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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Six months flew by so quickly in our “dacha” (summer house in Russian) as we call our apartment here in Stanford. It is time to say goodbye. It was good for us to get away and the time we spent here was used to the fullest. My husband had a blast teaching and doing research in one of the most dynamic places in the world and I had tons of opportunities to explore the knitting world in this area. I went to TNNA, Stitches West, yarn shops, took some classes, got to know many people in the industry, knitted all the time either some projects for publications, samples, or swatches for different reasons. We visited with many friends we have here, gone to the concerts, restaurants, museums, you name it.
But it is time to go back. I really want to go home to my usual surroundings, to my friends, my students, and many other things I managed to live without all this time. I know I will miss my yoga classes, walks, and many other things that this area has to offer, but it is not that far and we will be back. As I am saying goodbye to my friends, I thank the Internet big time. I keep in touch with people from all over and it does not matter where we all are. So, I do not know if I am really saying goodbye to all this. I could put it this way: I enriched my life by spending these months here and my experiences are going to stay with me. So, goodbyes go to our little “dacha” only. And I am ready for that.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reading about TNNA

There are so many comments about TNNA experiences in the blogosphere. Some with photos, some with links to yarns and patterns. Everyone of them tells us that people had so much fun meeting old friends and making new. This is one of the videos from TNNA. I thought it shows the spirit very well. Here is the yarn that the designer Robyn Chachula brought back with her. Here are Amy Polcyn and Kara Gott Warner.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Interviews with Stefanie Japel and Kristi Porter

By now you surely have heard the buzz about the new addition to the world of knitting books Knitting in the Sun. With soft cover
and medium size this book manages to offer 32 fabulous projects. The artistic gentle cover virtually reveals the inspiration behind the idea for the book. There are six chapters: accessories, sleeveless, short sleeves, long sleeves, cardigans, and odds & ends. Twenty-two contributing designers brought their own vision to the meaning of knitting projects for warm weather, yet the collection has a very solid point of view delivered by Kristi Porter who is the author of this book. One of my favorite details of the layout of the book is the Table of Contents done in pictures. It is such a convenient way to help a reader to locate a pattern. When we were writing Casual, Elegant Knits this was one of the features we asked our publisher Martingale & Co to include.
To give you a little glimpse at the designs included, I interviewed two designers.
Stefanie Japel is a very popular and prolific designer and author. I am thrilled to share with you her thoughts on her design Taos. Here is our conversation:

Faina: Hi, Stefanie. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to me. In Knittng in the Sun you have the design called Taos. Since Kristi’s idea was to name projects after designer’s favorite or memorable spots, can you tell me why you named it Taos?

Stefanie:I decided to name the sweater after a beautiful spot here in new Mexico. When I was about 6 months pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I went on a road trip to Taos, and it was one of the most memorable, beautiful spots I've ever been.

Faina: This vest is already on my list to make before new semester starts. For me it is an ideal piece of clothing since I am moving all the time as I am teaching and some warm bulky sweater is not an option. I love how simple and elegant your design is. And it looks so good on Kristi:) Can you tell me a little about your designing process that took place for this particular project? What was first for you – construction of the vest, stitch pattern, or the yarn?

Stefanie:
It was easy to come up with the yarn...our LYS had just gotten a shipment of it and I knew that it being a cotton blend was perfect for this. Kristi suggested that I make a reversible dress, one that could be worn with either the back in the front or the front in the back, and that is what this is. The buttons can either go up the back or the front. My mannequin is a little bit shorter than Kristi, so whereas on Kristi the vest comes just under her bum, on my mannequin, it is a mid-thigh length dress.

Faina:
I love the versatility that you offer with this pattern. I can see how the longer version out of more luxury yarn can make it an evening outfit, for example. Do you often offer a knitter an idea how they can use your pattern in a slightly different way?

Stefanie:
I usually don't. I think it's fun to see what the knitters come up with on their own.

Faina: You have so many popular designs and your two books

are flying off the shelves. Is there something new you are working on? I am always looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Stefanie:
Thank you, Faina! I'm currently working on a third book...but it's not a book of patterns. It's a reference book for people who would like to design their own sweaters.

Faina: It sounds terrific! People are looking for such information more and more these days.

Stefanie, thank you very much again for answering my questions. Right now before TNNA your schedule is even busier, so I do appreciate your time.

Stefanie:
You're welcome! I've decided not to go to TNNA this time, so I won't see you there.

Later I had a chance to chat with Kristi Porter about her new book. Kristi is also not new to publishing. Her previous publications include Knitting for Dogs and Knitting Patterns for Dummies. She contributed to other books such as The Big Girl Knits and No Sheep for You. Knitty.com publishes Kristi’s numerous designs.

So, here is Kristi's answers to my questions:

Faina: Is knitting in the sun different from knitting in a cold weather?

Kristi: Knitting is definitely a year round activity for me, it's not something I put down when the weather gets warmer. Still, what one wants to knit or wear is different when it's hot outside! You may not be drawn to that bulky mohair lap-blanket project, but a lightweight lacy project, a slippery silk or a crisp linen is certain to get the needles clicking.

Faina: Some people say that knitted items are too hot or too bulky to wear. You are obviously proved them wrong in this book even just by your designs. How easy was it for you to choose the yarns for warm weather knits?

Kristi: There are so many interesting yarns to choose from these days! It seems like just a few years ago, a silk-wool blend was very exotic. Now there are many of them readily available which is wonderful news for me because that's probably my favorite fiber combination, a good balance of elasticity and drape, warm enough but very breathable -- perfect for a San Diego sweater! The last few years have brought us all kinds of really interesting fiber blends of animal, vegetable and mineral. While I did want to be sure that a variety of yarns were used in the book, when I stop and think about it, the diversity of fibers used in Knitting in the Sun is pretty amazing: wool, alpaca, silk, rayon, linen, hemp, cotton, mohair, bamboo, soy, and a variety of synthetics. More interesting are the combinations that yarn-makers have come up with. Cotton can be lighter weight and stretchier with a bit of microfiber, Alpaca blended with soy or linen is light, crisp, and just-warm-enough at the same time. So the hard part was having too many yarns to choose from rather than too few!

Faina: What was the most fun for you in the process of making this book?

Kristi: I think what I enjoyed the most about creating Knitting in the Sun was the variety. Receiving all the proposals and choosing from among them was both exciting and really inspiring. Creating my own designs for the collection, going through and editing the patterns (I do a lot of work as a technical editor, so I do really enjoy this sort of painstaking detail work!), coming up with the overall organization of the pieces, imagining how to show the pieces best in the photography, styling the outfits... being in charge of all these aspects meant that the work was always changing. I also really enjoyed getting to know the talented group of designers who contributed to the book.

Faina: I love the photography in this book. Did you plan on photo shoots in La Jolla?

Kristi: Thank you! I too am tremendously pleased with the photography. Because we wanted to shoot the photos "in the sun" it made sense to do it here in San Diego where I was pretty confident we'd have good weather late into October. I was even more pleased when my friend, Steve Simpson, agreed to do the photography. I loved his work, but shooting fashion photography, let alone knitwear, wasn't something he'd done before. Anyway, I talked him into it and trusted that we'd be able to work through the parts about "this is the detail that people need to see" or "this is what is interesting about this piece" as we did the photography. I think the fact that the photo shoots were very friendly and familiar (because the models were people we knew too) does come through on the page and makes it feel inviting and comfortable.

Faina: Kristi, thank you for your interesting responses. It is always a pleasure talking to you. Good luck with your book and other future plans.

So you see I am having much fun with this. I already mentioned that I have my design included in this book as well. I named it Black Sea. It is a beautiful sea with many countries enjoying its shores and many people having great vacations there. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there and later we took our son to one of the spots. So, I do have fond memories of this beauty. This skirt is what I think I would wear if I were in Yalta or Georgia right now. The yarn I used is Linen Jeans from Berroco and it is a perfect choice for this project.
Enjoy the book and you can check other blogs for more information: Stefanie Japel, Katherine Vaughn, Beth Casey , and Kristi Porter.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bay Area Yarn Shops

Lately we hear that some yarn shops are closing their doors for good. It is very sad, but everyone of them has a very good reason for doing so. At the same time there are two new stores that I know in the vicinity of San Francisco. I do not know what to think about it. I see many people still very excited about knitting. Every store I visit has customers coming one after another. Maybe it is very normal that some stores stay open no matter what is happening with our economy and some have to close. I guess I wish everyone who wants to stay in business succeed. I want it for them and I want it for me. So, I am very hopeful that I will be always able to have my supply of yarn and needles because they will all survive.
I visited ImagiKnit today and had so much fun looking at books and their incredible collection of yarn. They are doing very well and the atmosphere is very vibrant and positive. Their stuff is very friendly, knowledgeable, and very hip. Coming out of there (only because my family waited for me) I had such reassurance that everything is fine in our world of knitting. Back to my projects.