’m excited about being in on the beginning of something new that has great potential, of doing something that is not derivative of anything else.”
Building Something New
Part of what drew Melanie to the project was the idea of working with Ann and Kay. But a large part of the draw was also building something new.
“I like that the Mason-Dixon website and the Field Guides are part of the future and not nostalgic for an old way of delivering content. Some publishers that have been around for a long time struggle to break out of old habits. It feels really good to be working with forward-thinking people who don’t have a lot of preconceived notions to contend with,” she says.
That doesn’t mean building a new way to think about knitting has been easy. Blazing a path with nothing but a pocket-knife and a good sense of direction rarely is, no matter how many times you’ve done it before. When we spoke, Melanie was halfway through the jungle of the Mason-Dixon project and not quite sure where the end would be.
“It’s been very challenging,” Melanie admits. “I tend to be very practical. Kind of like, OK, we’re at Point A. We want to get to Point B. What’s the best way to get there? But I’m not 100 percent sure where point B is yet. That’s scary.”
“Each time we figure out a piece of the puzzle, it’s exciting,” she explains, about the small joys in the process. “There are just a lot of pieces!”
Now that those pieces have been assembled and the first Field Guide has been released, Melanie says she is happy—and relieved. “Of course, now we want to make the next one even better.” Each end result will surely have that Melanie Falick feel, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what that might be.