Hello, Knitspot readers!
This is Chrissy Gardiner, your guest poster for today, speaking. Anne was kind enough to let me take over her blog for a bit as a stop on the blog book tour for my (relatively) new sock book, Toe-Up! Patterns and Worksheets to Whip Your Sock Knitting Into Shape. You can go to the Toe-Up! website for details about other stops along the tour, including great reviews of the book by Grumperina and Carol over at Go Knit In Your Hat.
Today I’m going to share a few of the little fun details about the production of the book with you all. It all started just over three years ago, when I managed to get myself accepted to Cat Bordhi’s Visionary Retreat for self-publishing authors. Each year, Cat finds 6 to 8 fiber artists who have book ideas she thinks are intriguing and commercially viable and invites them to attend a week-long retreat up on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. I’ve just returned from this year’s retreat, which you can read about on my blog.
I went to the original retreat with a completely different book idea, but decided that I needed to write a “practice book” first (as in, I needed to write about something I wouldn’t stress out about designing and knitting a lot of, and that something happens to be socks). I came up with the idea of a toe-up sock book in July of 2008. At the time, there was only one book on the market focusing on toe-up socks and it was pretty small. I decided to focus on developing a series of worksheets that would allow knitters to customize their heels and toes, since most sock patterns need to be converted from top-down to toe-up, and the most difficult aspect of conversion is figuring the new toe and heel numbers.
One of the huge advantages of publishing the book myself was that I was the final decision-maker. I was able to include things in this book that I don’t think would’ve made the cut with a large publisher, like the little section on cabling without a cable needle. I am delighted that the final product is a great reflection of how I think about toe-up socks and how I teach my classes. I was also able to take a lot of time thinking about quality-control, and I made sure all of the socks were tested and the entire book combed over by several proofreaders and both of my tech editors. To date we’ve had a grand total of two minor errors discovered – a real bonus for a book that’s been out for several months!
Boring technical stuff aside, there are a number of fun behind-the-scenes stories about the patterns and photos in the book. Since I was doing everything myself and didn’t have the budget for a professional stylist and models, the photos were taken of the socks on my own feet and those of my family, who were mostly happy to cooperate (the 3-year-old was a little iffy if we didn’t get the shot within the first five minutes). We did a number of photo shoots (my photographer was the intrepid and patient Gail of We Heart Yarn), both at my house and at my in-laws’, and I spent much of the time wondering if the neighbors were going to call the police (or at least the neighborhood association)!
One of the main pattern photo shoots took place in my front yard, and there were lots of contortions and interesting camera-to-foot manipulations involved. The house across the street was for sale, and they just happened to be holding an open house that day. I can’t imagine what people were thinking of the strange women across the street who were dead serious about taking photos of feet… We ended up with delightful neighbors, so maybe it helped keep some of the riff-raff away!
The Vortex socks are photographed here with our shaggy Japanese maple as the background.
To get this shot, I had to sort of sit in the tree with my legs held sideways while trying to make my feet look nice and relaxed. Easier said than done, but after several shots, we managed! I’m so grateful for digital cameras.
After we captured Vortex, we moved to the strip of grass between our sidewalk and the street to photograph Great Plains.
This sock is knit out of Buffalo Gold bison sock yarn, which is incredibly lovely to knit (and wear!) but a little bit difficult to photograph due to the dark color. We decided that the overgrown spring grass on the parking strip would be a nice background for the socks. It sure didn’t look like much when viewed from the street (my next job after getting the photos done was to spend a couple days weeding), but it provided just the right grassland-looking background for these shots, which involved me precariously perched on top of an unbalanced little step ladder.
In a little moment of serendipity, a ladybug landed on my foot and posed for a couple of photos.
Our next shot involved the ancient cherry tree that happened to be in full bloom at the middle school around the corner. What better place to photograph Sakura, a sock inspired by and named after the regal cherry tree?
Only problem is, how best to get feet (normally on the ground) next to cherry blossoms (normally not on the ground)? We spent about half an hour with me lying on the ground with my feet in the air (great fun since we were next to a busy street, near a little neighborhood commercial center, on a lovely Saturday afternoon).
That photo wasn’t so bad, but again it involved me holding my feet sideways against the tree trunk while trying to make my feet look relaxed. Yes, your feet really will look tense and awkward if you’re not concentrating – who knew there was so much skill involved in foot modeling?
This next one was the icing on the cake because it involved Gail getting down on the ground next to me and shooting my feet with the sky/top of the tree as background. We got several slow drive-bys with this one…
One of my favorite shots (obtained with much less drama in our fenced back yard) is of the Old-School Knee Highs, modeled by yours truly outside our backyard chicken coop. Our hens, Ruttager and Diddy, are peeking through the chicken-wire fence in the background.
I was quite adamant about getting at least one chicken shot into the book, and I actually got two (here’s another with my daughter and Ruttager).
But what I really love about that first shot is how nice and shapely my legs look. If you’ve met me, you know I’m no fashion model, so I couldn’t believe this photo when I first saw it! The camera adds 10 lbs, but apparently the right kind of ribbing takes it right back off. This pattern includes a table of measurements and ease recommendations so that you can custom-fit your knee-highs no matter how unmodel-like your calves are.
Can you tell we had a ton of fun with the photography? Our final shoot involved the technique photos, which Gail made look crystal-clear on a nice white background. We shot these on the wide railing of my front porch on a drizzly day. Many of them involved me crouching down with Gail perched over me to position the camera to shoot from a first-person point of view. By this time, I think the neighbors were used to the whole scene (and the house across the street was sold – no more parade of open-house attendees to gawk at us). These shots look so staid and indoor, but they’re just as wild as the rest of the bunch. Who would guess there were so many stories behind all these normal-looking photos? It makes me wonder every time I see a magazine or book if similar things go on at the pro shoots. Maybe someday I’ll find out!
And now I’ve held Anne’s blog hostage long enough – I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the book-publishing process (or at least my own crazy take on it). You can find your own copy of Toe-Up! on Amazon or at your LYS. Happy knitting, y’all!
MANY thanks to chrissy for providing such a beautiful and intriguing post on my travel day! one last word from me as i head out the door—chrissy has generously provided two copies of her book as giveaway prizes. if you’d like to win a copy, please leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm on sunday evening february 14th (happy valentine’s day!); we will draw names randomly when i return from germantown and your books will be mailed on monday.