Decisions decisions

Remember when I mention that one of the things that’s handy about sequels is that you have to make far fewer decisions than you do for the first book in a series?  That’s been on my mind a lot the last few days.  For you see, I’ve been making piles and piles and piles of decisions for the next book, and it’s making me a little dizzy.

The decisions for KCC weren’t too bad.  It was the first book I published, so I wanted to keep things simple.  I was also absolutely determined that it would look like it belonged when it was set on the yarn store shelf, so I pretty much just grabbed some books I liked, showed them to my printer, and said ‘let’s do it like this.’

But this next book? This next book is a bit different.  First, I feel quite a bit more confident in what I’m doing (seven books will do that…you’ll learn stuff along the way whether you want to or not).  And second, well second I’m not quite so concerned with this one looking like every other book on the shelf.  In fact, I’d rather it stand out a bit.

So I’m having some fun chatting with my printer about options.  Now this can quickly get dangerous.  Go look at the kids book section in your local book store and you’ll see the sorts of things that can be done to books.  Glow in the dark inks, fuzzy bits, funny shapes, the options are nearly endless.  But unless your budget (and the tolerance of your audience) is similarly endless, it’s probably better to restrain yourself.

I am (alas) limiting myself to just a few flourishes.  Most of these are dictated by the format of the book, (hardback, which tickles me to no end).  That in itself presents a lot of extra decisions.  You’ve got endpapers and head and tail bands (the wee fabric strips at the top and bottom of the spine) at a minimum, and quite a few other choices if you want to have a bit of fun.

All of which is a very long way of saying I’ve been looking at sheets and sheets of these (paper choices),

papersand these (head and tail band choices),

bands and these (wee ribbon bookmark choices, I couldn’t resist).


And I am feeling just the tiniest bit overwhelmed.

Now I know it doesn’t really matter.  Not in the grand scheme of things.  I’m dreadfully picky about books, and even I have never decided I simply couldn’t buy a book I otherwise really wanted because the endpapers were an unacceptable shade of orange.  But oh…oh wow do I love it when a book gets all those little details right.  And getting to do it myself?  Well that’s an awful lot of fun.

Images are from materials provided by my printer, Asia Pacific Offset, and are used with permission.

Coop Knits Socks, Review & Giveaway

One of the most charming parts of TNNA (and yes, I do still owe you the official TNNA post, but I seem to have brought back the traditional TNNA cold, which has taken up residence in my ear and kept me more or less in bed, so this week has sort of gone spiraling away from me and I’m just the smallest bit behind)…ahem, as I was saying, one of the most charming parts of TNNA is finally meeting in person all those folks you’ve only known online.  Matching up names with faces (or let’s be honest, blogs and twitter accounts and ravelry names with faces) is always delightful.  And this year, one of the people I was lucky enough to finally meet in person was the lovely Rachel Coopey.

Rachel makes really nifty socks.  Well, she makes lots of nifty things, but I don’t think she’d argue if I said she has a deep and abiding affection for beautiful socks, and that her passion shines through when she’s got a new pair on the go.  She’s been designing intricate, engaging socks for years now, and her first book, Coop Knits Socks: Ten designs to warm your feet and your heart, has just come out.  I was lucky enough to nab a copy of it at TNNA, and I wanted to be sure you guys knew all about it!

I’m having an awfully hard time writing about this book.  I sort of just want to just post pictures of all the socks and then point at the little details on each of them and go ‘see…see that right there?  That’s what will make these great fun to knit!  Here’s some yarn, go get started, I’ll wait.’  I suppose that’s not exactly practical (though it would be fun), so I’ll have to restrain myself to something a bit more traditional.

Well, actually, I’m still going to give in and post some pics.  I just can’t help myself.  They’re too pretty not to share!  (The pictures in this post are from the book and used with Rachel’s permission.)

The quick run down is that there are ten intricate sock patterns, all top down (cough, as socks should be, cough), all clearly written and meticulously charted (also, as socks should be).  Each of them includes delightful details (like the beautiful heel on Paignton or the stripes on Saltburn or the mirroring on Budleigh) that make them into something really special and mean you’ll have a blast knitting them.

You can see that Rachel is a dedicated sock knitter, and she’s taken the extra steps to design patterns that are fun to knit.  I can tell you from experience that sometimes the sock that’s fun to knit is a bit trickier to write than a more basic sock would be, but Rachel puts in the extra effort so you’ll enjoy your projects!  The results are beautiful.  (She’s also taken the time to figure out a handy way to make sure everyone who buys a paper copy gets a free eversion…she’s nice like that!)

If you like to knit thoughtful, beautiful, interesting socks, this book belongs on your shelf.  And while I can’t quite manage to give it to all of you, Rachel has generously offered up a copy to one lucky winner.  If you’d like that to be you (and really…you would), go take a look at the socks and tell me which would be first on your needles if you won.  Leave your answer in a comment (and be sure to use a working email address when you leave a comment, otherwise I can’t get in touch with you if you win…I’m the only one who sees them, and I won’t do anything with them save contact the winner).  I’ll leave comments open through 10 am (eastern) on Wednesday, July 10.

Let Me Help You With That

Like many of the designers I know, I very very rarely buy pattern books.  Part of this is because I don’t have time to knit other people’s patterns (I don’t have time to knit my own patterns), and part of it is because I don’t want to accidentally see something someone else has done and have it lodge deep in the back of my brain and come spilling out in one of my own patterns.

This rule does not apply with stitch dictionaries.  Those I buy with complete and utter abandon.  If I see a new one, I buy it.  The weirder the better, and double bonus points if it’s in some other language.  I buy them, leaf through them, swatch from them, and mark them up with lots of of notes and sticky flags.  Now I almost never use the things in them unaltered, but they are a really excellent starting point for learning what happens if you do this…or this…or what about this funky thing over here.  I recommend everyone with any interest in knitting at all pick up stitch dictionaries and dabble, as they’ll dramatically increase your knitting vocabulary.

But, sadly, I must make one warning.  If you have a Barry, or a kitten overlord in any way like Barry, do consider putting those sticky flags on the side instead of on the top.  Otherwise they may not be there when you want to consult them.


Sometimes the surprise finds are the best.  I knew I’d visit yarn stores on the trip, and I fully expected to enjoy them (and did).  I planned to go out to the shore, and expected that to be delightful (it was).  I did not expect to find a small pile of knitting loot at the Japanese dollar store.  Yet somehow I did.

That’s some hilarious socks (alas, too small for me, but now on their way to a friend), some graph paper index cards (perfect for sticking the one little chart I always need in my travel knitting pouch), and the longest dpns I’ve ever seen.  I’m particularly excited by those.  I don’t like circs, and finding enough of the more usual dpns to make things like hats or cowls can be tricky.  These should be perfect.

Delightful as all that is, the real haul came from the Japanese bookstore next door.  I went in on a lark, on the off chance they might have a knitting book or two.  I walked around the small first floor, and saw nothing but comic books.  Then, tucked back in the corner, I saw a staircase.  A staircase that looked exactly like the sort you’re not supposed to go up.  The sort that’s for employees only.  The sort you’ll be yelled at for even glancing at.  But I went up anyways.  I was well rewarded.

That’s some (some, mind you, not all) of the Japanese knitting books.  There were more on the table in front.  There were a similar number of English-language knitting books on the other side of the bookcase.  I’ve seen yarn stores with fewer knitting books.  There was even a special section (under the heading ‘Lacework’) of stitch dictionaries.  I may have had a small fit, followed by a large indulgence.

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

Lots of behind the scenes stuff going on around here, and not much I can talk about in any way that is even remotely interesting.  I know.  Bad blogger.  I’m sorry.

Rest assured, though, that there is good stuff happening.  Patterns for Book the Third are coming along swimmingly.  Book the second is being put on a boat and sent this way.  Mini book is clicking along too.  Progress is being made, but it’s largely administrative and organizational progress.  Important, but not exactly riveting for someone else to read about.

On the knitting front, things are similarly quiet.  I’ve finished the second green cuff.  I’m about half way through the second orange cuff and will likely finish it tonight if I have time to sit down and knit.  I’m also putting in the odd row or two on the cowl.  I’ll leave it to your imagination to fill in the details.  Aim for an image of an orange strip slightly shorter than the one shown in the last post, and an image of a cowl slightly longer than the one shown in the post from a week ago.  I think you’re up to it.

I need to get back to one project at  a time knitting.  This multiple project thing makes each project seem to take forever.  It’s all orange all the time until I’m done with those cuffs.


I am not temperamentally inclined to follow instructions.  I never have been.  I’m far more likely to make it up on my own and then to pester other people to do it the way I decided to do it (which is likely not nearly as charming as I imagine).  But this tendency to wing it only works if you’ve got a good, solid grounding in whatever the subject at hand is.  Experimenting is good, flailing is not.  It’s that background knowledge that helps mark the difference between the two.  But sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you can borrow a bit of that background knowledge from someone else rather than painstakingly amassing it yourself.

That’s where good references come in.  These are not small works.  They are not light works (in any sense of the word, none of these weighs less than three pounds).  They are not inexpensive.  They are tools.  They demand your time and attention if you are to use them well, but they reward that time and attention many times over.

I’m delighted to have added the new edition of The Principles of Knitting to the list of references that lives within easy reach of my desk.  I’ve only had it a few weeks, and I’m already growing alarmingly attached to it.  If you want to understand your knitting at a fundamental level, you would do well to get a copy of your own.  Don’t try and read it start to finish.  Just set it somewhere handy and consult it when you find yourself with a question.  I can all but guarantee it will have an answer.