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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tops & Toes blog tour. Day 6.

I am so glad you’ve found us here. I know it was not easy. That’s right. We are in this very cute and interesting cyber cafĂ© and we are sitting at that round table in the corner by the window. There are four of us: Lois Young, Amy Marshall, Diane Zangl, and I (Faina Goberstein). It was so difficult for us to find the time and the place where we can all meet, but this is perfect. Grab a chair and sit with us. Do you want tea or coffee? We are four of the designers who contributed to the new book called Tops & Toes. This is the first time we are together and we have so much to talk about. Feel free to ask us questions as well (Leave your comment and we will get back to you).

FG: I am so glad that we have chance to talk. Diane, I was so glad to see that you contributed to this book. I always admire your designs. What do you think about this book?

DZ: I think it's an interesting mix for anyone wanting to do quick projects for their family or as gifts.
FG: Your Plush Stripes Hat's construction is so interesting! I love the effect of two different yarns in this design. I am curious to know how did you come up with this combination. I also think that short row technique is something that everyone should know. Can you tell us about this technique and why did you choose it for this hat?
DZ: I started by pulling yarns from my stash and liked the way the shine of Sinsation contrasted with the matte of the alpaca. I wanted vertical stripes, and short-rowing was the logical solution of shaping the top.
FG: I can just see how you went through your stash to find the right combination for your hat.
DZ: Lois, what is the origin of the pattern design in your Segmented Scandinavian Cloche? Is it a traditional pattern or did you come up with it yourself?
LY:The little design around the brim is a traditional "peerie", which means small, Fair Isle one. I liked the fact that it could be worked both horizontally and vertically. The large design on each segment of the cloche, I came up with myself. I had just purchased the Stitch Painter program, and wanted to see if I could make a floral-based design.
The design can also be used for pointed Norwegian-style mittens. Use one panel of the large pattern for the mitten front, and frame it with the vertical peerie design. The back can be an odd number of k1 MC, k1 CC, stitches. Change the order of MC and CC every three rounds. The hat brim pattern can be used as a cuff for the mitten. Work a gusset thumb, work a second set of four flowers to get the height of the mitten, and use the hat's top shaping for the top of the mitten. Voila!

FG: Lois, I see you also have a set called Sideways Striped Chuck & Socks in this book. I love the play of colors in it. Thank you for elaborating on your color work designs. I am sure it will be interesting to our readers.

LY: Thank you, Faina. Amy, those sure are cute hat and socks sets. Do you have little ones in your life that you like to design for?

AM: Thanks. My little ones aren’t so little anymore (they are teenagers now). Most of the little ones I like to design for now belong to friends and family. These sets are an off-shoot of something I designed for some friends that had triplets. I’ve always enjoyed designing and making gifts for people when they have babies. I like to give them something special and unique for the new little one they’ve brought into the world. Faina, what appealed to you about contributing to this book? Are you happy with the result?
FG: The idea of the book. I think there are many knitters who love to make small projects like hats and socks either for themselves or for a gift. I am one of them. I like to sprinkle small projects between the more substantial ones. When Kara explained that this book will be a compilation of such projects, I thought I want to have my design in it. I am very happy with the result. My Twisted Rib Cap is a fun project for a knitter who wants to learn how to do cables or for a quick gift. I especially liked how the crown decreases turned into a spiral. I thought Kara did a wonderful job and produced a book on a very good level.

This is so interesting for me to hear what you are all sharing. I always want to know more about other designer's work. For example, from where do you usually draw your inspiration? I am sure it varies from project to project, but is there something for you that triggers your imagination?

DZ: I don't know how to explain it, but the ideas always seem to be there. Sometimes the yarn will speak, or I'll see a sewn garment and think how it can be translated into knit. The colors of nature play a big role. I'd be interested in hearing how the other designers are inspired.

LY: I have many books of stitch patterns, and I like to look through them from time to time. When I'm going to design something, a pattern will often come to mind. I usually have to try different variations to get the final result. The yarn will also tell me what to do.

AM: I find inspiration all around me: scrollwork in a iron bar, interesting tile work, children’s drawings, paintings, interesting flowers. I tend to save anything that sparks an idea and from time to time I browse through the things I’ve saved. Sometimes when I go back looking through my clip files, I’m actually inspired by something on the back side of what I originally clipped.

FG: For me, besides many things you all have mentioned, the inspiration also comes from very unexpected sources. It could be something I saw when I was little, fashion shows or books, movies, museums, book illustrations, nature, or simply playing with the way I would wear my scarf. Isn’t it interesting that all of us have something similar, yet we all have our own style? So, here is a different question to all of you. What is in your future plans? Any of your publications in magazines or books we should expect soon?

DZ: I just finished a vest for JCA's Fall Collection and a kid's pictorial cardi for Mary Maxim, and am currently halfway through a hoodie that will be in the November issue of Creative Knitting. Next I'll be working on 2 hat/scarf sets and a kid's pullover for Brown Sheep's Fall Collection. Knit 'N Style will have 2 of my jacket patterns in the October issue, along with an overview of my work in their Designer's Spotlight column. That takes care of the next 6 weeks.

As for upcoming designs -- Knitter's Spring issue will have a cardigan and shell twinset. Creative Knitting: a vest in the May issue, cardigan for July, and a jacket in September. SWTC just purchased my Diamond Swing Vest. Knit 'N Style will feature a vest and a cardigan in June, and a cardigan and summer top in August. House of White Birches is planning another book that will be coming out in August and a tank top and baby's toy will be included there.
Trips: I'll be at TNNA in June, Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp in July, and Stitches Midwest in September.

AM: I’ve got two self-published patterns in the works and a baby sweater in DRG’s upcoming Pack & Go Knits book.

LY: My one design will appear in Knitter's Magazine spring 2009, three designs will be in Creative Knitting, two designs will be published in the same book as you all mentioned, and I design for Brown Sheep Co.

FG: This is interesting. I see that we are going to be together again:) I also have one design in this book. The other book where my skirt design will be included
is called Knitting in the Sun by Kristi Porter. I have one design for Claudia Hand Painted Yarns and working on a few more for them. There are some other projects in works as well. We can talk about them later.

Well, I want to thank all of you for taking your time to get here. I was delighted to have a chance to talk to you.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oh Boy! She is giving away a book!

I just read Kara's blog about the blog tour for Tops & Toes and... learned that she is giving away a book. You need to read about the details of this contest here. Are you on If you are, you are in luck. Many projects of this book are already posted, so you can see the pictures and see who are the designers. There is also a group called Knitting Book Talk where you can read or participate in the discussion about this book.

And now the real world. California is soaked through these days. We had 5 days of rain, 2 days break, and now we are at it again for a few days. Few days ago we lost the power three times in the same day. It felt like our life stopped for a number of hours. I try to stay calm and put myself in the shoes of people who lived before the invention of electricity. You know what? I can't. I have no idea how to survive without it. I get very restless. Everything I do requires electricity. So, dinner time came and I had to cook something. My stove here in Stanford is a gas stove. I turned it on with matches and cooked while my husband (who also could not do anything else) was holding his big flashlight over my cooking. It was fun. Things like this make a good story, don't they?

Yesterday I spent a day in San Francisco with my good friend Pat who came from Stockton. Some of you know who she is ;). We went to the Legion of Honor Museum where we saw this new exhibition - Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique. Here is one of the items that is posted on their website
Not bad, huh? The exhibition dates are February 7, 2009 — May 31, 2009, if you interested to come. We had a great time and hope to meet again for some more fun.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Coming Soon: A Blog Tour For a New and Fun Knitting Book

I am very happy to tell you about the new book called Tops & Toes A Whimsical Collection to Delight Hat & Sock Knitters. The Publisher is House of White Birches. I already have the copy of this book and let me tell you that if you are looking for a small and quick knit project - you will love it. There are 39 projects in this book. Here is the cover.
Kara Gott Warner ,the editor of this book, is a very talented designer and illustrator herself. Her taste and knowledge in design and book layout shows all throughout this book. The patterns are different and make you want to knit them. The page design reflects the pattern. It is very easy to navigate the pattern itself. In other words, if you get this book into your hands, it is hard to put it back on the shelf. You want to own it.
Are you intrigued enough? Do you want to know more about the projects and the designers who contributed to Tops & Toes? Well, you are in luck:)
Starting tomorrow there will be a blog tour for this book. You can meet the designers and see the projects. Here is the schedule of the tour:

2/21- Sarah Wilson
2/22- Jennifer Tallapaneni
2/23- Erika Flory
2/24- Erssie Major
2/25- Ann Squire
2/26- Faina Goberstein
2/27- Celeste Pinheiro
2/28- Kara Gott Warner
3/01- Joanne Seiff
3/02- Cindy Moore
3/03- Sean Higgins
Do you see my name there? Yes, I am taking part in this tour. And yes, I have my design in this book. I am planning on a fun outing with three other designers, so try not to miss the tour. It will be fun, I promise.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD

I love opera and love Metropolitan Opera House. This is the photo by Paul Masck from Isn't it gorgeous?
I have been there a few times in my life and it is always an experience you never forget. The world's best of everything: voices, acting, music, orchestra, conductors, stage sets, and it goes on and on...
Just look at these beautiful chandeliers. It is my favorite detail inside of the house. This photograph is the courtesy of Tim McFarlane who is an incredible photographer.

This week my husband and I went to the movie theater to listen to the opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. It turns out that starting December of 2006 Met is showing its performances live in high definition at some movie theaters (Chico including) around the globe. You are sitting at your movie theater at the same time as live performance takes place at the Met. Not only you hear the opera live, wait through all the intermissions, you also have a bonus video where you are taken behind the scenes and given a tour on the set with some interviews with singers, musicians, stage director and so on. We loved it! I recommend it highly. Here is the link to Met live in HD.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Knitting Tips: A selvage stitch.

I want to share some of the knitting techniques that are very important to me. Sometimes we knit the most difficult part of the pattern and forget about or don't know the little details that make the finished piece beautiful. I am knitting for many years and I am still learning, believe me. I love to read the history of knitting and learn about all kinds of ways to knit and manipulate stitches and yarns. From what I have read I understand that unfortunately it is not very easy to research this subject because this craft mostly was not recorded. In many parts of the world knitting was taught person to person by showing. Thanks to many researches and authors of our time we have collections of stitches and techniques. There is no uniformity on symbols for charts or abbreviations and on how to write a pattern to this day. There are thoughts of coming up with the system.
How do you hold your needles? Do you notice that many people are holding it differently? Does this mean you are not doing it right? Not really. As long as it is comfortable for you and you are taking care of the yarn tension it is absolutely fine.
Let's say you know how to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off. Does it mean you know how to knit? Yes, you are a beginner-level knitter. Do you want to know what else is there? Well, the whole world of knitting techniques that will help you to produce those beautiful stitches that you have seen on sweaters, shawls, and other knitted projects.
We are not going to talk about anything too complicated. Let's start with quick changes.

A Selvage Stitch.
Look at these pictures first.
This one shows two swatches worked in Garter Stitch (knit all sts).

Can you see how different the edges are? The left swatch does not have the selvage stitch. The right one does.

Here is another view of the same swatches.

The right side has a very even edge which makes a good finish. It is as important for a scarf as for a detail of a sweater. When you need to sew pieces together, it is so much nicer to work with these straight edges, not knots. Sometimes the left side is a choice in the pattern if it complements the whole look of a project.

There are a few ways how to obtain this straight edge. I make it simple for myself.
Here is what I do. If the pattern does not include selvage stitches, I add 2 sts to the stitch count.
I ALWAYS slip the first st purlwise with yarn in front like in this picture:

The stitch will be on your right needle.

Knit the rest of sts in the pattern to the last one. This time you knit all sts, but it could be a very complicated pattern with selvage sts done this way.

ALWAYS knit the last stitch through the back loop like this.
Repeat every row: Slip the first st with yarn in front and knit the last st tbl (through back loop). The result is the nice edge you see in the first two photos.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Playing With Dolls

When I was little, I loved to play with my paper dolls that friend of mine drew for me. I did not really play; I made hundreds of paper outfits for them. I guess, designing ;)
Recently I have learned about 18" doll of the brand "American Girl". Do you know about it? Well, the doll can be bought as it is or ordered to be looking like a part of your family. You also can get matching outfits with your doll. And this goes on and on. Apparently, I am out of the loop on this one. There is a big movement now on making some clothes for these dolls. There are books with patterns already sold, but more are coming. I had a chance to play with that idea today. I was in disadvantage because I have never seen this doll and you can buy them online mostly, but Target (silly me) or Toys R Us do not have them. Since I did not want to spend $100 and wait until it arrives, I looked up online a measurements chart for the doll's body. I approached my drawing as a drafting project with an engineering scale in hand. When I finished, my husband carefully (he did not want to offend my artist's skills) said: "Do you think she looks like this?" Well, I had no idea, but I know what he meant - the body was very square and very short from the waist up. Let's just say that this body form was not very inspiring for a knitwear designer.
As embarrassing as it was, I took the drawing to the local Sunday knitting group and asked knowledgeable people if these dolls look like this. To make this story short (shorter), I had to change doll's body. I came up with a few projects proposal for it and my day was over. I played all day with this. Wow! I thought am a grownup.