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CraftSanity Podcast Episode 129: A Conversation with ‘Extra Yarn’ Author Mac Barnett and Illustrator Jon Klassen

If you found a box “filled with yarn or every color,” what would you do?

When this happened to Annabelle, the little girl featured in the new picture book “Extra Yarn” written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, she decided to knit herself a sweater.

There was extra yarn left over, so she knit a her dog a sweater, too. And so begins a delightful tale of an exuberant knitter and the magic of craft.

After enjoying this lovely book with my daughters, I decided to interview the men who created it, and they did not disappoint. Tune in to CraftSanity Episode 129 to hear my chat with Mac Barnett, 29, and Jon Klassen, 30, about how this book came to be. You can also read the column I wrote about the book in Sunday’s Press and online Monday over on MLive.

Both men live in California and are rising stars in children’s literature. Barnett, of Oakland, has been cranking out picture books including “Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem,” “Guess Again!”, “The Clock Without A Face,” and “Oh No! (Or Home my Science Project Destroyed the World.” He is also the author of the Brixton Brothers mystery series that my 7-year-old daughter just started reading.

Meanwhile, Klassen, who is originally from Canada, lives in Los Angeles where he illustrates children’s books full-time. He is the author and illustrator of “I Want My Hat Back,” a New York Times Best Illustrated book of 2011. He is the illustrator of “Cats’ Night Out” by Caroline Stutson and the middle-grade series “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place” by Maryrose Wood. Before he started illustrating books, Klassen worked in animation and worked on the stop-motion film, “Coraline” based on the book by Neil Gaiman.

ENTER TO WIN A COPY OF “EXTRA YARN”: What would you do if you found a box of yarn like Annabelle’s? Leave a comment below about what you would make with your extra yarn and enter the random drawing for a free copy of the book. The deadline to enter is Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. Good luck! UPDATE: Jess was selected as the book winner. Congrats, Jess! This was her comment: “This book looks fantastic! If I found a box of yarn, I might knit more cast iron handle cozies for friends. They’re quick and easy and practical! Thanks for the giveaway :)” 


DYE YOUR OWN YARN! You can check out my recent “Extra Yarn” inspired craft segment on the the local ABC affiliate here in Grand Rapids, WZZM Channel 13, during which “Take Five” Host Catherine Behrendt and I show viewers how to cotton yarn with Rit dye. I will post more information on my dyeing experiments in a follow-up post. And, in case you’re wondering, the mini-sweater pictured near the top of this post was adapted from the sweater ornament pattern that was published in the first issue of CraftSanity Magazine.

This episode of the podcast was sponsored by House of Moss, where you’ll find home décor and little soft sculptures made of felted wool and other natural materials. Alison Comfort uses acorn caps, wool and upcycled jar lids and bottle caps to recreate the mysterious and beautiful world of the forest floor for you to adorn your home. Check out Alison’s creations at Thanks, Alison!

BECOME  A PODCAST SPONSOR: If you’d like to sponsor the next episode, you can find sponsorship info here.


Comment from suze
Time: February 19, 2012, 9:03 am

Well,I am a knitter with a stash, so first the yarn would have to hang out for awhile with the rest of the stash. And eventually the right pattern would come along for each skein and I would knit something for a well deserving person.

Comment from Ellyn
Time: February 19, 2012, 10:20 am

What a lovely book that must be! I am a crocheter, I think if I found a box of extra yarn I would crochet slippers for everyone I know! And then I’d crochet slippers for everyone I DON’T know! LOL Anyone with cold feet

Comment from Melissa
Time: February 19, 2012, 11:56 am

I’d invite a bunch of knitter friends over and we’d create items to yarn bomb the neighborhood, sweaters for trees, hanging heart garlands everywhere, etc. this way I could share the yarny love with a community art installation!

Comment from Jess
Time: February 19, 2012, 12:26 pm

This books looks fantastic! If I found a box of yarn, I might knit more cast iron handle cozies for friends. They’re quick and easy and practical! Thanks for the giveaway :)

Comment from Sara
Time: February 19, 2012, 2:42 pm

I’ve been contemplating a blanket made in the conceptual style of using the air temperature to dictate the colors. Since the area in which I live has temperatures that range from 20 below to over 100, I’ve need about 13 colors – one for every 10 degrees. And then I’d be able to use a box of multi-colored yarns to knit my Conceptual temperature blanket. Does that make sense? It does to me!
Thanks for the giveaway!

Comment from Sheri
Time: February 19, 2012, 3:05 pm

Loved the interview. It just might be my favorite one so far. Oh my gosh I would love to have a box with unlimited beautiful yarn. I might stand a chance at knitting up everything in my Ravelry queue. ;-)

Comment from Jeri Ann Weinbrecht
Time: February 19, 2012, 6:13 pm

OMG, what a fun interview!!! I can’t wait to read “Extra Yarn” to my girls and my grandchildren…. Yes I still read to the older girls too :) If I had a box that always had extra yarn, I’d write my own book… all the fun stories of treasures that we’d make with the magical yarn. Thank you for letting us know about this wonderful book.

Comment from Carol
Time: February 19, 2012, 9:33 pm

I would start a garter stitch scarf that I kept in a basket next to where I sit when I watch TV, movies, etc…. I would pick it up and knit a bit, put it down, pick it up, and so on. . . The color fun would last longer that way.

Comment from Lisa Sikkema
Time: February 19, 2012, 11:17 pm

I would knit hats, beanies, hats with braids, all types as my 4 boys ( and husband too) want me to keep making them hats!

Comment from Mariam
Time: February 20, 2012, 12:18 am

Oooo….I would start by just being so super excited to have free, beautiful yarn!!! Then I’d let the yarn inspire me…I’d probably design some more animal designs and maybe attempt a larger project… The book looks lovely!

Comment from Courtney
Time: February 20, 2012, 1:35 am

I would start to knit down my queue! I would also gather up all of my knitting friends and have a knitting party!

Comment from Diana
Time: February 20, 2012, 7:51 am

I would love to knit a simple baby sweater. There are a few wee ones on the way amongst friends….the book looks great!

Comment from Alyson
Time: February 20, 2012, 9:45 am

I have been working my way through my yarn stash with Sarah London’s Wool Eater Blanket (crochet) Any extra yarn would have to go into that!

Comment from Joan
Time: February 20, 2012, 10:54 am

I would make some beautiful vegetable trellises for my many gardens–at home, in a vacant lot, by an empty school, and at church. And then I’d ask around to the other gardeners to see whether they could use extra yarn or could show me how to do the spool knitting I did as a kid. All I remember is that I needed a large empty thread spool with nails pounded around the hole, and somehow I’d weave a multicolored soft cord of yarn.

Comment from judy hinken
Time: February 20, 2012, 11:34 am

If I found extra yarn I would knit a jigsaw puzzle quilt.

Please enter me in drawing for the book Extra Yarn.Thank you jh

Comment from Tricia
Time: February 20, 2012, 1:32 pm

I would make a stripey doll scarf, I think.

Comment from Lorri
Time: February 20, 2012, 2:46 pm

I just saw a scarf made out of a bunch of different colors of yarn. It was garter stitch the long way and it looked like every row was different. It was beautiful. That’s the first thing I’d make if I found a box of yarn.

Comment from Silvia M.
Time: February 20, 2012, 2:54 pm

Extra yarn? The possibilities are endless but I think you can never have too many comfy sweaters, that is what I would knit.

Comment from Christine Stander
Time: February 20, 2012, 3:42 pm

I would knit a bunch of small toys to give to all kinds of children or just plain lonely people.

Comment from ann macomber
Time: February 20, 2012, 5:21 pm

This looks like a very interesting book. It reminds me of the story in grammar school about the porridge pot that never got empty. I would use most of the yarn toward projects for one of the area charities.

Comment from Joanne
Time: February 20, 2012, 10:59 pm

I would start by knitting hats for newborns and donating them to hopitals and then move on to kniting scarves and hats for VAs, and blankets for Project Linus :)

Comment from Diana K
Time: February 20, 2012, 11:09 pm

I’m an avid knitter, so such a wonderful box of yarn would end up as sweaters, scarves, hats, socks, gloves, mittens, afghans, toys, and whatever other lovely patterns I came across :)

Comment from lori
Time: February 20, 2012, 11:19 pm

First and foremost, I must say….Annabelle is one of my favorite names! This book is a MUST GET! If I ran across a box of yarn, I would sit on the floor, and dump it all in my lap…ooh and ahhh…there would be a lot of colors and textures…then, I would get a glass bowl, and place it in the center of my coffee table, and place all the lovies there. Then, I would dream a bit of what I would do….I would have to touch and feel the lovies…the possibilities would be endless!

Comment from Bonnie
Time: February 20, 2012, 11:25 pm

The book sounds wonderful. I would knit lots and lots of hats and scarves and afghans for the clothing ministry we have at church. Can’t have too many warm things in winter!

Comment from Wendy
Time: February 20, 2012, 11:41 pm

I love books that include knitting! I have a little four-year-old pumpkin with a birthday coming and I think this book fits the bill! I’m thinking I would love to knit something in entrelac with a box of yummy colored yarn… but then again wool felts so nicely…….. decisions… decisions!

Comment from Christina M
Time: February 21, 2012, 12:51 am

My queue exceeds my life expectancy (QUEBLE!) so I’d have to start working through that. There’s a lot of socks and shawlettes I’d love to make :-D

Comment from Brenda S
Time: February 21, 2012, 7:42 am

The book sounds adorable! I may have to find it for my DGD and DGS. Then I would find the box of yarn and make them each a sweater and some for charity.

Comment from Deb
Time: February 21, 2012, 10:37 am

Oh, this book sounds great! I love children’s picture books, even though my daughter is almost a teenager! I would crochet a beautiful prayer shawl from the box of yarn I found, using the old-fashioned ripple pattern.

Comment from Kristyn
Time: February 21, 2012, 11:14 am

Mac is quite the hoot! If I had endless yarn I think I would share it with others with the caveat that it must be used to make items for charity.

Comment from chppie
Time: February 21, 2012, 11:49 am

It would be fun to just play with a boxful of yarn but I suppose I would also see what I could cover with it and share it with friends.

Comment from Jio
Time: February 21, 2012, 12:44 pm

Found your podcast through Vogue Knitting RSS feed.

Thanks for the opportunity to dream about infinite yarn.
I make Amigurumi animals and give them to St. Jude Children’s hospital platlet patients.

And just joined a knitting church group. We are making prayer shawls and mentoring a group of inner city girls on knitting through the Helping Hands mentoring program.

Lots of fun, but always running out of yarn!

Comment from TripletMom
Time: February 21, 2012, 4:49 pm

Since my girls know how to crochet, I would knit sweaters for my girls while they crocheted sweaters for their dolls :) Then we would move on to preemie hats for our local hospital, a project dear to us as the girls all received hats in the NICU.

Comment from Sue
Time: February 21, 2012, 5:01 pm

I would keep it beside my knitting chair for a few days so I could look at it and feel the texture of the yarn. Then I’d probably share it with some knitting friends. If its fingering/sock, I’d make make socks. If its worsted or DK wool I’d probably make scarves and hats.

Comment from Linda Timmons
Time: February 21, 2012, 7:25 pm

This looks like a fabulous book. If I won a box of yarn, I’d take it to my Knit Happy group at my LYS and together we would come up with a group project or multiple projects to work on together. It just seems a box like this would be for sharing with other passionate knitters~

Comment from Trish
Time: February 21, 2012, 9:55 pm

Extra yarn??? Yay! I have a sizeable stash as it is, but a box of colorful extra yarn would surely become something very fun for my precious 2-1/2 year old granddaughter. She learned the word yarn very early in her vocabulary building (because there is so much of it at Nonna’s house!) Maybe I would dust off my design skills and play with it a bit before deciding what it will become.

Comment from Debbie Constable
Time: February 21, 2012, 10:01 pm

I would first pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming! Then I’d knit or crochet a blanket! Thanks for the nice giveaway!

Comment from jennifer
Time: February 21, 2012, 10:02 pm

Just to clarify… the giveaway is for a copy of the book titled “Extra Yarn” not actual yarn.

Comment from Susan Watkins
Time: February 21, 2012, 10:11 pm

Yarnbomb! We are yarnbombing around our school’s neighborhood. It is in an industrial building in the central city and needs color. We have been using anything we can find to crochet to cover trees and posts. Real yarn would be wonderful to have.

Comment from Kimberly
Time: February 21, 2012, 10:17 pm

I am a crocheter and have been admiring this book! If I were to have a colorful box of never-ending yarn I would crochet hats for the local NICU. My son was a preemie and I believe every child in the NICU should have a cute fashionable hat that fits!

Comment from celeste
Time: February 22, 2012, 1:31 am

I knit and crochet like a fiend already. however, such a box would led to knitting more bigger projects for others too…sweaters, hats for all the kiddos my sons age, even more hats for premies…

Comment from Tammy
Time: February 22, 2012, 1:38 am

Really enjoyed the interviews! I’d knit myself fingerless mittens; and if the box were truly “bottomless”, I’d start weaving a Saori banner.

Comment from Suzane Tidwell
Time: February 22, 2012, 3:02 am

I would knit that box of yarn into one of the 50 fabulous new tree wraps for my latest installation of Artificial Light. The city of Redmond, Washington has welcomed my installation of brightly colored tree sweaters to adorn historic Anderson Park in celebration of their 100th Anniversary: Take Root Branch Out. For more info see their website
I do all the knitting myself and gladly take donations of brightly colored worsted weight yarn ;)

Comment from cguard
Time: February 22, 2012, 9:35 am

A found box of yarn would be an adventure waiting to happen that is for sure so would probably have to go with me to my summer school class One Day Wonders where the kids would go wild with creativity as they fingerwove, made gods eyes and crazy constructions including weaving the room! Would love to read this book to them.

Comment from Mirjam
Time: February 22, 2012, 5:45 pm

If I found a box of yarn, it would go straight to my 6 year old daughter, who learned to knit this Christmas and loves it. She has knitted a hat, a scarf, and a cat, and has many more ideas for things to knit, so a box of yarn would go a long way.

Comment from Amy @ Maker Mama
Time: February 23, 2012, 12:28 am

I would live to make some dresses for me and my girls–and lots of comfy socks for all of us! Thanks for an awesome podcast–I can’t waiting check out this book!

Comment from Susanna eve
Time: February 23, 2012, 7:24 am

If I found a box of yarn, I would add a lot to my limited stash of charity knitting and make more hats and I would share it with my son and DIL who both knit too. I live in Canada, don’t know if this contest is international but I can provide a US address too if I won.

Comment from Susan Inouye
Time: February 23, 2012, 10:05 am

With the endless box of yarn—I would knit and crochet and weave forever—probably knit hats for preemies, cancer patients, snuggles for humane society (dog blankies)…weave some homedecor…uh, endless…knit, knit, knit….

Comment from Linda Damstra
Time: February 23, 2012, 2:09 pm

I only know how to knit and purl, but I would make scarves for my entire family. We would have a family photo taken wearing our scarves. Then I would make scarves for my friends and their children and my neighbors and their children. I would learn to knit fast as my late mother-in-law did without even looking at her hands. Then I could knit scarves to include in all the sack suppers that Kids Food Basket distributes. If there was still enough yarn left, I think I might…

Comment from Katherine
Time: February 23, 2012, 2:19 pm

Oh the colour! I would keep the yarn in the box for a couple of months, just to admire it. I would keep the box near my bed so I could see it and smile before I went to sleep. Every so often I would open it up and lay the yarn out, to drink in the pretty colours. Perhaps I have a problem, but at least it’s legal and works out cheaper (mostly) than liquor. And then I would knit something. Possibly a Dr Who style scarf (self striping!) for my eldest, the Dr Who obsessive. Perhaps a sweater for my youngest, maybe with wings tacked on to the back for my little fairy-lover. Or maybe gloves for all of us (hey, I learned to knit gloves! I rock!) so that we could all have happy coloured hands. Okay. I’ll be quiet now. Thanks for listening!

Comment from Michele
Time: February 23, 2012, 4:52 pm

I might look into some subtle “yarn bombing”. I would be very careful about how I went about that, because I believe some of it to be litter. But, we have a store locally that asked permission to “decorate” a chain link fence with yarn flowers and it has grown to be quite pretty. I would like to add to her collection of flowers, bees, and produce that decorates the fence!

Comment from Jessica
Time: February 23, 2012, 6:15 pm

Honestly? Knowing me I’d probably put the yarn away in my studio – sorted by color and fiber – until some random time when I have a random idea for a random project. Right now afghans in school colors are consuming me…

Comment from Cindi
Time: February 23, 2012, 7:21 pm

If I found extra yarn – I would find a pattern with techniques I’ve never done before and make it my experimental project.

Comment from nancy gibbs
Time: February 23, 2012, 8:55 pm

I belong to a group that makes afghans for a local domestic assault shelter and Keystone Place, a homeless shelter. I would use the extra yarn to help in that effort.

Comment from Leslie
Time: February 24, 2012, 1:45 pm

I would make hats for all my family members or something similar.

Comment from Brenda Rupp
Time: February 24, 2012, 2:59 pm

I would give it to my grandmother who is 97 and still crochets!
She still makes the most beautiful afgans!! Also hats for the babies at the hospital whose mom’s are in need.

Comment from Diana Norwood
Time: February 24, 2012, 3:01 pm

I would give me it to the youth director at church!

Comment from Nicole Sheahan
Time: February 24, 2012, 5:25 pm

I’d make the biggest blanket in the world! Then I’d hide under it all winter.

Comment from Alessandra Hayden
Time: February 27, 2012, 1:29 pm

I’d make a cardigan and hat for my baby girl. <3

Comment from dorothy
Time: March 4, 2012, 10:34 pm

i just heard the podcast and loved listening to Mac & Jon speak. i’m a librarian at our elementary school and quite coincidentally, both of them will be at a local bookstore this week so i’m going to see if they (probably just Mac ‘cos we’re in the Bay Area) would be able/willing to come visit our school! i’m not a knitter but i would give it to my daughter (she’s six) so she could learn :-) (i’m a quilter and what a dream come true to find an box with endless supplies of fabric!) thanks for the podcast!

Comment from Holly U
Time: March 8, 2012, 4:19 pm

We visited the library just a couple days after this post and there was “Extra Yarn” displayed on a shelf! I snapped it up of course, and my four year old son has asked me to read it nearly every day since. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet but will enjoy it twice as much since I know the book is so enjoyed by my boy (and me!)

Comment from Bissy
Time: March 13, 2012, 4:23 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this interview. Though of course it’s not an oddity on your show to hear people enthusiastic about what they do, it was particularly nice to get this dose of enthusiasm. Children’s books and crafts are such a fun intersection.

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Pingback from Extra Yarn is extra magical – Grand Rapids Public Library
Time: December 5, 2014, 11:56 am

[…] to know each other or even meet. However, as I discovered in Jennifer Ackerman Haywood’s interviews with both the author and illustrator, these two did know each other and collaborated on the creation of this book. So it headed to the […]

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