September 14, 2008
Casual Elegant Knits – Blog Tour
Casual, Elegant Knits isn’t one of those trendy, “ooh that’s neat but when would I wear it” pattern books. The patterns here are the sort of wardrobe staples you’ll find yourself pulling out of your closet again and again. It may even provide something to wear with that trendy item. I meet Faina a few years ago at my LYS and was very pleased, honored (and a little nervous) to be ask to take part in there blog tour. Here are the results.
FG: Liz, thank you very much for being one of the stops on our blog tour. Our excitement builds up even more as we go from one stop to another. When people ask us about the book, we look back on our two-year work and relive some of the emotions we had at the time. Since we had a very nice experience then, we enjoy going back in time. So, what do you want to know?
LM: One of the first things I noticed when I looked through your book was all the nice, clear, big pictures of all the projects. There were even multiple views of the same piece. Thank you for that. It makes it so much easier to get a feel for a pattern that way. As authors how much influence did you have in the design of the book?
FG: Ah, good question. When we sent our manuscript to the publisher, we had to supply photos of the projects to convey the vision of how the garments need to be worn. Our editor was fine with all the requests we had for the layout of the book. The first page proofs came without photos. The second time we saw page proofs it already had photos. We liked the layout of the book and many other things. We were not particularly happy with the color of the cover and some of the backgrounds of the photos. Since this is our first book with Martingale & Co, we really did not know how much of input we could have for a book design. I, for example, felt that it is not very nice of me to step on the toes of a professional photographer. We called our editor and asked her how much we can influence the outcome of the design. She answered that they would appreciate any comments we have. They do want us to feel that we are part of the team and they want us to be happy. Our art director called me and we had a long conversation with him. I asked if the pictures could be taken outside. He chuckled and said: “Faina, we will try, but remember we are in Seattle. It rains here during this time almost every day.” Well, we did get lucky. They had a window of a great weather and all the shots were done on the street. We are so pleased with the result. Like you said, they show many large pictures and the layout of the book is not busy, so it is easy to read.
DL: We had quite a bit of influence. We definitely wanted a gallery-style page for the Table of Contents and for each chapter. We were very pleased that the publisher provided this. We conveyed our thoughts for the photos by doing our own “photo shoot” with our initial models. We presented the full ensemble, then the individual photo (how we wanted the model to pose) and then close up details that we thought were important.
LM: Another thing that jumped out at me was the number men’s patterns. If it weren’t for the skirts and some layered looks for the women I think the numbers would have been equal. Was that a deliberate, planned outcome?
FG: Dawn and I like when men are dressed well. We also think that there are many men’s patterns on the market that offer a relaxed and outdoorsy look, not the fitted and elegant look. If you talk to men who are fashion-conscience, you will hear that they want the look we have in our book.
DL: Yes this was definitely planned. We are seeing a growing number of male knitters and wanted to have a book that would appeal to them as well as female knitters that want to knit attractive sweaters and accessories for men.
LM: The men’s sweaters strike a good balance between something that men will wear without complaint (always tricky) and things that won’t be boring for the knitter to make. So who do you think is harder to design for: men or women?
DL: I enjoy both and do not think it is hard to design for either. Both Faina and I are particular about what we like in men’s fashion so it was a very good opportunity for us to design for them with the fit that we would like to see, as well as using stitch patterns that create some texture for additional visual interest. We also were able to consult with Faina’s husband ,Simon, for his fashion input from a man’s perspective.
LM: We’re in the second half of the blog tour and I think the obvious questions have all been asked but one thing I found myself wondering about as I read was one of your answers, Faina. You said that the decorative cast on you used on the two women’s hats (including the red beret than I need to make) was a common technique in European knitting. Are there any other European techniques that you’ve used in the designs?
FG: Yes, there are. The selvage stitches are done differently in our book. I especially worked on them when I designed scarves and the Funnel-Neck Top. That top is done in the round and the rib pattern for underarms continues to provide edges of an armhole. I needed to keep the selvage stitches very straight to make the edges crisp. I want to suggest your readers that they follow that technique to achieve the result they see on the photo.
There are also four different patterns that are done in brioche stitches. They are all different and beautiful. I love brioche for many reasons. The basic of this family of stitches was used in America in shaker knitting, but I do not see it used in our times. In Europe it is one of the staples.
ML: Related to the last question, have you encountered any American techniques?
FG: Actually, yes. I never knew about three-needle bind off. Dawn showed it to me four years ago. I always seamed shoulders using mattress stitch. And, you will laugh, you taught me how to do a Russian join. Although I am from Russia, I have never heard about it there. It is the same case with the Russian salad dressing. We do not have any dressings in Russian cooking. And, Dawn is reminding me – I have never done felting before. All felting projects in the book are Dawn’s. I did test a beret pattern for her. That was my first felting project ever.
LM: With the two of you we’re getting the best of both worlds. Are there any ways you’ve altered or added to each other’s knitting style?
FG: I learned how to knit the English way especially stitch patterns with the yarn over. It is very different from how I do it. Sometimes my left hand is overworked and I switch to throwing method. I have to be careful, though. My tension is different when I switch. It is nice to know both when I teach people to knit.
DL: I picked up some good tips about that nice slipped stitch edge that Faina uses. I also like Faina’s idea to start out with a generous swatch for measuring gauge.
LM: Back to the book. As a plus size person one of the first things I look for in pattern book is the range of sizes. You did a pretty good job there, thank you, but one of my favorite pieces the Little Flirt Skirt doesn’t go quite large enough for me. I’ve seen lots of articles about resizing sweater patterns but I haven’t seen anyone talk about skirts. You’ve already written the pattern in several sizes so do you have any advice on how to go about resizing it?
FG: If you make a very good size swatch and check your gauge, you can make a proportion like this:
Actual hip (in) Number of sts for CO
—————– = ————————-
4 in 18 sts (gauge from pattern)
Number of sts for CO = [Actual hip (in) x 18 sts ] divide by 4 in.
The number you get must be divided by 13. If your number is not evenly divided by 13, get as close as you can to the number that will be divided by 13 by adding or subtracting sts. If you have to add more sts to get the pleats worked out and it looks too big for the hips, think about decreasing evenly after you are done with the pleats and you go to the main body. Do not forget that you are changing needles and your gauge is going to change later. I would also recommend increasing the length as you work in the round from the pleats panel to the hip line. It will make a slimmer look of the body. Good luck with this. It is a good pattern to experiment with, I think.
FG: Thank you, Liz, for your hospitality. We really appreciate that you asked such great questions. I want to wish you all the best with all of your ventures in design.
We would like to invite your readers to our next stop with Donna Druchunas .
LM: Thank you both for letting me take part. It wasn’t nearly as scary I thought it would be.
PS: I apologize for the lack of pictures. Every time I try to add them in, the post gets mangled 😦
I’ll try again when I get home and can use my own computer.