Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? This is shaping up to be a year of firsts for me—I started this blog in January, then created a website (well, actually, my friend Lori created it), and last night I took my first spinning class. This may not seem like such a milestone to those of you who caught the spinning bug when you started to knit however long ago, but up until very recently, I had no interest whatsoever in spinning. I enjoy knitting so much that taking time to spin yarn just seemed like a recipe to delay the fun. In fact, I took the same type of personal pride in saying I don’t spin as I took in saying that I don’t crochet or that I only wear handknitted socks. I like to think I’m a purist (some would call me a snob). But, it seems that the same alien ship that abducted me and programmed me to embrace the internet also planted a spinning seed.

So last night I learned about fleece and got instruction on using a drop spindle from Maggie Casey, author of the esteemed introductory spinning book aptly titled Start Spinning (available from my favorite publisher, Interweave Press). And you know what? I liked it! And it didn’t seem to take that long to spin a length of singles (you can see it on the spindle in the photo below). I now understand why all of those people at Interweave brought their drop spindles to company meetings. Might I become one of them? It’s hard to say at this early date but I no longer put it out of the realm of possibilities.

My homework this week is to wash a pile of fleece from Hannah the ewe, card a few rolags, and practice spinning. I’m anxious to get started.

Whenever I begin editing a knitting book, I take home all of the garments to review as I put the instructions in the Interweave format. That means that I’ve had some pretty amazing collections right here at my feet—for example, all of Nancy Bush’s shawls for Knitted Lace of Estonia; Kristeen Griffin-Grimes’ inspired garments for French Girl Knits, and Lucinda Guy’s gems for Northern Knits, to name a few.

Plus, many of the books I author are contributor-driven so I get to have projects from such rock-star designers as Veronik Avery, Pam Allen, Mags Kandis, Deborah Newton, Kristin Nicholas, Shirley Paden, Vicki Square, and Kathy Zimmerman in my personal possession (albeit for a short time). That alone is enough to spoil any knitter.

But right now I am reduced to puddle of jelly by the collection of socks sitting right here in my home office. I’m working on a book for Interweave (tentatively titled Designing Knitted Socks; due out early 2011) and am happy to boast that the designer list reads like the Who’s Who of sock knitting. The socks have started to arrive and already I have the works of Cookie A, Kathryn Alexander, Veronik Avery, Evelyn Clark, Chrissy Gardiner, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, Anne Hanson, Melissa Morgan Oakes, Deborah Newton, Meg Swanson, and Anna Zilboorg in my very own possession. For the most part, I keep them hermetically sealed in a plastic bin but I let them out in the sun today for a group photo.

Recently a couple of the comments to my blog posts have included questions. Before I forget (I am getting to be of an “age”), I thought it might be helpful if I answered here in case any of the rest of you have the same questions.

A few days ago FiberHappy inquired about an error in my sock book. I couldn’t figure out how to respond to her comment directly so I hope she is reading this. If you’re having trouble with a pattern in one of my books and can’t find a correction on the books page of the Interweave website (click on Corrections), please email me directly at annbudd@annbuddknits.com. Unless I’m out of town, I check email multiple times a day and will get back to you right away. Although several people read through all the instructions and at least three people check all of the math, errors do find their way in printed books. In fact, we used to joke that the way to find a mistake in a book was to print 10,000 copies, then open one up. Sigh.

A couple of weeks ago Minh asked about getting signed copies of my books directly from me. Thank you for your confidence in me, Minh. After much deliberation for about 10 minutes, I decided that I didn’t want to have to deal with the obligatory tax issues of doing business independantly. But, I have a brilliant alternative. If you purchase one of my books directly through Interweave and tell them that you want it autographed, I will sign it for you (I go to Interweave about once a week). If you want to give me additional support, order the books through the books link on my webiste and I’ll get an additional 10% of the sale. Whoo-hoo, we both win! Send me an email as well to let me know how you’d like the book inscribed.

Last week I spent three days at a shoot for Lisa Shroyer’s upcoming book, tentatively titled Knitting Plus. I’m quite excited about this book. As the edtior of KnitScene and senior editor of Interweave Knits, Lisa knows her way around a ball of yarn. A plus-size knitter herself, Lisa’s aim is to help other plus-size women make sweaters that have a flattering fit. All 18 of the sweaters meet that goal–the models wanted to keep them!

For this book, we decided to shoot the sweaters “on location”, which meant that we took over a large house for three days while the owners (a young couple with the most adorable 18-month-old daughter) made themselves scarce. I don’t think they realized what they were getting themselves into when 10 of us drove up the first day.

A photoshoot like this requires a lot more people than you might think: the photographer (Joe Hancock) and his two assistants (Jon Rose and Scott Wallace) who took care of lighting and camera settings; the hair and make-up artist (Kathy MacKay), the stylist (Carol Beaver) who assembled all the wardrobe and accessories, the art director (Liz Quan), the author (Lisa Shroyer), the editor (yours truly), and of course, the models (Andrea, Carolyn, Jill, and Tia).

To begin, we decide how each sweater will be styled. Here’s Lisa with 9 of the 18 sweaters in the book.

The photographer and his assistants set up the lighting while the model gets dressed and has her hair and make-up done. Then it’s time to get busy.
Here’s Joe taking photos while Carol watches to make sure that every detail is perfect. Joe and Carol never get a break during a shoot. Joe’s eye is glued to the camera while he clicks photos and directs the model to catch the optimum light. Carol jumps in between clicks to straighten a sleeve, adjust a collar, pick off lint, and anything else that might improve the photo. Besides looking beautiful, the model has to act as though they aren’t there.

The rest of us keep pretty busy, too. Here’s Lisa, Liz, photography assistant Jon, and Kathy huddled around the computer screen watching the images pop up and calling out instrucions and encouragement to the photographer, model, and stylist.

After three days, we packed up and left the house looking like we were never there.
Now that the projects have been photographed, the text and projects will be edited, reviewed, and re-edited. Then the pieces will be assembled in a cohesive book design (which involves a whole other team of people). Then everything will be reviewed, re-edited, and proofed before it finally goes to the printer. This particular book is scheduled to go the printer in November, which may seem like a long time off to you, but is just around the corner to the rest of us. Look for Lisa’s book at the beginning of next year. 

Periodically I look on Amazon to see how my books are performing in relation to other knitting books. I about fell out of my chair today when The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns was #1 among knitting books and #182 in overall book sales (that includes books by such notables as Steig Larsson, Jodi Picoult, and John Grisham)!
How did a 6-year-old book rise to such lofty heights? I can only surmise that it has to do with marketing. Knitting Daily featured The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns yesterday and again this morning. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of people read Knitting Daily, but it must be a lot to affect such a dramatic surge in book sales.

The moral? If you plan to write a knitting book, sign up with Interweave because they continue to promote books for years after they are first published.

I think it’s time for another celebration!

With a little help from my friend and knitting and website guru Lori, I’ve added a downloadable pdf of the formula to use to calculate the placement of increases and decreases evenly. It’s called Magic Formula for Placement of Increases and Decreases. Use it to create your own magic!

I spent last weekend teaching for Camp Yawatink, a knitting retreat in the picturesque foothills of the Cascade Mountains west of Anacortes, Washington, sponsored by Ana-Cross Stitch. From Friday morning until Sunday afternoon, the campers immersed themselves in knitting. I taught a full day on Saturday and again Sunday morning. The campers knitted a miniature sweater, learned to follow the instructions in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, how to sew seams, pick up stitches for a neckline, and other tips along the way. They also assembled afghans to donate to the camp, enjoyed a gift exchange, and won door prizes. I hope that they had as much fun as I did. In fact, I had so much fun that I didn’t want to filter it through a lens and I didn’t take a single photo!

The reason I’m writing about it today is that I’m still on a bit of high from the weekend. I’ve spent most of this week catching up on a backlog of editing work and piles of laundry (which is why I haven’t blogged much), but it was oh, so worth it. I encourage you all to take advantage of any knitting retreats that are provided in your area or travel to one (the French Girl Knits knitting tours of France look pretty wonderful!). Imagine a weekend where your only responsibility is to show up for meals on time. The rest of the time is spent with like-minded knitters enjoying each other’s company and learning new tricks.

From the feedback I got, the best trick I showed the campers was the shaping formula from Cheryl Brunette’s book Sweater 101 (Patternworks, 1991) and more recently expanded in Shirley Paden’s Knitwear Design Workshop (Interweave, 2010). This formula tells you how to space increases or decreases evenly across a row (or between a certain number of rows) of knitting. Here’s an overview of how it works (check out the books mentioned above for details):

Suppose you have 124 stitches on your needles and the pattern says to increase 14 stitches evenly. To determine how to space those 14 increases evenly, divide 112 by 14. This tells you the number of full times 14 goes into 112, which in this case is 8 with a remainder of 12.

To me, the rest is magical and would take a math genius to understand (I’m sure I’ll never grasp the logic). Next, subtract the remainder from the number of stitches you want to decrease, which in this case is
14 – 12 = 2.
Also add 1 to the whole number at the top of the division equation, which in this case is
8 + 1 + 9.

Finally, draw diagonal lines between the two numbers on the top line of the equation and the numbers on the bottom line of the equation. These diagonal lines tell you to increase every 8th stitch 2 times and every 9th stitch 12 times—14 increases worked over 124 stitches.

Don’t believe me? Check the math:
8 x 2 = 16
9 x 12 = 108

16 stitches + 108 stitches = 124 stitches
2 increases + 12 increases = 14 stitches increased.

For truly even spacings, alternate the two increase intervals. In this case, increase every 9th stitch 3 times, then increase on the 8th stitch once, then increase every 9th stitch 6 times, then increase on the 8th stitch once, then increase every 9th stitch 3 more times—14 increases worked over 124 stitches.

If you don’t want to work the last increase on the last stitch of the row (which I avoid at all costs), split one interval as evenly as possible between the beginning and end of the row. Just to make things more difficult, let’s split the 9-stitch interval:

Increase in the 4th stitch, then increase every 9th stitch 2 times, then increase in the 8th stitch once, then increase every 9th stitch 6 times, then increase in the 8th stitch once, then increase every 9th stitch 3 more times, then work 5 stitches even to the end of the row—14 increases worked over 124 stitches.

Decreases are worked the same way, but remember that a decrease is typically worked over 2 stitches (k2tog), so you would work the decreases on 7th + 8th stitches 2 times and on the 8th and 9th stitches 12 times.

Just before I left town last week to teach in Washington State, I finished blocking and photographing the Boxleaf Triangle Shawl (designed by Anne Hanson at http://www.knitspot.com/; yarn by Briar Rose at http://www.briarrosefibers.net/). The lace wasn’t quite as open as it should be and the edges were sloppy when it came off the needles.

But the pattern blossomed when I threaded blocking wires through the points and stretched out the stitches. Sorry about the non-coordinating towels—I generally like to block on top of a striped towel so that I have a reference for straight lines. In this case, the shawl was too big and I had to forget about the stripes and add a second towel. Still, part of the shawl extended to the bare (read that, dirty) carpet.

The shawl is beautiful. It feels nice around my shoulders and keeps me warm at my desk. But rather than photograph it on me, my friend Connie offered her floor lamp that doubles as a high-fashion model.

What’s next? I’ve got to knit two pairs of socks for two different publications by April 15. Oy!

I’m heading out to the beautiful Pacific Northwest this weekend to teach a workshop at Camp Yawatink, sponsored by Ana-Cross Stitch in Anacortes. I’ll give an introduction to sweater design based on The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. It will be the first time I teach this workshop and I can’t decide if I’m expecting to accomplish too much or too little. Over the course of two days, we’ll knit a baby (or teddy bear) sweater following the instructions outlined in the Handy Book. Students will choose between a V or round neck, and between drop-shoulder (blue), modified drop-shoulder (green), and set-in sleeve (rust) options. We’ll work the sweaters with worsted-weight yarn and only 40 stitches for the front and back, but still, it’s a fair amount of knitting. I’ll talk about cast-ons, shaping, bind-offs, seaming, and picking up stitches, and whatever else comes up along the way.

Wish me luck! I sure had fun knitting sample sweaters for the class.

Advanced copies of Knitting Green arrived at Interweave Press last week. The other 15,000 copies are on the slow boat from China (literally) and will be available next month in time to celebrate Earth Day.

Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about this book. Instead of judging between “right” and “wrong,” Knitting Green will help you understand the complicated issues so that you can make educated choices for yourself. Articles by Pam Allen (former editor of Interweave Knits and creative director for Classic Elite Yarns) and Clara Parkes (editor of Knitter’sReview.com) explain some of the misconceptions about organic and “green” yarns. Essays by author and shop-owner Lisa R. Myers, natural-dyer Darlene Hayes, and author/designer/sheep-breeder Kristin Nicholas bring to light some of the pros and cons of putting green practices into use. Additional essays by Sandi Wiseheart (former editor of knittingdaily.com), Amy R. Singer (editor of Knitty.com), Kristeen Griffin-Grimes (frenchgirlknits.com), and avid knitter Carmen S. Hall provide a smorsgasbord of food for environmental thought.

In addition, there are 22 terrific projects (it’s photographed here with my Blue Cloud Afghan) that either make use of an organic or “green” yarn or are designed for an earth-friendly purpose. The projects include Veronik Avery’s All-North American Hoodie that is knitted with yarn that is grown, processed, and distributed only in North America; Nancy Bush’s Videvik Shawl that provides a lightweight layer of warmth; Deborah Newton’s Commuter Knapsack that encourages travel by bike or public transportation; my Honor-the-Buffalo Socks and Mitts that make use of buffalo fiber that would otherwise go to waste, and Kristin TenDyke’s Soap Nut Vessles that just might change the way you do laundry forever.

And talk about green–if you order this book through the Books page on my website, the kind folks at Interweave will give me a kickback of “green” currency!