November 11, 2010

Blog tour: Modern Top Down Knitting

Today I’m excited to be the opening stop on the blog tour for Kristy McGowan‘s Modern Top Down Knitting. Miriam and I both got copies of this at Rhinebeck, and it is SPECTACULAR…the kind of book where you immediately cry because you know you don’t have enough time to knit all the things from it that you might want to knit!
Here are some interior shots so you can sob for yourself (well, unless you have more time available for knitting than I do). I am a huge fan of the dresses in this book…anyone feel like knitting one for me? There’s a timeless aspect to them that I adore, it reminds me of my favorite vintage 1940s dress which always looks good, no matter where or when you wear it.
I had the chance to meet Kristy at Rhinebeck, where she reminded me that we’d met ages ago at Suss Cousins’ NYC yarn store, and I followed up my devouring the book with a few questions for the tour… keep reading all the way through, there’s a contest at the end! And check in at the STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books blog for other blog tour dates…
What was the general concept behind the book and why were you inspired to create it?
Though it sounds somewhat simple, I really just wanted to share my design ideas and create a collection of items that I made myself. I dreamed about writing a knitting book since I was 15.
What’s your favorite piece in the book and why?
The Pavement Jacket was the first top-down piece that I ever made and the process of creating it was especially interesting and joyful.
How amazing was it to hang out with Barbara Walker in person? Come on, spill. What’s she like?
I was pretty hopped up and happy that day. It was the kind of trip where you dopily smile at everyone en route because the whole thing is an adventure. I realized only at the end of the day that I had put on two different earrings — completely distracted and preoccupied as I was. I have often thought of and love the relationship readers can have with books, how reading can often feel otherworldly — and how perfect it is when you’re really able to float away off into another place for a while. The experience seems especially personal with craft books, and when you have a voice as strong as Barbara’s encouraging you along the way and teaching you amazing things, the pay off feels that much greater.
I imagine like many knitters, I felt very connected to her and grateful for her brain and sense of curiosity. She’s encouraging and very modest and soft spoken and her face gets beet red when you joke with her and ask if she realizes how great she is. She’s meticulously organized — everything is perfectly in its place — and every spot in the house displays elements of her creative journeys. In the living room is a painting that she did that came out of her work on developing a tarot card deck — it depicts a regal-looking woman with long hair and a lion by her side and incredible glass cases filled with rocks line the walls of that same room and showcase her extensive collection. It was almost too much for me to take in or absorb fully until later. She’ll casually explain that although she had never painted before, she ended up painting an entirely new tarot card deck and writing an accompanying book on how to use them.
The same was true for her knitting — she didn’t teach herself how until she was 36 and then look what happened. I was 37 at the time she told me this, and so it all really resonated. I found her stories incredibly uplifting and they really renewed my faith in the benefits of taking less traveled paths.
What tips and tricks do you like to use to alter or more accurately fit top-down patterns to your personal shape?
I think being really aware of your own body’s measurements and knowing how to decrease and increase between any given point A and point B is the most helpful way to ensure a good fit. On page 12 in Knitting from the Top, there’s a section titled “How to Calculate Shaping in Four Simple Steps” — which has been repeated in other books. That section has been immensely useful to me — that short paragraph is the basis for anything you’d need to know. There’s also a great section on how to achieve all sorts of different necklines on pages 76/77.
What’s on your needles right now?
I’m working on a few new designs and have been experimenting these past few days with Jared Flood’s Shelter yarn. I bought a huge amount of it in a rich purple color called Thistle. [ed. note: Aaaagh! that’s the next color I’m buying in that yarn, it’s gorgeous!] I love contemplating a yarn that I have not worked with before and having it sit in my brain for a few days. I’ll knit up multiple swatches of it and pin them on my dress form and just stare at them for a while — which is all I’ve been doing so far with it. It’s tempting to go all-out cables and tradition with this particular yarn — there’s something truly rustic and lovely about how it works up — but the color itself is also extraordinary & so I want to see how I can make that the focus. It’s just a beautiful thing when on a Sunday you can start working on something, glance at the clock and have it be 9 am and then when you look again, poof, it’s already 4pm and you have idea where the time went. That’s the delight I’ve had so far with this yarn.

Tell me more about what you learned when it comes to using trim on your sweaters — what tips and tricks have you been able to apply to your work to make it look, hang and fit better?
Applying trim and finishing knit pieces with it, for me, is just an added creative outlet and way to take even more pride in a finished piece. I don’t like to sew, but it’s such an easy step and adds so much (I think) that it’s worth the effort. It helps your pieces feel really finished — and there’s something rewarding about peeking on the inside and seeing it. The tips and tricks would be to remain mindful of stretch and making sure you choose a trim that has enough of it if you’re going to use it around armholes and neck openings or hems. And also just having fun with it and making the selection your own. It’s a nice way to further customize. I’m partial to velvet stretch trim, but the possibilities are endless. A whimsical rick rack — or ruffled trim can add a lot of fun — not to mention the the process of shopping for it. Daytona is my favorite spot here in NYC — here’s a clip of me at Daytona that friend made a short time ago.

If you had to narrow everything you know about top-down designs down to one tip, what would it be?
Hmm….I guess my tip would be that if you haven’t already tried it, you should! I’m slightly biased, but it really is a wonderful technique to have in your creative larder — one that you can go back to again and again and use for all sorts of things.
Would you like your own copy of this wonderful book? Leave a comment and we’ll choose a winner!

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  • Ariel

    Very cute, and I love the trim on the sweaters!

    Reply to Ariel
  • Nic

    Oh yes please! Me me me!

  • Emily

    OMG, the patterns in this book are so adorable, just my style!

    Reply to Emily
  • Ashley W

    After looking at the photos, I understand why you thought we might cry. Oh! Everything is so pretty!!

    Reply to Ashley W
  • lisa

    i too want to knit all of those dresses! where is my knitting monkey when i need it?

    Reply to lisa
  • Eliana B

    I wanna win! I wanna win! Sounds like an awesome book I can add to my bookshelf!
    Thank you for having this interview, I really enjoyed reading it 🙂
    Thanks for this giveaway!
    ~ Eliana ~
    IknitCupcakes on Ravelry

    Reply to Eliana B
  • MJ

    I want those dresses, I don’t care if I knit them myself or have someone knit them for me (ok, I know, dream-on). And I also now suddenly have an urge to go out and buy some cool boots to wear with these pretty dresses!! Me, Want, Now!

  • Word Lily

    I’ve got this book on my wish list; I’d love to win.

    Reply to Word Lily
  • AnaB

    Oh, such beautiful pieces! The book is on my wish list for Christmas, but getting it sooner would be awesome! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply to AnaB
  • Irene

    Oh man, I’ve been eying this book for the longest time. Thank you for the great interview. I’ve made 1 top-down cardigan and I am itching for more!

    Reply to Irene
  • jen

    This book looks great, how amazing to meet Barbara Walker!

  • Kristen

    I love this book! I should have taken your advice and bought it at Rhinebeck. But, since I didn’t, I’d love to win a copy, those dresses just rock!

    Reply to Kristen
  • Dee

    The book looks really cool, but you are right there is so much to do in there! If you are ever shopping for new yarns or knitting needles check out ParadiseFibers.net they have a ton of good stuff.

  • melissa

    I will admit that top down knitting is not my favorite thing to do, but this book really made me think twice about that. The designs are gorgeous – and those dresses!

    Reply to melissa
  • sillylittlelady

    I’ve always wanted to knit a dress! Maybe one of the patterns from this book will be the one 😀

    Reply to sillylittlelady
  • pawlah

    I would love to win a copy of this book. Beautiful patterns. Thanks for the opportunity!!

    Reply to pawlah
  • Erica

    Oooooh, pick me! Pick me!

    Reply to Erica
  • Jane

    Great interview! Would love a copy of the book.

    Reply to Jane
  • Sheri

    Oh yes please this book sounds so delightful

    Reply to Sheri
  • Kirsten

    I’ve had my eye on this book! I would love to wi a copy!

    Reply to Kirsten
  • Denise

    Looks like a great book that I would love to have!

    Reply to Denise
  • Sarah

    Great post Shannon! I love knitting from the top down – such a great way to insure a great fit 🙂

    Reply to Sarah
  • Jaime

    What a great book – with so many beautiful dresses. Can’t wait to see an actual copy!

    Reply to Jaime
  • Julianne Q

    Looks awesome!

    Reply to Julianne Q
  • Hannah

    So lovely! This would be an awesome book to have around. I think its going on my wish list.

    Reply to Hannah
  • ClumsyKnitter

    I have been eyeing those dresses, too! So classy! Thank you for the engaging interview and the giveaway.

    Reply to ClumsyKnitter
  • Deb

    ::waving arms:: ME! ME!
    thank you for this opportunity – and for the lovely interview!

  • Tamara

    Yes, I would like a copy of this book. I think I have every design in my Ravelry queue.

    Reply to Tamara
  • Kathy Sue

    Beautiful patterns! I love top-down–they are much easier in the finsh department.

    Reply to Kathy Sue
  • Nikki

    This book looks incredible. How amazing would it be to knit one of those dresses!

    Reply to Nikki
  • Shannon O.

    I would love a copy of this book! I haven’t tried top down knitting yet but after reading this interview it’s on the top of my knitting to do list.

    Reply to Shannon O.
  • yvette

    Gorgeous dresses and I love the trim inside the knits, tres chic :o)

    Reply to yvette
  • Eloise

    Those are some beautiful patterns! I have a knitting machine and would love to try knitting some of those dresses using the machine (especially for all that stockinette). I have to say, if I don’t win, this book is going straight onto my Xmas list!

    Reply to Eloise
  • Denise

    I am SO drooling over this book!

    Reply to Denise
  • giolou

    pick me! pick me! i have almost every pattern in my queue already… xoxo, and thanks!

    Reply to giolou
  • chppie

    When I first saw this book I fell in love with the cover dress but thought well maybe that’s the only wonderful pattern, but I was really wrong. I loved the patterns and these were totally things I’d want to wear. Wardrobe basics that are also interesting.
    Thanks for doing the interview.

    Reply to chppie
  • deidre corbet

    Great interview and wonderful looking book. Thanks for the chance to win.

    Reply to deidre corbet
  • Walden

    How wonderful! I love top down knitting and have been considering this book!

    Reply to Walden
  • Kelly

    Oddly enough that is one of the books I considered ordering last week when I ordered your book, but went with Sweater Knitting in Plain English instead. I still really want this book though! I just got your book in the mail yeasterday and hopefully I’ll get some time to read it at the craft show I’m doing today. Wish me luck!

    Reply to Kelly
  • Elissa

    I have been drooling over these patterns all week on the web, right up my alley. Classic and well constructed, can’t wait to see the book in person.

    Reply to Elissa
  • Michele

    I’m working on my first sweater right now and it is a top down pattern (not from the book). It’s simple and easy to do and, so far, I’m having no trouble!! Would love to try something else from the book!

    Reply to Michele
  • Weavinfool

    I need a new sweater for winter and have the yarn already. All I need is the pattern and this would be a terrific time to try a new technique. Top down sounds intriguing (sp?)

    Reply to Weavinfool
  • LisaRL

    I’d love to enter the contest – thank so much. 🙂

    Reply to LisaRL
  • Susan

    What a lovely book. Your interview really leads me to try these patterns.

    Reply to Susan
  • Susan Voegtly

    Thanks for the interview! I particularly enjoyed the talk about visiting with Barbara Walker. The top down method seems so logical – especially if you saw my first, and so far only sweater. The book would be a great way to start!

    Reply to Susan Voegtly
  • Caitlin

    What a gorgeous book! Thanks for the giveaway!

    Reply to Caitlin
  • Abbington

    Wow, those dresses are amazing! I think I’d have to start with a hat, though.

    Reply to Abbington
  • Martha

    Great interview! Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

    Reply to Martha
  • Susan aka paintermom

    I love this book! I sure hope I win. Thanks for the giveaway.

    Reply to Susan aka paintermom
  • helenlam

    Very pretty patterns! It’s my favorite method of knitting too…

    Reply to helenlam
  • Anna

    Now I’m fascinated by this book. It looks so interesting!

    Reply to Anna
  • ms gusset

    bring on the knitted dress pattern p0rn!

    Reply to ms gusset
  • Lei, Yue

    I love those dresses and would go for any method that minimizes sewing.

    Reply to Lei, Yue
  • Addie

    Thanks for the interview. I’ve done at least one simple top-down project and it worked well so I’m curious to learn more. The book looks beautiful. Thank you for the giveaway.

    Reply to Addie
  • Amanda Barnhart

    Gorgeous patterns. I’m most in love with the tunic dress. Very simple and pretty. Thanks for sharing your Barbara Walker story!

    Reply to Amanda Barnhart
  • Therese

    I’m intrigued by the top-down method and the photos of projects in this book!

    Reply to Therese
  • Charlene Lyles

    What a beautiful book! Look forward to learning some new technics to adding trim and “dressing up” my knitted pieces!

    Reply to Charlene Lyles
  • mary

    top-down is my favorite way to knit a sweater – can’t wait to check out this book!!

    Reply to mary
  • Ina

    Great interview! I’m looking forward to looking at the book.

  • Ellen

    Your writeup of the interview & of her interview with Barbara was wonderful. I’d love to have the book – I hope Schoolhouse Press publishes one on the dolls, or gets more on their site.

    Reply to Ellen
  • Zaz

    hello kristy and knitgrrl,
    what an interesting view inside of kristy’s coming to the knitting world borrowing books, her autrian vacations and hooking up with the “action”, her teary eyes in the film, shot by her friend, at the sight of all those trims and threads in color.
    i just remembered i bought trimmings for a special purpose during a travel that i will use now!!! i had meant to maybe knit some, but hey, it’s faster this way.
    anyway, i hope to win the book, also it just happens that i’ve just knit a top down beret and a dress but bottom up from my head, that i love thistles… too many coincidences.
    good luck with the book’s success to kristy!

  • mamayaga

    Interesting book. I’d love to own it.

    Reply to mamayaga
  • Becky

    Grteat book! Can’t wait to get started.

    Reply to Becky
  • Jacqui

    This looks like such a neat book – loving the dresses and those trims are great! Not the usual thing I see in knitting books.

    Reply to Jacqui
  • Ellen

    Oh, I would love to own this book, but even more, I wish I could have met Barbara G. Walker!!

    Reply to Ellen
  • Jessica

    Wonderful designs I would love to sink my needles into them 🙂

    Reply to Jessica
  • Janet K

    I would love to have this book – I only just discovered it was on a blog tour!

    Reply to Janet K
  • Cathy Little

    Wow! What lovely patterns. I want to knit the grey dress immediately for my daughter-in-law who is a size 2 and would look INCREDIBLE in it!

    Reply to Cathy Little
  • Alice

    Looks like a great book! I have always wanted to try top down knitting.

    Reply to Alice
  • mizkathychin

    I’ve been lusting after this book ever since I saw a preview (linked from Ravelry), and the glowing review at Knit ‘n’ Tonic. It’s on my xmas wish list (and if santa doesn’t get the hint, I will be buying it myself!).

    Reply to mizkathychin

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