What sometimes happens when a book goes to press

Ethnic Knitting Discovery is at the printer. I learned late yesterday afternoon that a flurry of jobs just came in at this particular plant and the customer service rep (CSR) estimates that it will take ten to fourteen days longer to print the book than I’d been told. This is not good, because it means the book is currently on track to arrive in the distributors’ warehouses exactly on or perhaps just after its publication date (instead of two weeks before pub date). This means "late." I’ve asked the CSR to see whether they can rearrange the schedule to move the book through the plant even a few days faster.

And then, because that’s what I can do without increasing stress in my and the printing staff’s lives (and we all have plenty of stress we can’t do anything about), I have moved to other projects that are lined up and waiting.

On Saturday, I went to the farmers’ market and got a gorgeous bouquet of flowers to use in styling some photos that may be used on the cover of the second Ethnic Knitting book, which we hope will be released next fall. The bunch cost three dollars and here is my current favorite bloom, although I picked each one individually and I love them all:


I’m working on a few other things.


1 / I finished my socks from LynnH at Colorjoy!’s flammegarn hand-dyed sock yarn (80% superwash, 20% nylon). I cranked down the gauge to 10.5 stitches/inch (41/10cm) for durability. (Normal people would knit this yarn at 7.5 to 9 stitches/inch, or 29 to 35/10cm.) I wear my socks around the house without shoes so durability is of the essence. Even worked that tightly, the socks are still nice and soft and sleek.

All the time I’ve been working on these, I’ve been saying that photos don’t do the color justice, and they don’t, but here’s a close-up that looks better on my monitor than any other picture I’ve taken of this stuff:


These socks are constructed with Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ simplest of Simple Socks techniques: worked toe-up, short-row heels and toes, 2/2 ribbing, grafted off at the tops. I usually bind off instead of grafting off, but I was in the mood to graft off. Grafting off is noted for producing upper edges that have a lot of elasticity. Here’s what a grafted-off top looks like:


There is NOTHING fancy about these socks except the yarn, which I simply wanted to enjoy in all its subtle glory. I am delighted.

2 / I am working on charts for Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ book on Cowichan sweaters. This is a total revision and expansion of her 1981 Salish Indian Sweaters (search "Priscilla" on this page), with a lot of new charts. This project has been seriously delayed by the challenge of reproducing the charts adequately.

For the new edition of Knitting in the Old Way, we scanned Priscilla’s hand-drawn original charts from the 1980s and cleaned them up in Photoshop and rolled with it. (That really took hundreds of hours, but it was do-able within the reaches of at least marginal mental health.)

We did not have such lovely original sources to use for the Cowichan and Cowichan-inspired designs. We have been working on them in Photoshop, which is not the tool for the job.

With the help of Cat Bordhi and Jill Wolcott, in the past few weeks I have acquired enough knowledge of Illustrator to make the charts in that program and now I’m whipping right along. I’ve done 97 charts for the Cowichan book in the past ten days. The completed charts range from small to very large.

No, I’m nowhere near done. I would say I have made a small but significant dent and there is much more hope that this book will be released within my lifetime than there was as recently as early July.

At number 2, the photo shows one of Priscilla’s original designs. Working within the style of the Cowichan knits but using imagery from her own surroundings, she made a sweater for her granddaughter. The book will contain a lot of traditional information (all of the patterns of the original edition, plus some treasures Priscilla has discovered since), followed by a small chapter of her own motifs. Her charts are on the right and the Illustrator charts are on the left.

For all of these charts, we can set the stitch-to-row proportions to match what is likely to be the ratios of the knitted fabrics. Priscilla’s chart matches the grid of the paper she drew on. My chart is exactly square, because that’s how it’s easiest to prepare the electronic versions. But we’ll knit swatches and shift the stitch-to-row relationships before we lay out the pages.

Between now and when we get the Cowichan book sent to press, whenever that will be, we can all go look around at original Cowichans that are still being made and those of us who can afford to do so might support the traditional knitters by buying one.

3 / My daughter offered to scan in the original charts to speed up my work. I can resize them in Photoshop so the grid is approximately 8 squares and rows to the inch (32/10cm), put that image in Illustrator in a locked layer grayed to 20 percent, and work right over it.

This is enormously helpful on the largest and the most complex images, where I’d bogged down before while trying to count, for example, 50 squares of dark with 1 square of light 10 squares from the right and 39 squares from the left. I was doing this on a screen, where you can’t make pencil or highlighter marks. The electronic guides in Photoshop are only so useful in a case like this. Let’s just say I was going nuts with the really big, complicated charts. Now they are (relatively) easy.

While my daughter was doing that, I began to work on chart ideas for the book on Scandinavian knitting that Beth Brown-Reinsel is working on. Beth has prepared her charts in Illustrator, which is fantastic, but we both now have more knowledge of the program and want to improve the clarity and legibility for book reproduction.

Beth’s still writing the book between workshops and I’m hoping to expedite the chart preparation so it won’t hold us back when she’s all ready with the text. At 3 in the photo, Beth’s chart is in the background and the revised version is in the front. I haven’t added numbers yet because Beth needs to decide whether she likes the symbol modifications I’m making. I think that even in this small, web-fuzzy photo you can see that the revised version is lighter and sharper—that’s all from tweaking the symbols.

4 / Donna Druchunas is working on a book about the lace knitting of Dorothy Reade, whose system of charting has been used by the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative, subject of her Arctic Lace. Donna just got back from Oregon, where she visited with Dorothy’s daughter and discovered many incredibly exciting things. We were already awash in fascinating information.

Anyway, number 4 shows two of Dorothy Reade’s original lace charts that I’ve redrawn in my own preferred symbols. The purple yarn will turn into something made from one of the laces. I am also awaiting another bit of yarn to turn into another something using the second lace pattern.

Having just re-charted the designs, my next step is to work up swatches in scrap yarn and see how they feel on the needles, whether I want to make any modifications (for example, use a different type of double decrease), and what kinds of ideas I get for designing my "something"s.

5 / This is Crystal Palace cotton chenille. There are two balls, one sort of an old gold color and the other (in the plastic bag) a chamois-like shade. I’m going to be knitting a cardigan in trade for acupuncture (which helps me stay healthy despite long hours at the computer). The old gold won the lottery and I’ve ordered ten more skeins and am waiting for them to arrive.

My acupuncturist is (1) tiny, so she has trouble finding clothes to fit, (2) allergic to animal fibers/dander/something-related-to-critters, and (3) very sensitive to fiber scratchiness—even in baby alpaca.

Over the past year, I’ve knitted about ten swatches of various fibers and blends that might have been soft enough and that were in colors she liked. She wants a cardigan that fits and is comfortable. I want her to have a sweater that will provide her with some insulating warmth in the winter, and we both prefer natural fibers (although we’ve tried some of the unnaturals in our quest).

We finally found success with this cotton chenille! (I’ve made her several other trade items while we were on the quest for a good sweater yarn.)

6 / This is the fun part. This is just a blast. I’ve got Cat Bordhi’s new sock book. New Pathways for Sock Knitters, Book One, and I’ve been making her first sample-sock pair. That’s one finished sock, and the second on the needles. I can’t wait to start the second demo pair, which demonstrates different ideas.

I love, and will use forever, Priscilla’s Simple Socks techniques (see number 1 above). I have knitted socks (or, rather, single socks) using just about every sock-construction technique out there. I have little patience for any except Priscilla’s Simple Socks method . . . and, now, for variety from time to time, I think I am going to get hooked on Cat’s approaches as an alternative.

In fact, I think that I may finally be poised to knit a design that I’ve had in my head for several years but that’s just never quite gotten onto the needles. I think it was waiting for the structural ideas in this book.

Don’t anybody hold their breath, though, because I have a few other projects to finish first.

  1. Ethnic Knitting Discovery, release and promotion.
  2. Ethnic Knitting second-in-series, cover design, editing, layout.
  3. Cowichan sweaters, charts. (I’m not thinking beyond that yet.)
  4. Scandinavian sweaters, charts. (Ditto.)
  5. Dorothy Reade lace projects (x 2).
  6. Chenille sweater.
  7. Cat’s sample socks (fun, plus future ideas).
  8. Opal socks that are almost done (Simple Socks, carry-around knitting).

There’s more, but that’s all my head will hold right now.

Here’s the whole bouquet I used for the photo shoot this past weekend:


Oh, and if parts of your house look like the next photo, you should have had it repainted at least two winters ago, if you could possibly have arranged to do so (which we couldn’t). And that’s why someone named Mike has been powerwashing the exterior all day while we worked inside with the windows closed.

Oh, and I spent several hours this afternoon dealing with the manufacturer of my cell phone, which has been broken and sent away for in-warranty repair for 46 days (so far) since March 13 of this year.

Sometimes what happens when a book goes on press is that you deal with a few of the things you haven’t been dealing with while you were getting books ready to go to press.

And we took all three animals to the vet for physical exams. It was just that kind of day.



4 thoughts on “What sometimes happens when a book goes to press”

  1. Boy oh boy, you are one busy lady! Nice meeting you on Monday 🙂
    If you need an extra hand to help out with stuff, let me know. I’m unemployable at present (restricted visa) but doing something with my brain would be good!

  2. Wow, you have so much going on! I too love the Simple Socks recipe. It’s the pattern I do over and over–with adjustments, of course. I’ve finally (fingers crossed!) got a cell phone that seems to work AND I understand it, mostly. This is the third try…and I long to return to my first, simplistic phone…!

  3. I’m looking forward to Donna Druchunas new lace book. I love knitting lace. I’ve started a blanket today with wool, from a danish doily pattern. Learned to read the symbols just for that. And- I LOVE Cat Brodhi’s new sock book, in fact I like it so much, I have it on my night stand, just to have a last look at it. ;o) I’ve knit her Flow Motion socks twice, and fell in love with the construction. Since then I was waiting for the book to come out. I’ll buy Book # 2 and 3 unseen. You’ve got lot of interesting projects going on.

  4. I bought the Cat Bordhi sock book yesterday. I am almost finished with the first sock. I am hooked. Thanks for the recommendation.

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