Tell me about yourself…
Shannan: Let’s see, I’m a recovering academic, and I’ve had a pretty varied career. I am interested in everything. I knit. I build stuff. I cure meat — Allison let me hang pancetta in her basement shower once, back before I had a wine fridge. I brew hard cider and bake cakes. I run and do yoga and write fiction. I have two cats and a dog, and I’m involved in animal rescue. I like to drink whiskey and watch really bad movies where crocodile DNA gets combined with human DNA and the resulting creature terrorizes the town. You couldn’t hear me just now, but I made really scary noises when I wrote that. Because terror and all.
Allison: Mountain girl transplanted to the city through no fault of her own. But you can’t take the mountains out of the girl, which is part of the reason I grow lots and lots of food gardens; keep chickens; can, pickle, dry, and otherwise preserve the stuff I grow; play the guitar and mandolin; and know in the depths of my soul that sugar has no place ever in cornbread, not ever. I also allow my life to be dominated by two gigantic dogs, one very sassy calico kitty, and a sweet feller from Texas. I love my house, especially the kitchen and front porch. I love my family and my friends, and I show that love by cooking for them often. I do professional grown-up stuff at a university. And I knit. And drink whiskey.
How did you get started knitting?
Shannan: I took a ten-hour road trip with my mom and my aunt from Atlanta, GA to Columbus, OH. It was… well, I got my aunt to teach me to knit, and thus no one died.
Allison: When I was 15 my family drove to Yellowstone and the Rocky Mountains in a pickup truck with a cabover camper on the back to camp and fish for two weeks. I get terrible motion sickness if I try to read in a moving vehicle (torture!), but my mom showed me how to knit, which I could do in the truck without puking. Then we got home, and I stopped knitting—until about eight years ago, when I discovered knitting kept me from putting the hurt on people who really, really pissed me off. By that time we had instructional videos on the internet, so I taught myself all over again.
What project has made you curse most creatively? Why?
Shannan: Oh my god, I’m working on this beautiful Starshower cowl right now, and it’s making me insane. I’m knitting almost every round two or three times before I get it right. It’s not the pattern – that’s actually pretty simple. I don’t know what it is. I keep dropping stitches or adding stitches. The count’s never quite right. It’s making me crazy. I’ve come up with streams of obscenities that may be entirely new while working on it.
Allison: Probably it was the very first knitted object I made eight years ago, a wool-alpaca blend scarf that I made probably seventeen times before it was actually a scarf.
What’s your drink of choice?
Shannan: Bourbon, neat – preferably Eagle Rare, Basil Hayden, or Black Maple Hill. If they’re not available, I enjoy High West’s Rendezvous Rye. I’m also a big fan of Forty Creek – it’s a Canadian whisky that’s delicious and quite economical.
Allison: Wathen’s, neat. And when in Scotland, Tomatin 12 year. After a long hike. In a funky little pub in Inverness. It tastes like maple syrup going down.
How is drinking while knitting working out for you? Any good stories?
Shannan: Ha! Well, I had some life discombobulation about six months or so into Whiskeyknitting, so for about two years after that my major project on pub nights was a yarn rectangle. I’m not going to call it a scarf. It was a rectangle. Made of yarn. I was availing myself of the whiskey flight during this time, so anything more complicated wasn’t going to happen. Eventually I got bored with my rectangle and moved on to crocheting dishcloths. After about five dishcloths, I returned to knitting, stopped ordering the whiskey flight, and knit my first pair of socks.
Allison: Oh, you know. If you’re knitting in a dark pub you can’t really see the mistakes you make with your whiskeygoggles on. And I truly believe that ripping out and starting over is an important part of the zen of knitting.
If you were yarn, what kind would you be?
Shannan: Hmm… nothing fancy, I think. Probably a nice superwash merino wool – durable and resilient, good for the everyday.
Allison: I think probably a Shetland handspun wool. I may seem a little scratchy and uncomfortable at first, but once you get close you realize how soft and warm I really am (purr purr purr).
What do you enjoy sniffing more–whiskey or fiber–and why?
Shannan: I love sniffing whiskey. Oh wow. A few years ago when we went on our Bourbon Road Trip through Kentucky and visited all the distilleries, I fell in love with the smell of the barrel rooms. Nothing will ever beat that smell for me. I just wanted to lie down and roll around it. I’m a woodworker, too, and I love catching a whiff of wood in my whiskeys. I love fiber, but I’m a whiskey woman all the way.
Allison: I fantasize about submerging a batt of wool in a tub of Woodford Reserve then sticking my face in it and inhaling. Is that weird?