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September 17, 2008
Blog Tour: Casual Elegant Knits


Faina Goberstein and Dawn Leeseman are co-authors of a new book out by Martingale Press called Casual Elegant Knits. It's a book of 24 patterns for very wearable garments and accessories for women and men. Faina and Dawn both have designs featured in my upcoming book. Knitting in the Sun. It was only after I'd accepted their proposals that I learned that they were working on a book together!

There are several ways to put together a knitting book: it can feature the patterns of a single designer, it can offer patterns of many designers selected by a single author/editor, or it can be a collaboration between two or three designers that are working in partnership. Since I've never really done the latter, I was interested in finding out from Dawn and Faina how the process worked for them. As part of their Casual Elegant Knits blog tour, I've interviewed them both about their experiences as co-authors.

KP: Dawn and Faina: I know you both live in Chico, California, but how did you get to know one another?

DL: I had just started working and teaching at Heartstrings yarn, Faina had come in as a customer and also started doing some knitting and repair work for the shop. She then started teaching classes and also working at the shop. We loved each other’s work and always had a lot to talk about. Faina has a lot of technical skills that you do not see very often.
KP: How did the book happen? Whose idea was it?  How did you get a publisher for it?
FG: The book idea evolved from working together on another little venture that did not materialize. We saw that we were a great team and that new design ideas were pouring out of us when we are together. We did a lot of research on publishers. Studied their guidelines. We felt that Martingale & Co was a very good match with us. We were very clear on what our responsibility would be as authors and what the company’s responsibilities include and it felt comfortable. We included in our book proposal four chapters. Our planned table of contents was different from what you see in the book. We split the garments into groups like sweaters, bags, hats… Along with photos, sketches, and paperwork, we sent five finished items. We did not know what to expect. I honestly prepared myself to this best scenario: we will not be accepted, but they will like some projects and ideas and will tell us what to change, so we can submit another proposal next time and do better. For over three months (their guidelines say 90 days) we did not hear anything, but that period included Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I remember correctly, I got a call from Dawn. She said that she had a call from Martingale and they were accepting our proposal. Later we had an e-mail from them congratulating us and saying that they think that only three chapters should be included, but without any changes. We could not believe it! It took for us a while to come back to Earth. I have to tell you that we never were sorry about our choice of a publisher. They are still treating us with such respect. Anytime we need an answer, we get it almost immediately. Just during the last two months we have two things to share. Before the book was out, each of us got the copy and a bouquet of flowers with the card signed by people who worked on the book. A few days ago we received another copy of the book signed by all people who work at Martingale. In the letter they said that they believe that it is a team effort and they all wanted to sign the book. We though on both occasions that it was very sweet of them to do that.

KP: What were your roles in creating the book? Did you both come up with designs independently and merge it into a book? Or did you come up with a table of contents first and then divide and conquer the list?

DL: We did have some designs that we had made up prior to the book and when we saw how well they worked together we decided that we would include them. However the main idea for the book came from us both talking.

FG: It was a true collaboration on many parts of the work. Our initial meetings were brainstorming sessions where we defined our idea of sets, the moods, what clothes goes with the scene, and so on. Our initial table of contents was set up. Each of us chose what we like to work on. Most of it was predefined in terms of our likings. We tried to stay half-and-half in terms of work volume.
KP: How much did you guide one another/edit one another about how each piece should be done? Did you make sketches of ideas and sit down together?

DL: We worked together on the idea for the book. We wrote the patterns together and did all the writing for the book together so that we could draw from each other’s knowledge. I think good things come from collaboration. I always love insight from someone I respect. We allowed each other to have freedom to add or delete. Once we had our ideas in place then we were able to refine the work. I think it really helps that we have similar taste in fashion and really like each other’s work.

FG: We were doing the general sketches together. Once we divided patterns between us, the initial design work and knitting itself was done individually. Like Dawn said, we gave each other freedom to design. We did make the yarn choices together since it was crucial to the color scheme of the set.
KP: What is your personal design process like?  Do you sketch a lot? Swatch a lot? See a garment or object or building or aesthetic somewhere that inspires you? Know that you want to construct a garment a certain way or use a particular stitch and let that guide you?

DL: I go back and forth between the two. If I see a garment or object with a design that inspires me I will sketch it out and file it until I find just the right yarn, but I would have to say most of the time I am seduced by yarn. When I see a yarn that I love I will play with it a bit (I usually can tell when I pick it up that I will want a certain stitch pattern) and from there I will get my ideas for the type of garment I would like to create.

I do not usually swatch just to swatch, what is important about swatching in the design process aside from the obvious gauge information is the fact that you learn very quickly if you will enjoy working with that yarn and stitch pattern.

KP: Sometimes, we are our own harshest critics. Was it harder or easier to have a collaborator?

DL: Oh YES, it was definitely easier!!! I think it is great to have “another set of eyes”. I am very focused and definite about the way I see my designs, it was good to have additional input. Many times I will think something isn’t “good enough” and having someone else say that it is and knowing that they are being honest, because their name is on this too!! I also think that collaborating makes it easier because you know the whole responsibility is not on you.

FG: I think I do most of the above. I am drawn to the texture and the color of the yarn when I am not thinking that I am designing. I have a collection of design details in my file that I refer to as I am trying to come up with an idea for a magazine submission. Some fashions from my past can make me want to recreate them. My mom was a very elegant dresser and I grew up watching her dress up for work at the theater. I think I am imitating some of her clothes sometimes with addition of new elements. When I lived in Russia I had many of my clothes sewn by seamstresses. I always gave them a sketch of my design. I designed even my overcoats for winter. Please do not think that I was rich. I was far from it. It was the way for most people to have their clothes done. What was different was that, usually, the seamstress designed herself. I wanted my own designs.
KP: Do you think that collaborating gave you more motivation, or kept you on task because you didn’t want to let the other down?

DL: Faina and I are highly motivated people and always come through even if it is down to the wire.

FG: Both. Working together is fantastic. You verbalize your thoughts and your brain takes off with possibilities. To know that another person is depending on you is a great motivation factor. There were times when one of us is not feeling well or something was happening in our lives and we were not in the mood to work. We still got together and eventually it came to this routine: first talk as friends, and then work as partners.

KP: What was the best part about working with a partner?

DL: There were many good things about working with a partner, one of the great things is that you get to know each other very well on a personal level. The best part business-wise was that we were able to combine our skills and talents. Faina has great computer skills; I am good at grading for the sizes and at the time had more experience writing out patterns. We learned a lot from each other in those types of technical things.

FG: Great support for each other. Learning from each other. Having someone who appreciates and understands your work. Making a joint decision in a crisis situation.
KP: What was the hardest part of working with a partner?

DL: Meshing our time schedules, Faina and I had to really carve out time to be able to get together. Our time schedules and days were almost opposite of each other’s, so we would sit down with a calendar and plan out weeks in advance.

FG: I agree.
KP: What piece of your own in the book do you like the best and why?

DL: That is a hard question, because I get attached to my projects, however, I think it is the Watercolor shawl. I love to use novelty and hand-dyed yarns and I love to make and wear shawls.

FG: I also like many of my pieces. I want to say my Driver’s Cap is the piece I am proud of the most.

KP: What piece of your partner’s in the book do you like best and why?

DL: Another hard question! Do I have to pick only one? I really have a three-way tie, so I will break the rules a little here. I love the Little Flirt Skirt, the Tailored Skirt and the very romantic Vintage Hat.
FG: I love all of Dawn’s designs. If I have to choose one, it will have to be the Messenger Bag.

KP: Do you have future projects in the works, either together or separately?

DL: We are both working busily, designing for other book compilations and magazines, and I still do design work for Crystal Palace Yarns. Ever since writing together we still check out our newest designs with each other and we try to go through the other’s patterns before they are sent off to the editor. If we have a problem with any design that we are working on we get the other’s advice. It is a great help!!

FG: At this point we are working separately on different venues, but you never know. We will see.

There are a couple more stops on Dawn and Faina's blog tour: The next stop is at the blog of Joanne Seiff . And you can catch up with all the stops on the tour by checking out Dawn's blog or Faina's blog.

It's always interesting to hear about how others approach the processes of design and writing, so I'm glad that Faina and Dawn were willing to discuss their experiences.

07:48 PM | Comments (2)

Kristi, thank you very much for hosting us. I loved your questions.

tks for the effort you put in here I appreciate it!