Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bad bad Irene

Okay, maybe I did call Irene a "moistened bint" and also threaten that if she were a real woman I'd kick her in the taint. And maybe I did mutter some words unmentionable in polite company in reference to the local power company. You see, after being evacuated from Cape May rather abruptly on Thursday night, a long and stormy drive home, and a weekend full of wind and rain, we lost power. After the storm was over, when a neighbor's tree came down.

That was Sunday afternoon, and we're still out of power. Now I am fully aware of how very, very lucky we are. Everyone is safe. Our house is fine. All we lost were 2 days of vacation time and a fridge half-full of frostbitten food. My heart goes out to all the folks who are truly suffering as a result of Irene. (And as someone whose family lost everything they owned in 1972 after being evacuated at 3 a.m. for Hurricane Agnes, I have a sense for what that means.)

With no power, three rammy kids and school not starting 'til next week, it was time for desperate measures. Yes, my friends, we fled to Nana's.

The land of Chuck E. Cheese, a working freezer full of Fudgsicles and an 80-yr-old woman with WIFI. Ladies and gentlemen, my mother rocks.

Back in rare form as soon as I'm able....

Monday, August 22, 2011

West & wewaxation

It's that time again....

the last week at the shore.

When kites are flown

sandcastles built

and memories made.

See you next week!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just added.....

some lovely half-silk, half-Falkland British merino sock yarn to the BBF website.



Blue Nile

Each skein is 435 yds/100g, and most colorways had 2 dyed-together skeins uploaded at the same time for larger projects.

Autumn Ridge

Copper Rose

There's also some Heavenly laceweight from my last update, and some bamboo-blend sock yarn still in stock, too.

Plus through midnight Friday, August 19, I will ship all orders free. (If your order is under $25 of merchandise, I'll send first-class mail, over $25 will go Priority Mail. I'll refund shipping when I process your order.)

Have fun!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Book Process: Part 2

Part 2: Sealing the deal

If you've gotten an offer from a publisher, what happens next?

Two things. First, you have to come to agreement on the terms of your deal. You might negotiate specific points with the acquisitions editor first -- like the amount of your advance, the percentage you will make on each copy of the book sold, and deadlines for the work. Some items will be pretty flexible while others will be set in stone. Which are which depends on the publisher and the editor.

Some publishers of knitting books are craft-book specialists. They may be corporate relatives of a knitting magazine (think Sixth & Spring, Interweave and XRX). Others are publishers of all kinds of books who include craft books as part of their business (think STC, PotterCraft, Lark and Krause). The extent to which you can negotiate may also depend on how "corporate" or "crafty" a particular publisher is.

Popular Misconceptions about Book Contracts

1. You will get a lot of money.

Not likely. There are a lot of book proposals out there, and a lot of people who consider knitting design to be a sideline to their regular profession (meaning they will accept less because they aren't doing just knitting design for a living). The bigger the knitting name you are, the more influence you have to get a bigger advance (because there will be more competition to sign you, and because you are a surer bet to sell lots of books). A past experience with the publisher that turned out well may also be a point in your favor when it comes to the amount of an advance -- if your last book sold really well, say.

A friend once told me that she was asked by an acquaintance if she was making tons of money on her book. The acquaintance said "So do they give you, like, $150,000 or something?" Hah! You're lucky if you get in the $5000 to $20,000 range, depending on on a lot of different factors, like how big the publisher is, how famous you are, and so on.

2. You get to keep all the money in the advance.

Maybe, maybe not. Different publishers do the deal different ways. Some give you an advance that is all yours to keep, and the publisher also has a separate budget to pay for things like photography, styling, tech editing and other designers who might contribute patterns. Others give you an advance from which YOU are expected to pay various costs -- tech editing, photographer and stylist, contributing designers. You may also have the option of either hiring people like tech editor and photographer yourself and getting a larger advance OR receiving a smaller advance and letting the publisher do the photography and editing (and paying the photographer and editor directly).

No matter what, though, you have to do the math.

Say you get an advance of $8000 (I just made that number up; no, I will not tell you how much my advances have been, nosey-pants.). Suppose you are doing a multicontributor book, and you need to solicit designs from about 18 other designers. If the publisher has a separate budget for designs, and is handling all the photography, getting paid eight grand and keeping it all for your work on the book is not bad. But think how quickly that money gets eaten up if you have to pay all 18 contributors out of it. Suppose you are doing a hat book, and suppose (just to make the numbers easy) that each contributor gets paid $250 for their pattern. That's $4500 of your advance, over half of it, that you have to pay out to others; you are really only getting paid $3500 to write the book and design the patterns you are contributing. That may sound like a lot of money, but there's a lot of work involved in writing a book. Just the number of emails that I deal with on a weekly basis answering questions, researching things, getting information out to my contributors is a substantial amount of work, let alone designing, knitting, writing and editing.

Likewise, if the publishing company agrees to pay you $30,000, you may be jumping for joy. But if you've got to pay a photographer at a thousand dollars a day to shoot the pictures from that money, not to mention models, a stylist and tech editing, that money is going to get eaten up awfully fast.

Update: MMO points out that you also have to pay taxes on this money, as a self-employed person, further eroding the take-home amount.

3. You can negotiate exactly the terms you want in your contract.

Unlikely. There are certain provisions that the publisher won't budge on. They won't change a single word or even eliminate a measly comma that doesn't belong there anyway. Other provisions may be open to negotiation, like amount of advance, and dates for deadlines.

But overall, the publishing company has most of the power in these negotiations by simple virtue of the fact that lots of people want to write books and only a few can get published each year. That means if you are displeased with a provision or term of your deal, and the publisher doesn't agree to change it, you may end up having to decide if it's worth it to suck it up and go forward with the deal, or walk away and not do the book.

4. It's not worth it to hire a lawyer to look at the contract.

That all depends on you. Are you comfortable reading technical material? Do you have a better-than-average understanding of legal terms and concepts? Are you planning on asking for very specific terms? Do you do this for a living or as a lark?

I am fortunate in that I'm a lawyer and my husband is a lawyer. So we are very comfortable going over legal material and interpreting it. (No, we will not review your contract for you for free.) You have to decide for yourself whether the expense of hiring a lawyer is worth the comfort of knowing that you were advised by an expert. Of course, for some folks, hiring a lawyer is prohibitively expensive and in this case, you've got to do your best to understand exactly what you're getting yourself into, perhaps with the help of the library and Google.

After you agree verbally on terms, then the publisher will send you a written contract. Getting the contract signed is the second step of the process. You make sure the terms reflect the deal you agreed to, suggest any changes to the language that are necessary are desirable (the publisher may accept or reject changes, probably rejecting most of them), and sign. At some point after that, depending in part upon how the particular publisher works it and on what deal you struck, you'll get a check for (typically) half your advance. You'll get the second half when all your work is done.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dale of Norway lovers.....

rejoice! I have been informed that Dale patterns are in the process of being added to the already-massive collection at Patternfish. Two patterns available now, an adult and a child's, with more coming soon. These are web exclusives, so you'll have to go to Patternfish to get 'em.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Check it out

I am once again honored and thrilled to have a pattern in the new Vogue Knitting. Behold:

The scarf features a lace motif along with some drop stitches for fun, and the sample is knit with luscious Buffalo Gold Lux yarn.....and I will freely confess that given all my book stuff going on, I took advantage of an amazing test knitter who did the knitting.

Available in the Fall VK -- and you can see the preview of all the patterns here.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Quilting FO: Owen's Baby Quilt

A few months ago, I started a baby quilt for my friend Kristin. Kristin and I met and bonded on a Ravelry forum; I then became a fellow moderator on that forum and we bonded even more. When Kristin announced she was pregnant, I was delighted and decided that given all my knitting deadlines, I would opt for making a baby quilt instead of something knitted.

Kristen told us that her nursery colors were chocolate and lime. It's a really modern-feeling combination, so I looked for a pattern in my modern quilting books. I opted for the "Blockheads" quilt, from the very cool Dare to Be Square Quilting by Boo Davis (I read about her in the New York Times a while back and she sounds really fun; she describes her style as "I make modern heirloom quilts just like your metal-loving half-blind Grandma would."). The pattern consists of a number of squares within squares, done in all solids -- except I decided to leave off the faces. (This is a version of the pattern done with the faces in case you're curious.)

I rummaged through my solids and found several limes and some chocolate brown. I had thought about making the quilt in all solids but couldn't resist the chance to use some cute prints, especially since it was for a baby. So I went to Spool, where Laura and Craig helped me find some prints that were very cute and also which read like solids, including a bird print and some fake wood (that reminds me of the side of the station wagon our family had when I was a kid). Having heard Kristin say that she didn't understand why all boy-related baby stuff has to feature transportation, I was very careful to avoid anything with wheels, but I figured fake wood was not too transportation-y (my personal synapses notwithstanding). When I looked at the solids and the prints together, I was pleased.

It didn't take long to cut the pieces, and I fiddled around with block placement

before sewing the blocks together. Once the top was finished, I realized that I had subconsciously made it very brown, so I decided to find a lime-colored fabric for the backing (dots!).

I quilted it by hand, mainly because I already knew how to do it and I was afraid to practice my machine-quilting on a gift. It didn't take that long, though, and I found it relaxing to hand-stitch it. I am not sure my technique is perfect, but it seemed to work just fine. I quilted about a quarter-inch inside each square, and I used green thread on the green squares, and brown thread on the brown.

I had originally planned to use the Woody-Wagon print for binding, but the fact that the front was reading so brown deterred me. So I changed my mind, and used pieces of the leftover lime green solids, and added some strips of colors that were a little lighter and darker than lime, but close enough.

I was very happy when I realized that I had already improved my binding skills since my previous quilt....much more consistent and professional-looking.

I was pleased with the finished quilt, shown here being held by one of my helpful assistants:

I think the greens are a little deeper and less yellow-y in real life, but the photo gives you a sense for the overall look. Right now, the quilt is winging its way to Chicago to (I hope) be snuggled by its intended recipient.

And I know that I am very sarcastic and ironical most of the time, but it must be said that when working on a project like this, for a cute little baby of a dear friend, I put a great deal of love and hope into every stitch.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Rowan Magazine 50: Fall preview

Around the middle of summer each year, I get cranky. I am not a summer person, and I do not like hot weather. By the fourth of July I am already eager for cooler weather, back-to-school shopping, and all the fun that fall brings -- with many weeks left to go in our muggy Philly summers. But if there is one redeeming thing about this time of year, when the summer seems all used up and everyone's ready for a change, it's this: ROWAN MAGAZINE TIME!

Every August, just when I'm ready to grab a pitchfork and torch

and march on the school administration building, demanding they start the fall term RIGHT NOW, I get a little blast of refreshment when my new Rowan fall magazine arrives. This year is a special one for Rowan: it's the fiftieth Rowan Magazine to be published. It's fat, it's full of gorgeous patterns, and it is making me so damn happy right now.

Cover featuring Hawthorne Cape (Marie Wallin)
& Beech Mittens (Erika Knight)

The first "story" (as Rowan always calls them) is Wildwood. Now while Wildwood conjures up decidedly un-knitting-like images for many of us Americans who vacation at the Jersey Shore


rest assured that Rowan is talking about whole different kind of Wildwood. Instead of thongs and board shorts, we see "heirloom arans, exquisite florals and handcrafted crochet using the rich autumnal colours of the Briitsh rural countryside."

This section begins with a gorgeous autumnal intarsia sweater by Kaffe Fassett

Holly (Kaffe Fassett)

(is that photography not exquisite?)

a lovely coat with floral motif by Marie Wallin:

Robinia (Marie Wallin)

cabled cape and mittens (shown on the cover), and this lovely stranded design in Felted Tweed:

Maple (Marie Wallin)

My new BFF Martin Storey presents this lovely tunic/vest with more floral motifs

Hornbeam (Martin Storey)

and two sweaters with still more lovely florals, like this one:

Elm (Martin Storey)

I cannot show all 39 designs from the Magazine on this bandwidth but I have to show this scrolling cable number

Laurel (Marie Wallin)

and the lovely stole (also by Kaffe Fassett) which melds colors of KidSilk Haze so beautifully.

Alder Wrap (Kaffe Fassett)

After the first story, you'll find an article about Shetland lace (interesting), and then "Finesse." This group of patterns is inspired by the curve-hugging silhouettes of the 50s and 60s, with more understated design elements. "Betty" features a stranded yoke and cropped shape;

Betty (Marie Wallin)

Bonnie, by Martin Storey, is a very vintage-feeling cabled sweater with lovely lines;

Bonnie (Martin Storey)

You'll find this peekaboo cleavage number

Connie (Jennie Atkinson)

and a design that cleverly uses sheerer mohair for the arms and shoulders but more opaque Cashsoft DK for the bodice.

Molly (Marie Wallin)

The photography, in an historic Derbyshire abbey, is simply smashing.

Next up is an article looking at then and now in the lives of various Rowan designers, and a shorter feature on the virtues of British wool. Then comes "Winter Essentials," the last story, with a neutral color palette and an emphasis on updated, stylish basics. Once again, Martin Storey shines with a tie-front tunic (like the interesting use of cables)

Compassion (Martin Storey)

but I was especially taken with friend-of-GKIYH Sarah Hatton's slightly cropped cabled sweater "Affection"

Affection (Sarah Hatton)

and the chunky-knit "Cordial". (Sarah Hatton is way cool, and I had a blast drinking wine with her at VK Live in New York.)

Cordial (Sarah Hatton)

There are lots of other wonderful sweaters in this story, including the lace tunic by Amanda Crawford

Amour (Amanda Crawford)

a top that uses the drape of Kid Silk Haze to create a cowl-like draped front

Love (Marie Wallin)

and several cardigans that balance style with versatility. (If I make this cardigan, there is a very real danger I will wear it every day.)

Generous (Grace Meville)

After the last of the patterns, there's a sneak preview of the upcoming quilting book by Kaffe Fassett and Liza Prior Lucy featuring Swedish-inspired designs (I'm drooling already) as well as a list of the coming books and booklets by Rowan designers (ditto).

Rowan has recently updated their website and you can now see all of the book's designs here.

It's wonderful to know that in this ever-changing world, one thing has stayed the same: the gorgeous knitwear, terrific styling and amazing photography of a new Rowan fall Magazine. When you consider that you get all of these patterns for less than a buck apiece (the Magazine sells for around US$23 and you get 39 patterns), it is a phenomenal value. More importantly, from an emotional standpoint, with the first day of school still a whole month away, I don't know if I could make it until Labor Day without it.

UPDATE: Thanks Meezermeowy for reminding me to point out that Rowan has greatly expanded its size ranges, with many of the designs going to XXL, to fit 48-50-inch chest size with finished circumferences in the high 50-inch range.

Coming soon: a look at the new fall yarns from Rowan....

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A publishing trend?

One thing I've noticed in the last few months, and once again at TNNA, is what seems to be a trend in the knit-publishing world. Looking at recent and future releases, I noticed quite a few books that are re-issues of previously-published works, or compilations of material that has been released before (e.g., a "Best of" selection of items previously published in magazines).

Is this a publishing trend, republishing patterns and content that have already been published before? (Note that I'm leaving out re-editions of books that have long been out of print and are hard to find, like the Alice Starmore books and Principles of Knitting.)

Now let me be clear: I don't think that there is anything wrong or "evil" about this, and I am in no way trying to call out any particular author or publisher. Certainly publishers pay good money for content and I can understand why they want to try to get the most bang for their buck. Repackaging a book is less costly than creating new content -- you just have to take the existing patterns and in many cases you can re-use the photographs, too -- and there's another addition to your catalog. To the extent that you can market the book to an audience that might not be familiar with the prior publications (say, newly-hatched knitters), or freshen up selections to make them more appealing to today's trends, you might do just fine.

But I wonder if this push to publish recycled patterns is ultimately short-sighted. First of all, I have sensed that some knitters feel cheated when they look forward to a new book, only to find that it doesn't contain new content. (If you don't believe me, read some of the Amazon.com reviews for books that don't clearly state they are using pre-published content.)

Second, recycling patterns means that the books aren't reacting to current developments in the knitting world. Admittedly, this may not be a big deal when you are talking about classic styles, or things like socks that don't change much over time.

I wondered if maybe there are very popular patterns that have a loyal following even after the individual magazine is no longer available or is sold out. Maybe compilations are a way for knitters who missed out on the original issue to cherry-pick the best patterns from previous years. But the rise of individual pattern PDF sales means that even if a magazine is sold out, if you really really want a particular pattern, you may be able to purchase it directly from the publisher in PDF form.

Looking at the bigger picture, though, I think that publishers run the risk of making themselves less relevant to knitters by doing this -- and this is a risk that they can't afford to take.

I think there will continue to be a place for knitting design books. Apart from the aesthetic appeal of a beautifully-designed, well-photographed book, and apart from the old-school knitters who prefer books and paper to PDFs and computer screens, there is a built-in economic incentive for the knitter to purchase good knitting books.

Do the math. Buying an individual pattern (paper or PDF) will now cost you $5 or more, depending on the designer and pattern (some complex lace patterns may go up to $12. Again, I am NOT saying these patterns are too expensive, I am just looking at average price). If you buy three individual patterns at five bucks each, you've spent 15 dollars for 3 patterns. Compare the cost of a book: 20 or more patterns, often for that same 15 dollars or less. The per-pattern price is substantially lower for the book. Even if you assume that you might not care for a handful of the patterns in a 20- or 25-pattern book, you're still getting about 15-20 patterns you like for less than a dollar each.

The economics change, however, if I already own some of the patterns in the book. If I already own, say, half of them, then the per-pattern price rises. On a purely emotional level, it just become harder for me to justify buying a book when I already own some of the patterns in it. And again, speaking from an emotional place, I just can't get as excited about a book full of designs I've seen before, even if they're great designs, as I can about the possibilities inherent in a book full of brand-new content.

I think there's the risk of knitters getting glazed over when they start to perceive a lot of published books as simply recycled patterns that they've already seen (even if they are rephotographed; even if some portion of new content is added). With the Internet and PDFs and ebooks eating into sales, traditional publishers can't afford to be perceived as less relevant.

These are just my ramblings, from a book-lover with no publishing-company work experience.... Your thoughts and insights are always welcome.

Monday, August 01, 2011

May & June Book Report

Okay, you know the drill: here's what I read in May and June of this year....comments and suggestions always welcome.

I started out May by reading a couple of books in series that I already knew and liked. First up was A Red Herring Without Mustard, by Alan Bradley, the third Flavia de Luce book. I love this quirky series, featuring an eleven-year-old British girl who loves chemistry and hates her big sisters, puttering around a wreck of a manor house in the days following WWII. In this installment, Flavia goes to the village fair intending to have her fortune told by a suitably mysterious Gypsy -- and ends up burning the entire fortunetelling tent down. Mortified, Flavia invites the fortuneteller to park her caravan on Flavia's family's land -- at least until the woman recovers from the smoke she inhaled. During the course of the novel, Flavia discovers who is behind a brutal assault and a murder, investigates the theft of local antiques, and looks into the mystery of a disappearing baby. Very entertaining and enjoyable.

Heartstone and an earlier book (Sovereign), by C.J. Sansom, are part of the Tudor mysteries featuring a hunchbacked lawyer named Matthew Shardlake. I like these mysteries because they are very well-written, with terrific historical detail and great depth of character. In Heartstone, Shardlake has to untangle two complicated mysteries while England prepares for possible invasion by the French; Sovereign is an earlier installment in the series in which Shardlake accompanies King Henry VIII on a progress to York. I liked both, and am sorry I'll have to wait another year or two for the next sequel.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. This was an uncharacteristic impulse purchase for me, after it was highly recommended by the owner of an independent bookshop. It's a foray into magical realism, in which a young doctor, living in a country that sounds a lot like Yugoslavia or Serbia, tries to work through her grief and loss at her beloved grandfather's death, in part by recounting various folk tales that he used to tell (one involves a tiger, hence the title). It is absolutely staggering when the youth of the author registered with me -- she is so young, and that this is her first book is incredible. I enjoyed the book and found it compelling, and was glad I took a chance on it.

While I was breaking out of my mystery rut, I took advantage of the Amazon Vine program to procure a free copy of 22 Britannia Road, also a first novel, by Brit Amanda Hodgkinson. This book is a very affecting story about a couple whose lives are fractured by World War II. Silvana and Janusz are a Polish couple married in the early days of the war. Janusz joins the army, and they are separated for six years. When Janusz finally finds Silvana and their son, he has resettled in England and wants to become as English as he can, looking to the future as a way to get over the past. Silvana and their son Aurek have endured so much in their six years away from Janusz that they are strangers to him. The novel follows their attempts to start a new life together while coping with the unspeakable things each has experienced.

I got a little cocky after breaking out of my rut, and decided to try another free Vine selection that was uncharacteristic for me: Leeches by David Albahari. The plot concerns a writer who witnesses a man slapping a woman and finds himself obsessed with the incident, trying to figure out who the woman is and what happened to her. I should have known better; the book is written in a single paragraph (yes, all 300-some pages continue without a single paragraph break), employs a stream-of-consciousness approach (which I usually loathe), and take lengthy forays into issues relating to Jewish identity and the Kabbalah. It meanders, has an unreliable narrator and is absurdist. I hated it. My bad.

I did try another free Vine book, but stuck more to my traditional choices and opted for The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill (who writes the Dalziel and Pascoe series). This was a stand-alone thriller, and although it was completely conventional by comparison to some of the other stuff I'd read, it was a perfect beach book -- lots of plot, suspense and intrigue, even if not very realistic. Ditto for The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly, which I found at the library. I'd read a good review of this somewhere, and found it to be another plot-heavy, suspenseful thriller, with plot lines that went back and forth from the past to present.

One of the things I've been enjoying in the past year is trading books with my 13-year-old -- it seems like there have been so many really well done books classified as "young adult." He recommended The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin to me. I remember reading The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) by the same author as a kid, and liking it, so I gave it a try. It's a quick read, in which a mysterious man builds a fancy apartment complex and then rents it out to a very specific group of people -- a female judge, a podiastrist who moonlights as a bookie, a family that runs a restaurant, a dressmaker....When the mysterious man dies, he leaves his fortune to whichever resident of the building can untangle his puzzle. I enjoyed this book, which won the Newbery award. I learned (by reading the forward to the book) what an interesting woman Ellen Raskin was -- not only was she an award-winning author but she was an illustrator, too, and designed covers for many books (including the first edition of A Wrinkle in Time).

If you are a bibliophile like me, then one of the best things about reading is discovering a new series or author that you really love, and then working your way through the books they've written. I had the good fortune to discover a few new authors and mystery series.

Amazon has been recommending Aaron Elkins to me for a while, so I found one of the earlier books in his Gideon Oliver series, The Dark Place. Gideon Oliver is a forensic anthropologist called in to consult by the FBI. A body (really, a skeleton) has been found and it looks old. There is a spear point embedded in the bones, which intrigues Oliver: he wonders what kind of incredible strength was required to wield a spear so powerfully. Oliver has to untangle the mystery of the murder, set against the backdrop of the forests in the Olympic peninsula of Washington. Lots of atmosphere and a quick read, too.

First Drop by Zoe Sharp was another book recommended to me. It's out-0f-print, I think, but my library was able to order a copy on inter-library loan. This book features Brit Charlie Fox, a former special forces veteran who joins her ex-boyfriend's security company. Her first job is flying to Florida to protect the nerdy teenage son of a software executive. The book is extremely fast-paced and exciting. Part of the charm is seeing how Charlie builds a relationship with the teenager she's guarding, while trying to protect his life.

The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri, is the first of a series of books featuring Sicilian detective Inspector Montalbano. Amazon has been recommending this series to me for a while, and I finally gave it a try. Now I'm hooked. Montalbano is a funny, quirky detective -- impatient, brilliant, cynical, scheming -- and in this book, he is presented with a body locked in a car, pants down. But not all is what it seems, and Montalbano -- along with his amusing co-workers -- get to the bottom of things. Part of the charm of this book is the character of Montalbano; it's hard to come up with a truly original protagonist for a mystery series and yet Camilleri has done so. Another aspect of the books that's interesting is the Sicilian setting (there are actually notes in the back, added by the excellent translator, that explain some of the regional references a non-Italian might not get).

So there you have it: what I read in May and June. Don't be afraid to leave a comment or suggestion (I don't bite!).