Where to begin?

Choosing yarn colours from Sweet Georgia's palette.

Choosing yarn colours from Sweet Georgia’s palette.

I’m a great admirer of everything Aplayfulday is setting out to achieve in terms of stimulating creativity this year. Creativity is good. The way that this resonates for me is that I’m finally taking the plunge this year and creating an actual, real-life, book of designs.

Aplayfulday has set a love your blog challenge this week to write about Beginnings. So I’d like to write about the beginnings of this book.

It’s a cliché that if people are asking you “when are you writing a book?” then it’s probably time that you did so. It’s necessitated a big change of pace. I’m used to focusing on one or two designs at a time – polishing, testing, sampling and so on. And then when they’re ready I publish them. Yes, there’s some overlap with new ideas bubbling whilst others are being tech edited, but in my mind my focus will be on one thing.


Up to my elbows in yarn and swatches, trying to see a big picture.

This time I’ve needed to generate a big group of ideas in one go, and then start bringing the best to life. Yes, there’s some spread of activities in that some designs fell into place really quickly and are now ready to test, while one last idea is yet to be properly sketched and swatched. But it’s still quite an uncomfortable feeling having so many brewing at the same time. I know I get detail-obsessed, which is a good thing in writing clear patterns, but can make the mass of details in big projects difficult to hold in my mind when I don’t naturally see the big picture.

On the positive side, pulling a group of ideas into a cohesive book has given me an overview of lots of my ideas in one go. I could see a big picture form from the details. I could pull out the things that are key to me. The book will be accessories patterns – shawls, scarves and cowls. It will be about playing with colour, texture and beautiful yarns.

Clockwise from top left: Easy Knits Zip Light, Countess Ablaze Tia Merino, Handmaiden SeaSilk, Indigo Dragonfly Polwarth Silk.

Under consideration – clockwise from top left: Easy Knits Zip Light, Countess Ablaze Tia Merino, Handmaiden SeaSilk, Indigo Dragonfly Polwarth Silk.

You know how I like to give options to customize your project, for example with Song of the Sea, Knit Night and Foolproof? Well, all the projects in the book will be customizable in a similar way. After each pattern there will be a section on how to play with the design. There will be tips on changing sizing, gauge, yarn quality, colour and so on, depending on what’s appropriate to each project. Each design is like a canvas – a framework – on which to play.

I’m a knitter and I tend to design with my own stash and knitting habits in mind. There are contradictions. I want to knit from that burgeoning stash. But I also want to knit that gorgeous skein I just found but have no idea how to use. So the idea of the book is that the flexibility of the patterns means that there should be something in there to make with that skein in your hand. A go-to book for stash-diving and yarn splurges. I am often inspired by a yarn – “what does this want to be?” – so maybe that’s why the book is going in this direction. I just want to knit all the yarn!

Part of the problem in working on lots of yarns and designs at the same time is that I find my time is split too many ways – like a parent wanting to focus on all their children. Each designs demands chunks of time and it’s hard to prioritise one design over another. How can you pick favourites when you love them all?

Arranging a stripe layout for Miss Babs Polydactyl set in Soul Food

Arranging a stripe layout for Miss Babs Polydactyl set in Soul Food

The other parts of the book take time too, even if I like to imagine they’ll take no time at all. It was slightly scary booking the shoot when all I had was a pile of sketches and a hoped-for publication date in September. Luckily a friend reassured me that this is how they plan their books; set the shoot date and you just have to be ready! I do love a deadline, and all the samples have to be ready to photograph by 16th June. I’m vascillating between “it’ll be fine” and sheer panic at the work still to do.

It also feels seriously weird to have launch plans penciled for September when I’m at such early stages with my lovely graphic designer. OK, launch plans are pretty-much inked in, but I’m trying not to think about the level of commitment I’ve made to everyone already. And now I’ve gone public with my plans here! The rough size, shape and number of pages are decided, but I’ve no idea what it’s really going to look like because we’re just getting started on the process. (Keep breathing.)

I want to knit all the yarn. Always a problem.

I want to knit all the yarn. Always a problem.

I know this will all be easier next time. Next time?! This keeps being mentioned, but I haven’t written this first book yet! It’s a challenge to begin a new project, but I’m trying to just “feel the fear and do it anyway”. I love that piece of advice about tackling something new or challenging – it was certainly in my mind when publishing my first pattern. But you don’t know how it will go until you try, no matter how doom-laden you might feel starting out.

The next stage that is making me nervous is starting on the test knitting. That needs to happen this week – my favourite piece of project management advice is “hope is not a plan” and my plan says I need to get 3 patterns out of the door to testers, em…now.

Planning a balanced range of yarns across the designs - first pass with sticky notes .

Planning a balanced range of yarns across the designs – first pass with sticky notes

I love getting feedback on my patterns, but I do want to make them great before they go out to someone else, even just for testing and tech editing. I have to remind myself that at this stage this is not the time to agonise over every syllable – I’m saving that stage for July, when I know I will tie myself in knots over getting the final version polished before it is laid out into the book’s pages. Writing Clear Patterns is a Big Thing for me.

So, if I’ve been a bit quiet on my lovely Ravelry forum, or in the virtual world, this is why. Beginnings are great, but they can be very time-consuming as I feel my way through every step!

Now, about that testing…there will be a call for testers in my Ravelry forum very shortly, and another two calls over the next month or so. Excited? I am!

5 thoughts on “Where to begin?

  1. Oh wow, that’s so exciting! I’m really pleased that you’re writing a book. Sending you lots of good wishes 🙂

  2. Pingback: Yarn show recap: I Knit Fandango | INSPIRATION KNITS

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