Friday, March 26, 2010

Photobooth at Work

I was told recently by a dear friend that for a blog with the word "knitting" in its title, it sure did talk a lot about plants. Rather than change the name of the blog to "Garden Yourself Pretty," I figured that I'd better get onto the knits. So without further ado...

As you may have gleaned at this point, I am a craft book editor. When making a book--whether it's knitting or sewing or whatever may be the craft du jour--the star of the show is always the project. At the end of the day, it's the knitted dress or sewn bag or screen-printed pillowcase that makes the crafter want to buy the book. So naturally, we put a lot of time and effort into making sure that everything pertaining to the project and its instructions are just right. At some point in almost every book we publish, the sample that the author creates for the photo shoot lives right here in my office, locked up in cabinets for security (you laugh...but there's a reason for this!). And sometimes as the schedule ramps up, these garments need to be in several places at the same time. For instance, the tech editor may need the garment to work out a problem on the pattern, but the stylist needs it so she can start prepping for the shoot. In these instances, I have to do something sort of embarrassing: I have to take a photo of the piece on my computer--oftentimes with me holding or, worse, modelling the garment--and send the photo to the tech editor. Thus, every time I open up Photobooth on my computer, I'm confronted with an array of shots with me awkwardly thrusting a garment from my body whilst trying to hide my head. As a collection, however, I think they're pretty danged amusing.

The pieces in the set shown above are from an upcoming book by Kristy McGowan called Modern Top-Down Knitting. These pieces--a knitted wire bracelet, a keffiyeh style wrap, and a ruffled cowl dyed with kool-aid--were about to be shuttled off to the photo shoot in Brooklyn, but not before they were documented and sent off to the technical editor, Veronik Avery, in Montreal. (Stay tuned for more info on Kristy's gorgeous gorgeous book, which is coming out in the fall. The photos in her book are WAY prettier than the ones shown here. Duh!)

Speaking of Veronik Avery, I had to do the exact same thing for her book, Knitting 24/7, which should be hitting the bookstores any day now. Her book is made mostly of small items to be knit on the go, so unfortunately, I didn't have much to hide behind (except for the mercy of that lovely throw pillow). I like how my expressions for this set range from "annoyed" to "I'm gonna make a funny face now!" For much prettier photographs of the garments in her book taken by the amazing Thayer Allyson Gowdy, visit:

And finally, there are other less "professional" times when it's necessary to take a photo at your desk. Like when you get a proposal for a book of knitted dogs and know that you only have a day or two with the adorable samples before you have to send them back. Or when you make a stuffed animal from the book Kata Golda's Hand-Stitched Felt and are about to give it to your friend at work who's having a baby, but realize you forgot to take a photo at home. Some things, as you can see, just have to be documented. And sometimes they have to be documented at your desk.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

State of the Garden

So it turns out that the answer to the question I posed a couple of weeks ago--the one where I wondered which spring bulbs were starting to emerge in my yard--was not what I thought it would be. The winner, in fact, goes to snow crocuses! And here they are in their teeny tiny but oh-so-elegant and stunningly colorful glory. These little guys, it seems, are at the front lines of the entire spring bulb family, the first to bravely emerge from the ground, keeping their fingers crossed that the weather is warm enough for their pretty petals to survive. While I haven't done any serious research, I'm gonna go ahead and guess that they get their name from the fact that they can emerge from the ground even right after a snowfall. Which is precisely what they did.

In keeping with the theme of refusing to do research, Robb and I also realized how astonishingly daft we were to not have read the package closely when we planted the snow crocuses in the ground. We planted the bulbs in cute little designs, winding around trees and alongside paths, but failed to realize that snow crocuses should actually be planted together in groups. I'm talking like 16 bulbs per square foot. Instead, we placed them about 1 bulb per 2 square feet. Consequently, we have some very lovely and very spread out 3-inch-tall flowers. Stunning up close! Probably would have had a little more impact as a group. Ah...learning lessons in the garden. So fun.

In other news, we got to spend a little time in the garden with friends this weekend. Megan is staying with us all week from San Francisco, and we made a lovely taco brunch on Saturday. (Note: taco brunch doesn't mean Mexican-style huevos and chilaquiles. It literally means eating tacos for brunch. Delicious!) Julie dropped by with a bottle of bubbly and grapefruit juice. We sat outside, admiring our tiny flowers and soaking up the sunshine while Robb trounced around with his clippers and shovel, getting all of the yard mess in working order. At one point he stumbled upon this budding hydrangea which had somehow separated from its mother plant. He scooped it up and put it in a pot, which we then placed at the center of our circle of plastic Adirondak chairs--right where the sun could hit the plant squarely. I'm not a professional botanist (as you may have figured out), but I'm hoping that hydrangeas also benefit from things like lots of attention, oldies being played on the radio, and hilarious stories, because it sure got a lot of all of those things sitting in the middle of our circle that day. (Here's a little close up of the tiny hydrangea, in case you'd like a peek.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010


One of my favorite things about working at a creative place is being surrounded by so many creative people. However, that "perk" can occasionally backfire when you and your coworker find yourself wearing the exact same handmade outfit on the same day.

I imagine that this is a sentiment that Melanie Falick--the director of our craft list at STC--shared with me when she arrived at work last Thursday and found that we were wearing the exact same outfit. That morning, I had chosen to wear my handmade Alabama Chanin skirt from Alabama Stitch Book, while Melanie chose her handmade dress, featured in the just released Alabama Studio Style. Both garments, of course, were the same color, topped off with the same style of dark brown cardigan and brown boots.

I just have to say, we have excellent taste.

To top it all off, we were in meetings together all day long, prompting those who know us to openly rib and those who aren't as familiar to politely refrain from comment (though I'm sure they had to be wondering...what's up with these STC Craft people? Is there a uniform or something?) My favorite meeting of the day, however, was that afternoon at the offices of Bust Magazine where Debbie Stoller kindly agreed to document this day for us by taking a photo of me and Melanie on my phone. And thank goodness she did...who knows if this type of cosmic crafty coincidence will ever happen again?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Love and Snorkeling

One year ago today, Robb asked me to marry him. Which was a pretty cool thing for him to do.

As you may have guessed, I said yes. (Though we won't be married until know it's a long engagement when you're celebrating your one-year anniversary of being engaged.)

On that day one year ago, I was completely and totally surprised. And then after shouting out phrases like "Shut up" and "Oh my God" many times, I put on my pretty little antique ring, which belonged to Robb's grandmother, and we headed for the nearest bar to sip some champagne before running to the hotel room to make $60 worth of phone calls from St. Thomas to various places in the United States.

The next day, we snorkeled. (As an engaged couple.)

This year for Valentine's Day, I made Robb the little embroidered square at the top of the page, stitching our initials inside of a heart, resting beneath a sky of wonky little stars. One thing that I love about Robb is that he didn't ask me what he's supposed to do with it. Because frankly, I don't know. He was just so happy that I made something for him, and that it was pretty, and that I love him. (Function of the square be damned!)

I think it also helps that on Valentine's Day I made him "healthy" red velvet cupcakes made from beets and applesauce, which were, hands down, the grossest dessert I've ever made. (Think gummy cake that tastes like vegetables.) So in comparison to beet cake, a little embroidered square is a treasured heirloom...something to keep forever from the early days of our lives together.

(When I put it that way, maybe I should get a frame for it.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Little Green Things

And here I was all prepared to write about planting my onion seeds. A much less sexy subject, I must say, than oh, I don't know, THE ARRIVAL OF SPRING. But I came home from brunch today--a gorgeous early March day that felt like a balmy 50 degrees (hallelujah!)--and decided to nose around my garden, which is something I don't think I've done since November when we planted our masses of spring bulbs. And there, in the dwindling afternoon sunlight, I saw something I did not expect to see--a tiny little sprig of green elbowing its way out of the ground. At that point I knew I'd have to skip the onion report--the first sign of spring's arrival is a much more interesting story.

To really understand how amazing it is to see a spring bulb emerge from the ground, you first need to understand what our backyard looked like just two weeks ago.

As a person who grew up in Southern California, this whole winter thing is baffling. It's my fourth winter and yet each year it continues to surprise and annoy me. It's sort of like going to the dentist--once you've been, you know exactly what to expect the next time, but that doesn't make the experience any more pleasant. You see, winter just seems to last so darn long. And my thin California skin, still confused after all of these winters, gets dry and flaky and my hair goes straight (it's a really strange phenomenon), and my winter clothes are almost never cute, and I'm never wearing waterproof shoes. It's not a very sexy time for me at all.

In preparation for this miserable time of year, fellow winter-haters across the world plant bulbs in the fall knowing that we're going to need a little pick-me-up by the time it's March. We plan ahead to address our impending depression and how sick we know we're going to be of our favorite reality TV series after months of hibernation on the couch. This year Robb and I went a little bananas, planting 8 different varieties of spring bulbs (76 bulbs in all!)--mountain bells, Mediterranean bells, three kinds of tulips, pink daffodils, and snow crocuses. I think we were trying to make up for the lousy job we did the year before. We didn't get a chance to plant until the last week of November, when the ground was frozen. Picture me dressed in full winter garb attempting to shovel into icy soil as the neighbors upstairs looked out their window laughing. Consequently, our tulips last year were...well, wonky to say the least. Other words that come to mind: Sparse, bizarre, sister-wife. You get the picture.

This year, I think we're off to a better start. Dozens of their little heads have started to peek through the soil. Do I know which ones are which? Nope! My guess is that the variety at the top of the page is a daffodil, and the one shown below that is a tulip. The one directly above is a total mystery...for all I know it's swiss chard. Obviously I'm no expert, so if you are (of if you just feel like guessing), leave a comment! Maybe we can all take guesses and place bets? Either which way, I wish each and every one of you a happy early spring. Now let's just hope that more snow this month doesn't freeze the tootsies off of my eager little tulips and daffodils (and swiss chard). If so, then boy are they gonna feel silly.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sweet Liberty

I swear. I will not write about swimwear every time I post on this blog.

But today I couldn't help myself!

Liberty of London, one of my absolute favorite fabric companies, is doing a limited edition collection for Target. And they have bathing suits. Rilly cute ones. Oh, and little sleepwear lingerie things, and (swoon)...I just love them. They also have sundresses and things like that. But in my opinion--and maybe it's my yearning for winter to be over--the tiny garments are the winners here.

I guess that what I love most of all is the duality. A company like Liberty of London can design clothes for Target, one of the most commercial outfits imaginable. But at the same time they also make fabric that is available to me at the shop down the street, which I can take home and sew into a sundress. Or a weird looking doll. A pillow, a curtain. Even pants (as I threatened to do in my last post). Different designs, but the same flavor, and seeing them up there on the Target website is akin to seeing an old friend on TV. It's that "hey, I know you!" kind of sensation, and it makes me feel like the world is very small indeed.

In a not-so-Target variation of Liberty of London fabrics, I leave you with this image from the Purl Bee website. Check out their instructions for this no-sew very incredibly easy way to decorate your walls with Swatch Portraits (