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October 19, 2006
on designing

step 3: get more yarn.

It's still such a thrill to me that people will give me yarn. I understand, of course, that from a business perspective it's a smart decision for them. Patterns published that use their yarns help them to sell yarn. Still, it's much more like getting presents.

Yarn isn't widgets and yarn companies are not faceless megaliths. These are real people who care genuinely about yarn and knitting and share my enthusiasm for what I am doing. And they are willing to go out of their way to be helpful and supportive. Take the yarns above from Curious Creek, for example, dyed to order and hand delivered by motorcycle messenger (also known as Phil "Mr. Curious Creek" Boncer) despite the crazy schedule they've been on of late. I've also received goodies this week from Crystal Palace, Cascade Yarns and Rowan. I am grateful.


step 4: design, design, design.

So now that I have the goods, what I've been doing looks a lot like this. Apparently when it comes to pattern writing, I am a Luddite. I do use a calculator sometimes, and sometimes I turn on the lights, but other than that, I could pretty much do this in a log cabin, teepee or cave. By rough count, I have designed about 18 of 54 patterns and variants that will be in the book!

12:23 PM
October 6, 2006
how to write a book

get yarn.

So imagine you are choosing yarn for a new project. I think for most knitters this ranks right up there on the "fun parts" list. Choosing colors, fondling yarns, deciding what colors go best together, thinking about gauge and texture and materials. Clearly you could spend all afternoon in the yarn shop happily absorbed in this activity.

Okay, so now imagine that you need to pick the yarn for 35 projects. And remember that they can't all be in your favorite color*. There needs to be a range of color and texture and gauge. And if, after making 10 decisions you decide that number 11 has to be red, then that means that number 3 can't be red too and needs to be revisited. And then you need to figure out how many skeins of each you need. Note, too, that this means you have a pretty darned good idea what is actually covered in the book and that it has something to offer for everyone -- things that are appealing and flattering to a variety of tastes and sizes. That's a much bigger job. Challenging, but definitely still fun.

Especially when you start to see the results. Pictured above is my first shipment of yarn for the book. I had to show the envelope because it was covered with cool Gee's Bend quilt stamps, and, as Suzanne Pineau, owner of Knitting in La Jolla, pointed out, addressed by Cheryl Schaefer's own hand. Inside, alongside the beautiful yarns, a personal note from Cheryl. Cool, huh?


*Several people have said when I bring this up, "I guess you need to cover the full range of colors." but I cannot really decide if this is true. Black, white, navy and very pale colors are out because they are hard to photograph. I could see, say, an all green book being silly, or an overly orange book looking dated, but I do find myself thinking, "What if I left blues and purples out entirely?" On some level, a limited palette can be called "coherence". I know there are scores of people who love blue and purple, but, at least right now, I am not one of them. I like warm colors. And, afterall, there are browns and greys and greens that are cool. I don't dislike blue or bluey colors, I am simply unattracted to them. I mean, some of my best friends like blue. This goes back to the "people knit it in the color they see" chestnut. If a purple person sees no purple in the book will she decide "there's nothing in here for me?" Most of me finds this preposterous. But a tiny part of me is afraid it's true.

06:07 AM
October 5, 2006
sewing machine

I've been trawling for an antique sewing machine and cabinet for Zoe's birthday. And yes, this is what is on her wish list... When I was a child we had our (electric) machine in an old Singer treadle cabinet, and I was endlessly fascinated by it and did wish that you could sew with your own foot power, so I do understand the attraction. If I could get a treadle machine working smoothly again, I'd go for it, if not I figure I'll have the pink Brother installed in it somehow. I do find the cabinets and the old machines themselves quite lovely.

05:44 AM
October 3, 2006
how to write book

Book writing has begun in earnest. I've got a monsterous yarn order to put in and then send off to the four corners of North America for knitting. In the mean time, I'm in full design mode.

I love designing things. Really, if you push me, I'll say that I like it more than actually knitting them. The knitting is relaxing, something that can be done while my brain is otherwise occupied. But designing things absorbs me completely. Measuring. Doing arithmetic. Figuring slopes, hypotenuses, wingspans, sleeve depths. Mapping a series of numbers, a string of code, onto the three dimensional body.

On my desk: Pencils and pens. Calculator. The Craft Yarn Council's sizing standards, stitch dictionaries. Half done swatches, thrown to the side. The gauge-o-matic. Graph paper, but mostly just scratch paper. Strings of numbers all over them. I write the actual pattern on the computer, so I don't think I'll ever have to revisit my scrawling logic, but I've decided to start labeling them and keeping them organized just in case. There's already a huge pile of papers and I'm not that far into this thing.

On the floor, today at least, a random sampling of our household's t-shirts to see what the relationship between width, length and sleeve depth tends to be on various things. The Craft Yarn Council does not, frustratingly, include any sort of arm width measurements. So sleeve width is always a great unknown and I have to resort to other means. So if I come at you with a tape measure, don't be disarmed. It's just research.

02:17 PM