Monthly Archives: May 2013

Where were we?

I’m not really clear on what happened to this week. I remember coming home from Maine… Then Neil and I both came down with the nastiest head/chest/throat germ I’ve had in years. Now I’m surfacing at the end of the week to find my dishwasher full of soup bowls and my knitting needles strangely empty.

garter and lace

I haven’t had the energy for much knitting at all, and certainly no energy for casting on the next book project. I haven’t even been able to pick buttons for my little baby sweater. There’s been a tiny amount of garter stitch going on, and a lot of napping on the couch. I vaguely remember a stockinette swatch, but haven’t got the mental energy to check the gauge, nevermind write the next book pattern.

So hopefully the fact that I’m here means I really am on the mend. The goal this weekend is to finish putting in the garden, so I’d like to have more energy by then please!

Whirlwind

We took a tour of New England this weekend. That wasn’t really the point, but it’s as good an explanation as any! Saturday parts of Vermont were under water and the rain was still coming down. But we were on the road by 6:45am headed to Maine for a wedding!

Neil was driving, and of course I was knitting. Somewhere in western Maine I finished the body of a tiny baby sweater, only to discover I’d left my dpns at home. That’s how the embroidery started…

perpernum embriodery

The wedding was beautiful, even if they did have to move it inside. Our friends are farmers and so everyone there agreed that rain on a wedding day is good luck, not a problem.

Our next stop (because Neil is awesome and enabling) was Knit Wit in Portland where I picked up an extra set of dpns (whew). Then we headed to Fort Williams where the continuing rain just made standing on cliffs overlooking the stormy ocean feel more stoic.

Fort Williams

From there we met up with Neil’s friend, then my friends. The next day we swung through Massachusetts for dinner (you know, because we clearly needed 4 states in 3 days) Finally we visited my family in NH on Monday.

Yes, I finished the tiny baby sweater (more details to come.)

interlude

I took a bit of a baby interlude between book designs. Ok ok, the booties happened mid-design. But I swear it was just a weekend fling!

baby knitting

Tiny knits are fun, they go so fast! I knit (what I hope is) a newborn hat in about 4 hours flat.

leaf hat

It’s the Woodcutter’s Baby, a cute little free pattern with corners! I think they’re adorable. And knit out of Manos silk/merino blend it is soft enough for any baby’s skin.

And the booties? They’re moc-a-socks. Technically I followed that infant pattern, but I didn’t get gauge. Not even close. I figure baby will grow into them. In the mean time I might make another set because they’re just so adorable!

moc booties

I absolutely love that they look like little shoes. But they have sock cuffs so a baby can’t kick them off. Babies don’t really need real shoes anyway.

A weekend and a half

Over the weekend Calley and I shot SEVEN finished recipes and three knitting designs. We took well over a thousand pictures and I put more than 350 miles on my car.

But it was worth it! Partly because Vermont in spring looks like this:
driving

Seriously, even the interstate is pretty.

Also worth it because our food photos look nothing like this:
behind the scenes

That’s just the angled view I had while holding reflectors and black boards and other lighting props.

Calley is amazing at setting up food shots. She had sketches in advance and knew the layouts and angles she wanted. The studio is in a spare bedroom at the farmhouse. Between their kitchen and the bits and bobs Calley and I collected we had plenty of props.

I learned so much about product photography. It’s a completely different world from modeled knitwear. Studio shots involve lots of lighting tweaks, reflectors for fill light, black boards for increasing contrast, and diffusers to cut shadows. I learned how to use them all (at least a little). And since the food doesn’t move you can take a photo with a 2 second shutter speed and get gorgeously crisp images (try doing THAT with a model) We’re certainly not as fast as the professional food photographers. But I think our amateur shots look just as good, even if it takes us twice as long to get there.

I’m happy to report that the food in this book is all real. We did not resort to tricks like adding glue to milk, or shellacking anything. Although Calley did spit-polish the radishes at one point…

And the star of this show? The reason we HAD to do at least two shoots this weekend?
dandys

They arrived in full force and on schedule. Thanks mother nature!

On books and photography

This chain of thought started on twitter, then I realized I have WAY more than 140 characters to say on the matter:

I’m in the process of pulling together a last minute photoshoot for the April book pattern. We’re not technically late here because April is an ugly month in Vermont, so we’d planned all along to do the shoot in May when the dandelions bloomed. But I will admit the flowers kinda snuck up on me. So Monday found me emailing friends hoping someone was available late afternoon Saturday for photos.

As before my awesome friends have pulled through, and with style. No, seriously. The person I’m working with Saturday has far more style than I do, she’s excited about modeling, AND she’s a knitter – always a plus.

The photos for this book are being done following a rather different mode than the usual book photography. I hear it’s normal for books to be photographed in one or two shoots. Just a handful of models are used, and each garment gets a short time in front of the camera. I admire those photographers for being able to produce such gorgeous results with whatever situation is thrown at them.

But we didn’t want that for our book. We knew that to capture the seasonality which is KEY to our theme we needed to shoot garments in multiple seasons. This means many shoots, many locations, and far more individual attention than any publishing house could afford to pay a pro photographer for. I’m eternally grateful that Cooperative Press is willing to let me do my own photography.

This freedom has allowed me to treat each knitted item like an indie release. I choose the friend. (hereafter referred to as “model”) I knit the garment in their size. I pick the perfect location, and reschedule as needed (see: maple shoot)

This means all our samples are modeled by normal people. I don’t generally like the “real people vs models” conversation so let me explain. What I mean here is our models are our friends. Calley’s cousin, Neil’s college buddy’s wife, my friend from knit group, etc… Our models are not pros. Surprisingly (or not) almost all of them know how to knit, at least a little. But what they don’t all know is how to act in front of a camera. And that’s ok. I have time during the shoot to help them feel at ease. I make sure there’s an activity, so they have something to do with their hands. I can distract them with funny stories because they’re my friends. They can laugh at the increasingly pregnant lady getting into awkward positions to capture just the right angle.

And I think this means every photo shoot has a little bit of our community built right into it. The essence of our book is built around locality, supporting small artists, using local ingredients, and enjoying good food with friends. I hope the little snips of our community can be seen in the photos when you look at them.

example vs warning

I have a sewing story to tell you. But it doesn’t have a very happy ending…

buttrick

I wanted to make myself a wrap dress. Something I could wear to various weddings and showers and that would grow as my belly grows. Thanks to crafters on Twitter and pinterest I thought I’d try sewing with Jersey fabric. I’m no fool, I knew for a first major jersey project I should start with a simple pattern. I’d work with cheap fabric (as much as I wanted to buy Alabama Chanin jersey cotton…) I’d even avoid making changes! It’d be simple, and perfect!

Yeah, right. I made so many mistakes on this dress that it’s dead on arrival. I’m not even going to bother finishing it :-/

The buttrick pattern I chose is, indeed, very simple*.

But my first problem was in the fabric itself. For my size I needed 2.25 yards. And to cut the pattern pieces you unfold the fabric so it is just one layer thick. That means I was working with a stretchy square 60×80 inches. Yup. I lost track of the selvages. And since this is knit fabric ALL FOUR EDGES ROLL. I couldn’t find the selvages again. Or I could, and I’d loose them instantly.

I ended up cutting the back and right front perpendicular to the selvage. And then I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the last piece in the same way. I thought, since it was 2 way stretch, I’d try cutting the left front parallel to the selvage and hope for the best.

The second problem actually happened first, but I didn’t catch it until later. See, I’d cut the front and the back at the same time. And for the back piece I had to flip the pattern stencil (because it’s symmetrical) So I thoughtlessly flipped the front piece to make it fit the fabric better.

Catch that? Now I have a front right piece cut with purl side out and perpendicular to the selvage. A front left piece cut knit side out and parallel to the selvage. And a back piece cut knit side out and perpendicular to the selvage.

I’m not even gonna bother assembling those to see how the dress would hang. I went to the store last weekend and got a very nice maternity dress on sale which will be fine for the wedding in 2 weeks. Maybe I’ll try sewing again in June…

*although THEY screwed up the artwork on the front. The dress is just 3 pieces and two ties. There’s no way, without major modifications, that you could make the top half of the dress a different color from the bottom half. It’s all one piece of fabric…

book progress, of a sort

We have a book photo shoot planned, not this weekend but the next. We’re hoping to do food photography for five or six recipes… My co-author has been assisting, and learning from, a pro. She has an indoor light setup and everything! So with any luck we’ll get some excellent shots*

We’re also hoping to shoot THREE knitting patterns. I seem to have slept through most of my first trimester and I admit I’m a bit behind on the book projects right now (my test knitters would probably agree). This should get me almost caught up with where I should be. Almost, because it’ll get the knitting caught up through April (which is almost like May)

The food is best photographed in groups, because when you go through the process of cleaning the kitchen, setting up the lighting, and prepping the food – you might as well do a bunch of recipes at once. I know there are designers who take the same approach to photographing knitwear. They get one model, two or three outfits and a few locations and run through the shots for an entire book, right? I guess so, but I’ve never done knitwear shots that way…
But the hardest part is both garments are knit in my size. Wait, correction: the size I used to be before I was pregnant… So now we need a model who’s my other size, give or take, and we need her to be free that planned weekend…

I’m sure it’ll all come together. I mean, we got that maple vest done (it only took 4 tries) how hard can this be?

*I think her photography was pretty awesome even before she started learning from the pros. I’m not nearly as worried as she is.

poultry

The chickens have been LOVING the recent spate of sunny weather. The grass and other plants are green and tasty. The bugs are out, the dust baths are dusty. Really, what more could a chicken ask for?

spring barred rock

I love watching these ladies, they’re better than TV (although some days that’s not hard).

scalpie

I’m a bit sad that we have no chicks this spring. But it’s for the best. Neil and I agreed that trying to process meat birds when I’m 7 or 8 months pregnant would not be a brilliant plan if we could avoid it. My mom agreed, so my parents ordered some extras this year to make up the difference.

old roo

And we have no layer chicks either. The addition of 5 young hens last fall means we have an ABUNDANCE of eggs right now.

eight eggs a day

We’ve gotten 16 in the last two days. I’m probably eat 3 eggs a day but we just can’t keep up with them! It’s a good problem to have, mostly.

first harvest

If you had asked me about green garlic last year at this time I’d have said that I’d NEVER plant enough garlic to harvest some of it green. But then I lost several plants in among the squash last summer, and this year they happily sprouted – far to crowded for each clove to grow into a new bulb.

green garlic

So tonight we had a stir fry of green garlic, mushrooms, and fresh spinach. The wonderful thing about green garlic is you can eat the whole plant. From the tiny white bulb at the bottom all the way to the tips of the green stem – the whole thing is a fresh, light version of dry garlic. If you were the early-spring localvore type these would be PERFECT in a stir fry with fiddleheads, asparagus, and dandelion greens. But since my garden has given me exactly ONE stem of asparagus I’m gonna stick to mushrooms for now…

Happy bloodroot

YOU GUYS! Let me show you my bloodroot flowers!

bloodroot

This may be my biggest gardening success. Not my showiest plant by any means. Bloodroot comes up early in the spring, blooms for just a day or three, and even the leaves are gone by the start of June.

But bloodroot is HARD to grow. First it can be hard to find the plants. They’re endangered, so you don’t want to just go digging them up in the woods. And they’re hard to grow from seed. Each flower produces just one (so it’s kinda surprising that you can buy the seed). And the internet tells me the seeds germinate best when ants carry them down under ground. Then it’s hard to find a place that makes them happy. They need sun in the spring to bloom, but shade is better once the blooms are done. They like a decent amount of moisture. Oh, and they hate to be disturbed, so you need a quiet corner of the garden.

edge of the woods

So how did this happen? As far as I can tell it’s pure luck. I mean, I did pick a quiet corner of a shady patch of my garden, near a willow. I figured that was the best possible site for them. My rhizome came from mom’s little patch of bloodroot in NH. When I put it in the ground 4 years ago it had 3 or 4 flowers. This year I have TWENTY. So it must be happy, right?