Guest post: Wearwithall

Today we’ve got a guest post by Theresa Gaffey, one of the authors behind Wearwithall, a beautiful new independently-published knitting book. Buy your copy here! There’s going to be a signing for the book at TNNA this weekend, and I’ve known Mary Lou Egan (one of the five contributors) for some time now. Super-exciting!

Something I love about this book is that the website lists the yarns used in the projects (sorry, Wearwithall-ers, I might have to steal that idea for Cooperative Press!) — so useful!

To use a photo from the book (and the photos were shot by the lovely Gale Zucker), here’s my overall review…

Now here’s Theresa…

It doesn’t seem likely that five colleagues could get together, produce a knitting book and come out friends at the end of the process, does it? Five knitters, five opinions—on everything?

The key, I think, is that we all came into the project with the same clear vision of what we wanted our book to be—the look, the color palette, the number and type of projects, what the photos would look like, what our models would look like—and we never lost sight of that vision, even on the days it seemed a bit blurry.

I remember the first meeting around my dining room table in St. Paul, Minnesota. Each of us talked about the skills and experience we brought to the table. We all had publishing experience, but beyond that we each brought special expertise. Scott Rohr had years of book production experience. Shelly Sheehan is a business and accounting wiz. Sarah K. Walker is a graphic designer with a flair for creating clean, appealing layouts. Mary Lou Egan is a talented designer with public relations experience. And I, (Theresa Gaffey) have been designing and editing knitting and crochet patterns for years. The roles each of us would take on just seemed to fall into place.

Next, we talked about timelines. A couple of big events were coming up in the spring of 2012—a city-wide shop hop, the Minnesota knitting guild’s big conference, the shop’s annual sale. We wanted to take advantage of those opportunities to promote the book, which meant we had to have printed copies of the book by March 2012. We knew from the start that this was an aggressive timeline, but we agreed—or at least hoped—that we could pull it off.

I look back at that crazy timeline and think about all the things we didn’t foresee, and my first instinct is to say that we were lucky. Luck wasn’t all of it, though, because we each had a critical piece of what we needed to do a book.

There were lots of long discussions—what yarns did we want to use? which projects were going to make the final cut? what variations did we want to add? But generally we ended up agreeing on almost everything. Really!

And yes, sometimes we changed our minds. At the beginning, we decided we didn’t need a shawl in the book. What could we add to the hundreds of beautiful shawls already out there? Then later, as we were doing a preliminary layout of the book, we decided—almost literally at the last minute (at least in knitting time) —that the book really needed a stole or shawl. I ended up knitting 116,000 stitches—more or less—in about a week. It was pretty insane. But the stole is one of the most popular projects in the book.

And yes again, we were lucky. Gale Zucker, an extraordinary photographer, came to the Twin Cities for an incredibly exhausting but productive photo shoot. Friends and family and customers’ kids modeled for us. The kids all behaved, and the models looked beautiful. Gale helped up find a skilled and patient stylist, Malika Sadi Goodman, who took us all in stride. Mary Lou not only contributed three beautiful designs and but also us connected with yarn companies for their support pre- and post publication. Sarah came up with the perfect name and a great layout. Shelly kept us on schedule and sane. Scott found a great, local printer and then shepherded the book through production.

(editorial comment-caption from Shannon: who would like to knit one of these for me, like, NOW?)

That last part about the local printer is important. At the beginning, and all through the process, we wanted to keep it local. OK, Gale was a bit of a ringer, but she went to the University of Minnesota and comes to town frequently to visit family. That’s local enough. We may not keep such a local focus in a second book, but for the first, it felt right. Keeping business in your community is a good thing to do when you can. It also made the press checks much simpler!

So after all the late nights, and long days, we’re still colleagues, but even more, now, we are friends ready to start the next book.

Win a copy of The $100 Startup / interview

I’m excited that Chris Guillebeau, author of the recently-released book The $100 Startup took some time to answer a few questions I thought some of you would enjoy. Cooperative Press is featured in this book, and it’s a great one. I have three hardback copies to give away, so read our brief interview below and then find out how you can win one!

When you started self-publishing (the Unconventional Guides, etc), did you ever suspect you’d end up publishing a book like The $100 Startup with a big publishing house? Why or why not?

Indeed, it was my original goal to write a “real book,” and the Unconventional Guides series came about somewhat organically in response to reader questions. These days I do a combination of traditional publishing and self-publishing. I don’t necessarily feel that one is better than the other; each model has pros and cons.

What have you learned from the process of publishing *this* book that you didn’t know, or weren’t aware of earlier?

One of the challenges with my first book was that it was difficult to categorize, and bookstores hate books that they can’t easily categorize. We had a strong launch and I did a 63-city tour, but it was difficult to get shelf space and national media attention.

With The $100 Startup, the promise of the book is very clear. It’s also much more specific, having the benefit of a comprehensive study based on the input of 1,500 unconventional entrepreneurs. [*ahem* cough cough, including my very own Cooperative Press –Shannon]

The first book sold about 40k copies in the first six months, which was good for a trade paperback. But contrast it with how The $100 Startup is doing so far: within the first four weeks, we’ve sold 40k copies. Overall it’s just a more concise and easy-to-grasp message, and I’m glad people are responding.

What are the three things you wish you could tell anyone who thinks they have a book waiting inside them?

1. Good for you!
2. I hope you get this book outside of yourself and into the world — in whatever format it takes.
3. Stop waiting.

Your concept of a business audit is fantastic — what are people leaving on the table when they don’t (re-)examine the opportunities that are waiting right in front of them already

They are often leaving a lot on the table, both financially and otherwise. The purpose of a self-audit is to take a higher-level look and identify what those things are. However, strictly observing something doesn’t result in change, so the more important habit is to take action on those observations.

With so many options and opportunities, people sometimes ask how to prioritize. My model is to write down the top 20 things I need to work on every day. Then, I cross out items #3 through #20… but I make sure items #1 and #2 get done.

What would you say to an author or potential author who doesn’t think social media is worth his or her time?

I’d say they are in the wrong business. There’s nothing wrong with journaling or writing privately, but if you want to be an author you need to be prepared to engage with your readers. Social media isn’t the be-all, end-all—your work itself should indeed be the focus—but I don’t think you can ignore direct communication with those you hope to reach.

And really, why would you want to? For me, interacting with my readers every day is a benefit, not a task that needs checking off a list.

Thank you, Chris, for the interview.

Now it’s your turn. Do you want to win a copy of the book? Let’s make this fun. Answer one of the following questions:

1. What’s your favorite color?
2. Would you rather have Jane Austen or Napoleon over for brunch? Why?
3. Do you think woodchucks ever get tired of chucking wood?
4. Which book was your favorite when you were five years old?
5. What is the stupidest lipstick color name you’ve ever encountered?

I will pick three winners next week!

5 seconds, $250,000

Can I ask a great big favor? My publishing company Cooperative Press is competing for a $250,000 grant, but we need 250 votes to move on to the next stage of competition.

Juniper Moon Farm is doing this, too. They’ve compiled a fantastic step by step guide to voting (the voting website is a little clunky).

You aren’t limited to one vote, so vote for us (Cooperative Press, Lakewood, OH), Juniper Moon and all the other fibery companies in the running. Wouldn’t it be great to have multiple fiber people in the finals?

Thanks in advance!

Interweave Hurt Book Sale feeding frenzy

Or should that be READING frenzy? It’s time for every knitter’s favorite annual sales event! The Interweave Hurt Book Sale! Running today through 11:59 p.m. MDT next Tuesday (the 12th), you can nab books at 30-70% off, including my book Spin to Knit and other delights. (Here’s all the stuff with me in it, if you feel like being stalk-y!)

Best news yet: for those of you with groaning bookshelves (like me), ebooks are on sale, too! So make with the clicky, quick-y, because it’s first come first serve!

Welcome to the inside of my brain

Normal people look at this and say “oh dear, don’t you EVER clean your lint trap?” I find it next to the laundry sink, dried out, because whoever took it off didn’t bother to throw it away (cough cough I am pretty sure I know who) and say WHOA LOOK AT THAT!

So here’s my idea. I need to enlist as many friends with laundry sinks as possible to help me make more, because I thought of a really cool art piece to make with them.

If you have the kind of laundry tub where the tube from the washer empties out into it, you know what I mean and you probably already use these. Want to help? Comment, and I’ll get a new one out to you with a postage-paid return envelope. You just have to let it fill up all the way, like this one, and let it dry out completely before mailing it in (otherwise…gah).

Bonus points if you’ve just felted a bunch of stuff and it’s full of woolbits! (Dye is going to be involved at some point)

Lately I’ve realized I’ve been slacking with the fine art pieces. I don’t do many unless there’s a specific show coming up, or an idea strikes like this one. But with the One Million Stitches project going, and how I spent this last weekend, I’ve got an art art itch to scratch.

(On Friday I got a call from my favorite studio neighbor announcing he’d gotten us a present but it was really heavy and could I please come help bring it up from the loading dock? It was a 1980s Flintstones vending machine, and we ended up spending the entire weekend making it over into an art vending machine. It’s fully functional, and we filled the eggs with candy and some other silly prizes just to get it done in time for an event at our studio building, but the Big Plan is to make art for inside each egg…)

Here it is in all its glory. Fred will probably be replaced eventually, but again, it was a question of timing.

I’d forgotten how fun it was to take stuff apart and turn it into something new and unexpected. I got to do things I don’t normally do day to day, like paint, and cut plexiglass, and use an orbital sander. It was a really good reset switch for my fiber brain because it got me thinking about things in new ways. So, as I said when it arrived: best. present. ever.

Sometimes you find beauty and inspiration in some really weird places.

Compliments Collection winner…

Congrats to MaryKate, who won a copy of the booklet!

Busy busy over here. I’m doing an experiment today to make myself uncomfortable. I’m wearing hot pink.

If you know me or have met me in real life, you know I am a black and grey kinda grrl…with the occasional blue in the form of denim. But there are a lot of other colors in my wardrobe — things I bought then didn’t wear, things I only wear under black or grey, etc. This hot pink Ralph Lauren v-neck top is everything I am uncomfortable with in a piece of clothing. It’s tight. It’s got a v-neck (I hate v-necks). It’s SCORCHINGLY HOT PINK. I bought it a number of years ago when I volunteered for a local newspaper makeover segment and the newspaper’s style editor told me it looked good on me, and it’s lived in my closet ever since! So hell with it, I’m going to wear it, even if I had to force myself to NOT pack a black cardigan in my bag for later.

I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’ve been doing a whole lot of new, uncomfortable things lately. Sometimes you have to, to get out of your established habits, to make your brain see things differently, to learn and grow and challenge.

And sometimes you just have to walk around looking like a giant stargazer lily.

One million stitches

This morning I woke up with a horrible headache, so instead of going straight to the studio I was drinking coffee and reading Twitter. I realized I was only a few followers away from 7000 (?!), and wouldn’t it be fun if we could all do something TOGETHER?

Then I remembered two things: the 1000 Journals project and the Exquisite Corpse project coordinated by Jared Flood.

How’d that song go? Whoomp, there it is? Yeah, that. I’ve been itching to curate another fiber art show for a while, and if we’re going to harness the collective powers of a bunch of knitters, we might as well go big or go home, right? So here’s what we’re going to do:

  1. There will be multiple projects (all types of garments and accessories) winging their way around the country/globe. If you want to play, you need to commit to doing your stitches in the specified amount of time and to sending your piece on to the next person in line.
  2. I will arrange for yarn support. If I really wanted to have fun with this, I’d pull some oddities from my stash and make one of the projects all about THAT.
  3. We’ll have notebooks going around with each project box. Say hello, make a pretty page, tell us a story…
  4. At the end: exhibition(s) + mag article in Knit Edge + book published by Cooperative Press.

Cool? Any other ideas/wrinkles you can think of? Put them in comments.

Want to play? Fill out this form. And share, share, share the link with your knitting friends.

There are also more details on the form on how we can protect as much of your personal info as possible, i.e. shipping address, etc.

Let me head this one off at the pass RIGHT NOW: hello crochet friends. You are welcome to join in, too. I’d rather start up a crochet-specific track, though, than mix knit and crochet inside pieces. So if you crochet, use the Other box on the form to tell me what you’d like to participate in making. Thank you!

Compliments Collection blog tour

Bijou Basin Ranch has long been one of my favorite small yarn companies, and I really enjoy working with them in a variety of ways, both as a designer and as a publisher. BBR has just released its first collection of patterns in booklet form, featuring 13 new designs by author/teacher/TV personality/friend Kristin Omdahl. Today we’re a stop on the blog tour for her Complements Collection. Featuring 7 knit and 6 crochet projects that use 3 balls of yarn or less, the booklet is not only excellent value for money whether you’re a knitter or crocheter, but it’s also easy on your yarn budget! (Although, take one look at this page and tell me you’re on a yarn diet…it’s just not possible). The Complements Collection is available in both paperback and digital book form: you can find it here, here or here.

The Amaryllis Knit Hourglass shawlette is probably my favorite pattern in the bunch — it’s just the sort of thing you’d want to wear during a transitional season like, oh…right now (at least in Cleveland! We can’t seem to decide if we want to be 40 or 80 degrees on any given day). Knit in Lhasa Wilderness, which is 75% yak and 25% bamboo, it’s got drape like you wouldn’t believe.

I was fortunate enough to see the pieces from this collection and the booklet itself during Stitches South — if you’re looking for some great springtime accessories, and especially if you both knit and crochet, patterns from The Compliments Collection will garner you quite a few!

GIVEAWAY: We’re giving away a copy of the booklet to one lucky reader! Leave a comment and tell me what your favorite color of Lhasa Wilderness is and why. I’ll pick one comment, so give it your best/funniest shot!

If you don’t win here, visit one of the other blogs on the tour for another chance to win!

New toy for color creativity

Here’s a fun app my photo-app-mad husband just shared with me today: Color ViewFinder. You can walk around without actually snapping a photo and basically multi-sample colors in a given space, then click to save the palette. It’s kind of like Design Seeds but with your own environment as its inspiration! Here are some colors from the flowers on my office desk…

Conveniently, it gives you the hex codes and RGB values for the colors, too.