Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Twisted Woolly Toppers (by Woolly Wormhead) Blog tour

I am thrilled to have been asked by the lovely Woolly Wormhead to be the first port of call in the blog tour to launch her new book “Twisted Woolly Toppers”. I got to know Woolly initially online, like so many of us, and we found ourselves sharing and discussing the many issues and complexities that arise for a self employed designer. We also found that we had much in common. Both of us former art and textiles teachers and independent authors, we had both had very mixed experiences of the formal teaching system in the UK, particularly as it is applied to the teaching of art and crafts. I couldn’t begin to calculate how many conversations have been exchanged between us and how many problems discussed and resolved through the power of the web!

One of these discussions in fact, is what established our working relationship. For those of you who don’t know, I am, well my business is, in a non-traditional way, Woolly’s publisher.

When Woolly self published Going Straight, her first book, it was printed by Lulu, a large online publishing/print company. As a customer ordered a book, a single book was printed out and despatched. Lulu’s costs were becoming more and more prohibitive, leaving Woolly as the designer and author, with very little return for all the effort and expense which goes into the publication of a book. The Lulu system also prevented her from being able to offer her print book for sale via retailers or at shows.

Self publishing has historically received negative press - the suggestion being that the author couldn’t attract a publisher. More and more designers, artists and illustrators, including Woolly, are making the decision themselves not to look for a traditional publisher but to find a business model which ensures they retain control of their product and receive a viable return on their time and effort. There are unfortunately, marketing issues that stem from this decision to go it alone so to combat these traditional barriers Gavin (my husband) and I had created a new business model for ourselves to publish and sell my book, A Stitch in Time. We set up Arbour House Publishing as our own publishing house, enabling us to also tap into the traditional distribution networks in the publishing world and to help other authors in a similar position to ourselves.

To resolve Woolly’s problem, we became her print publisher. Our relationship works very differently to that of a regular publisher and author. Woolly has complete control of her product, providing us with the finished artwork and selling the digital version of the books herself through her website. Arbour House prints and publishes short runs of Woolly’s books enabling us to offer them both to retail and wholesale customers. We primarily sell Woolly’s books through our own online shop and ship them all over the world. What is great for the customer is that they deal either with Woolly or with ourselves so they are never more than an email away from the source of the product they want to purchase!

This model works well for all concerned, but particularly because we believe in what each other is trying to do. When Woolly asked me to kick off the blog tour she asked me two really BIG questions:

Why I am happy to endorse and publish her books/designs?

What do I like about her work, from the perspective as a co-designer and as her publisher?

After considerable thought, I realised that the answers to these two questions are the same:

Woolly, is one of the most sophisticated and talented designers I can think of, with a completely instinctive and unstoppable need to design and create. Her enthusiasm and intelligence is inspiring to be around and shines through in her work. Every time I knit a Hat Woolly has designed I learn something new, but without having to struggle as the patterns are so well written, the photography is beautiful, the presentation of the pattern is exceptionally well considered and as a result I admire her work immensely.

Freccia from Twisted Woolly Toppers

This is why I am more than happy to endorse and publish her books and also why I love her work from every perspective!

And also why I couldn’t wait to see Twisted Woolly Toppers. I have seen Woolly evolve over the last couple of years into a more and more accomplished designer and this development is what can be observed in Twisted Woolly Toppers. Each of the 10 Hats in the book can be knitted in several sizes often fitting from toddlers right through to men. Each design uses twists, cables and bias techniques to echo the beautiful architecture Woolly observes around her in Italy.

Tinker from Twisted Woolly Toppers

I particularly love the sketchbook photos of the area included in the book which really help you understand the ideas behind these Hats. The patterns are clearly written with both written and charted options to follow for each design, with different shapes and styles to choose from. For existing fans of Woolly Wormhead this book offers you something new and for those of you who haven’t tried one of her patterns this is a great place to start! The book can be bought either as a PDF direct from the Woolly Wormhead website or the print copies are available from knitonthenet along with her two other books Going Straight and Wee Woolly Toppers.

Woolly will be continuing her blog tour next week at followed by the dates listed below. In addition to this she will also be travelling over from Italy next week to launch her book in person at and then spending a bit of time with yours truly!

Blog Tour Calendar 25th March 1st April 8th April 15th April
Faina Goberstein 22nd April 29th April 6th May
Janel Laidman 13th May
Jaala; Spiro 20th May

All images courtesy of Woolly Wormhead

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Make, Do and Knit, knitting and making fair

Here in the north west of England, we struggle to find any knitting and crafting events to go to, so a few months ago, my good friend Helen and I, decided to put on a little event of our own, called Make, Do and Knit. Its taking place at the Bluecoat School in Wavertree, Liverpool, which is a grade II listed building. I will be there signing books and also coordinating the fashion shows which along with garments from A Stitch in Time and Vintage Gifts to Knit will be the first glimpse of some of the garments from A Stitch in Time II. This is really exciting for me as I haven't had the chance as yet to see these garments styled or 'alive'.

There are lots of other exciting things happening, including my lovely friend Woolly Wormhead travelling over from Italy for the launch of her new book Twisted Woolly Toppers and also, and most importantly, lovely things to buy from some of my favourite vendors. There's a full list of stalls and further information on the Make, Do and Knit website. We've also got a twitter account @makedoandknit if you want to be kept informed with goings on.

I hope to see some of you there. Do come and say hello won't you?

for now
Ruby xxx

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Some Designing and looking forward ... for a change!

Before I begin this post properly I just need to thank everyone once again for their words of support. You have no idea how much they have helped me keep going - even today when we're still waiting for our money and a nasty man knocked on the door demanding it!

We have just returned from a lovely weekend at the Unravel event in Farnham, Surrey where I gave a talk about "Fashion in the Ration" on each of the two days and in return had a little stand selling our wares. It was lovely to see old and new friends and to discuss some plans for the future - the gossip from the show for my next post!

A pattern that is available right now is one I was working on several months ago for The Knitter.
Its a very funny experience finishing a design and then sending it off in the post, and then months later its suddenly out there without your involvement.

So let me introduce "Mitford".

I had been reading about the Mitford Sisters when I was last submitting designs to The Knitter and my head was buzzing with the thought of those glamorous, hedonistic days of the early thirties, with willowy, long limbed, bobbed haired 'gells' charging round the countryside to one party after another in the latest motor car. I had seen examples of these marvellous, voluminous sleeves on many garments of the period and wanted to interpret them into a hand knitted design. The design of the sleeves proved quite a challenge but after a number of attempts I finally got the look I was after.

The volume is created by working increases very rapidly over only a limited number of rows and predominantly at the 'front' of the sleeve so the outside part - away from the body - is the fullest.
It then decreases more slowly from one textured section to the next until down to the normal required sleeve width.

The body length is short and to be worn to the waist. I have worked the body in one piece to the underarm - not common practice in 1930s written patterns, but makes much more sense here with the main body pattern twisting around the torso. The body is divided at the underarm and then raglan and yoke shaping worked back and forth on the two body pieces. Once that is completed the sleeves are worked. The slightly unusual construction continues with the raglans of the sleeve and body being sewn together at this point and then stitches picked up round the curved neckline and the textured yoke is then worked.

It was quite a complicated design to produce but I think would make a very interesting knit. At some point I would really like to knit one of these for myself! The sample garment was knitted in Sublime Extra fine merino 4 ply which was a perfect yarn for this design with a clear, neat, defined stitch detail which showed particularly well on the stocking stitch panels of the body. The pattern is exclusive to The Knitter for six months.

I do hope you like her.

for now a positive
Ruby xxx