Over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jean Moss several times when teaching on her Irish tours. I’m always a little jealous of the knitters on those tours, they seem to be having a great time and they have wonderful hosts!
I jumped at the chance of joining the blog tour for Jean’s new book ‘Great Little Gifts to Knit‘. For my stop on the blog tour I wanted t ask Jean a few questions about her design process and how this book came together for her. Read on to hear all about it!
In the introduction to your new book ‘Great Little Gifts to Knit’ you talk about how this book is a departure from your normal subject matter as it is your first book of accessories. Why did you decide to do a book of smaller knits and why did it make you nervous?
Some people plan their lives and some people meander along following their nose, making many small decisions that collectively shape their lives. I happen to be one of the latter, so in answer to your question, Carol, I didn’t decide to do a book of small projects until Taunton, my publisher, asked me to. They know the market and had obviously noticed a gap.
The main reason I was anxious about it was that I knew it was to be a full length book and every single project was going to be different, so it wasn’t a case of looking up my favourite spec for a particular sweater shape and then crunching the numbers, it was a whole new ball game for every piece. With garments I feel confident, but baby cocoons, toys, backpacks, dog jackets, socks etc were new challenges. Would I get it right?
As it happens I found it hugely interesting to be able to explore all these other shapes and consequently sometimes went a little too far down the road with some of them. That’s the reason that many of the projects have extra colourways, some have choice of stitch (for intermediate or beginner knitters), or I’ve given a choice of two different weights of yarn.
The book is divided into four sections; Baby, Hers, His and Home. Did that division happen organically as you were working or was that division there before you started?
Although, as I’ve mentioned, I tend not to plan my life, I do plan my books before I ever knit a stitch. Once I had the overall concept of a book of gifts, I started to make an outline of the four chapters, the type of projects in each chapter, and the distribution of yarn weights, colours and techniques – to make the book as wide-ranging as possible whilst maintaining some sort of coherence.
Which section did you find the easiest to design?
Hers of course. I love to design for me!
Do you have a favourite design in the book?
Not really. I’m a self-confessed tech freak and get a real buzz out of exploring the stitch, yarn and form of each design in turn. However if you press me I’d have to say it’s the Welcome Toran. I love the playful colours and that knitters can adapt the concept to fit their own skills, lives and interiors. Also the Hindu/Buddhist idea of a door-hanging which blesses everyone who walks beneath it really appeals to the old hippie in me.
The yarns used in the book are all from Rowan, what do you like about their yarns and why were they a good match for the book?
I have a confession to make. Much as I love Rowan yarns and have designed many pieces for their magazines over the years, it would have been great to include some lesser known indie spinners and dyers. I like to promote interesting yarns and get a huge kick out of knitting with gorgeous new fibres – their contribution to our whole knit experience is vital.
However, the time frame of the book didn’t allow me to do the necessary research and so I fell back on what I know best. Ideally I would have loved to have designed at least half the book with new yarns, so if there are any indie folks out there reading this, please get in touch for next time.
From having met you in person I know that you love bright, vibrant colours. This shines through in your book. Do you think your yarn color choices reflect your own personal style?
I’m so pleased you think it shines through in the book. Colour makes me happy, it makes me smile. I’m a synaesthete, seeing every letter of every word as a colour, which in turn makes up the overall colour of every word. For me, there are no nasty colours, it’s just the way some colourways are put together which doesn’t appeal to me.
I am perplexed when I hear people say they have no sense of colour, what I think they mean is they have no colour confidence. We all make mistakes, nothing is foolproof, it’s just a matter of taking the time to find out what makes things pop for you, then you’ve cracked it.
Not sure I’ve answered your question here, Carol, so I’ll just add that although I would agree that my colour choices do reflect my personal style, my choices for a book are restricted by the storyboard, availability of yarn, and getting a good balance in the book.
As a fellow designer I always find balancing work, travel and family can be difficult. You work on so many full length books and travel so much how do you manage to keep everything together and organised?
I suppose my early work in the eighties, designing for high-profile US designers, taught me to have a structured approach to design. I can’t say that I’m the most organized person in my personal life, but I know in my working life there is a path I always follow for every design: sketch, graded specification sheet, yarns and colours, chart and/or stitches, swatching, and finally the pattern.
Recently I’ve tried writing a pattern after I’ve knitted the project, but I don’t feel comfortable doing it this way as I can sometimes forget what I’ve done. For me, it’s far better to write the graded pattern in one go, then get the sample size knitted by a test knitter, ironing out any problems as they come up.
The lives of working women are never easy, and in freelance knit design there’s the added difficulty that if you don’t have your own yarn line, you’re only as good as your last book or project. On the personal front, there’s always going to be something that suffers, there’s no way around it. I feel you just have to teach yourself to be aware of the potential pitfalls, find a way of coping through yoga, meditation, long walks or whatever suits you and duck and dive your way through. I’m still working on it.
Jean has generously offered for one lucky reader to win a digital copy of the book! if you want to put your name in the hat, please leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm EST on wednesday, 11th of September.
To find out more about Jean and here newest book follow along for the rest of the blog tour:
Blog Tour Itinerary
Blog Tour Itinerary
Knittedbliss Julie Crawford Wed 11 Sep
Black Bunny Fibers Carol Sulcoski Thur 12 Sep
Rhythm of the Needles Joanne Conklin Fri 13 Sep
Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen Mon 16 Sep
Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford Tues 17 Sep
Zeneedle Margene Smith Wed 18 Sep
Redshirt Knitting Erika Barcott Thur 19 Sep
A Friend to Knit With Leslie Friend Fri 20 Sep
Craft Sanity Jennifer Ackerman Haywood Mon 23 Sep
Connieleneknits Connie Lene Tues 24 Sep
Knitsofacto Annie Cholewa Wed 25 Sep
Ulla Bella Anita Tormoen Thur 26 Sep
A Really Good Yarn Julie Schilthuis Fri 27 Sep
Urban Yarns Alexa Ludeman Sat 28 Sep
Linda Marveng Linda Marveng Mon 30 Sep
Yarnings Jen Tues 1 Oct
Tentenknits Margaux Hufnagel