I spent the weekend working away on the layout, and late this week will probably admit that Ethnic Knitting Discovery (EK1) is a 176-page book. While there are things I can do about that (cut material; decrease the type size; decrease the size of the charts; decrease the sizes of the photos and other illustrations; change the margins throughout), there’s nothing I’m willing to do. Each of the modifications feels like a betrayal of what the book wants to be.
Why 176? My original specifications call for a 160-page book, which is five 32-page signatures . . . nice and efficient to run on an offset press. That’s how this book will be printed. If I add another half-signature (16 pages), I end up with 176. Sixteens aren’t as efficient as 32-pagers, but they’re an acceptable compromise. I don’t need an additional full 32 pages to make the book work. And it does really seem to want to be 176 pages.
Well, I haven’t bowed to reality yet, but I see the strong possibility peeking around the corner. The irony is that I have two completely blank pages in the back half of the book, but they’re in the wrong places to be helpful. And there are only two; I still need ten. In order to make the layout look like the book’s all of a piece (without odd blanks, gaps, disjunctures, or places where text and related images are not adjacent to each other), I’ll need to invent some bonus artistic or technical material that will fit in those locations. Creative problem-solving, one opportunity after another. . . . The good part is that whatever I do to resolve these questions will most likely make the book an even better thing for knitters. . . .
What I did today instead of layout
Today I did nothing on the layout. Instead, I moved about 2000 pounds of books, exactly 1044 pounds of which will be shipped tomorrow to the distributor’s warehouse in Pennsylvania.
Annie Modesitt’s flipbooks
In my spare time, I have been admiring Annie Modesitt’s nifty new playful use of an old-fashioned book-based technology.
Annie Modesitt, one of the most creative souls on the planet (who happens to be a knitter), has put together a series of little flip books that demonstrate knitting techniques. Each book contains a logical pair of techniques. You can view one by holding the book with its front cover facing you and flipping front to back and the other by turning the book so its back cover is up and flipping in the other direction.
The pairs I’m looking at here are:
- Knit stitch, combination (or Eastern) style (flip from front) and Western style (flip from back)
- Purl stitch, same
- Right- and left-slanting decreases, set up so the books show you both combination/Eastern and Western styles of working paired decreases
- "Grandma" knit and purl increases
In general, knitters’ options for learning new techniques involve in-person tutorials (not always available), sequences of critical-moments snapshots (whether photographed or drawn), or videos that require electricity (on computer or television). Annie’s own site has alternative tools for teaching some of the same techniques she presents in her flipbooks.
These little flipbooks fit in a knitting bag or pocket. They can be always handy. They do show the techniques amazingly well. I’d rather watch a flipbook produce stitches-in-motion than most other imagery this low-tech animation device has been used for.
Like Annie’s other work, the flipbooks celebrate the fact that knitting is as individual as the knitter holding the yarn and needles. They can help knitters develop familiarity and comfort with stitch-mount variations, which I always think is an excellent idea. Annie’s made creative use of the format and she’s selected good types of techniques to demo and has paired them effectively.
The biggest appeal for me, I think, is that they’re friendly. I’m simply amused by playing with them (the brain-numb layout drone can handle—nay, craves—simple amusement). Stitch mount is a constant theme in these flipbooks—and a lot of Annie’s work, for that matter. Stitch mount can be intimidating and confusing—until you "get" it, at which point, like riding a bike, it seems like the most natural thing in the world.
To demonstrate stitch-mount variations of knitting techniques by using a retro technology that appeals to the kid in everyone seems like a really bright idea.
P.S. My mid-20s daughter likes the flipbooks, too. She’s more in line with the demographic of likely users of these tools. She wanted (and got from me) clarification of the way the decreases book has been set up to show stitch-mount changes for the different knitting styles. The type on the back covers explains which stitch maneuver is demonstrated by flipping the book in each direction. Because back-cover copy is normally limited to marketing, we haven’t been "trained" to look there for instructions!
Also, in the non-sleeping parts of the middle of the night, I finished reading a fine novel called Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer. I’m very picky about novels. I find it easier to locate quick, relaxing fiction than novels that contain characters and a world that I regret leaving at the last page. Pocketful of Names is one of those rare ones. I read a library copy, but I’ll be buying my own, too. It says something when you don’t mind a bit of insomnia because you think, "Oh! I have that wonderful book to read!"
Here are three passages I flagged as I read, along with the characters to whom the thoughts are attributed:
- “She’d read somewhere that there were three things worth doing in life: making something new, caring for something old, and finding something lost.” (Hannah Bryant, mid-30s solitary artist; page 150) (Someone at the Denver Public Library likes this book, too.)
- “Hope, faith, optimism: the only things left to us once knowledge and research and discovery have reached their limit on any particular day.” (Everett Eaton, an elderly lobsterman; page 342)
- “If you’re confident you can make some art, maybe it’s not art. If it’s going to be art, it should begin in uncertainty, shouldn’t it?” (Tom Eaton, Everett’s mid-30s son; page 404)
The novel takes place in Maine, very near the place my friend Deborah Pulliam made her home.
The book was published by Graywolf Press, which Scott Walker started up during the years when I (and a bunch of good folks) lived in Port Townsend, Washington. A lot of fine independent publishing has grown from roots planted then. Graywolf Press is now in Minneapolis and Scott Walker is in Massachusetts at The Orion Society. Tom Jay, also a participant at that time and place, was one of the resource people at the Sitka Symposium a couple of weeks ago.
Time for bed. I’ve got a bunch of books to move, and more pages to lay out, tomorrow morning.