I'm happy to be hosting Jean Moss today who is talking about her new beautiful book, Sweet Shawlettes. Since I'm all about spinning right now, and what better to use handspun for but shawls, I was honored to get a preview copy (it's gorgeous) and the chance to ask her a few questions.
Please leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book! I'll draw a random winner on Monday.
The book came to me out of the blue when Erica Sanders-Foege, then a senior editor at The Taunton Press, rang to ask if I would consider doing it. The working title was Sweet Shawlettes, but Erica assured me I could change it if I didn't like it. However, for me the title had a certain broad brush appeal – whimsical, feminine, could even be ironic – or it might have been that I'm just addicted to alliteration, but knowing how difficult it is to come up with decent book titles, I quickly applied the if it's not broken, don't fix it principle.
I agreed to submit a synopsis and by the time I'd finished it I was completely hooked on the idea. Previously most of my books have concentrated mainly on sweaters, and this gave me the opportunity to explore a totally different form. Shawls, capes, cowls, furbelows or anything that can be worn around the neck was the brief and I was thrilled to explore as many ways of interpreting it as I could.
I was given complete control over yarns, stitches, colours, styles, techniques – something I really value. I was kept in the loop about each process of the book's production, consulted on the book's design and to my utmost surprise and great relief the editors at Taunton actually listened. In a previous hardcover book that shall be nameless (I should add with a different publisher), in the same situation I was treated like a jobbing author and ended up with a book I hated, where the images reflected completely different sweaters to the ones I'd designed.
I'm intrigued by the process of book-making from beginning to end – the shoot is the icing on the cake when you see your designs come alive. With my two previous books, Wandering Spirits and In The Mood, I was given the freedom to deliver the completed print-ready book on disk, which I now admit could have been an absolute disaster! However, a steep learning curve ensued and ultimately it was such an exhilarating and satisfying experience. Sweet Shawlettes was photographed in Connecticut, so for various reasons, not the least of which being that I live in the UK, it wasn't possible for me to be there. Consequently I was really nervous about the pictures and was mega-relieved when I saw Alexandra Grablewski's strong and beautiful images.
I'm so glad I decided to write the book now. It took me on an interesting journey exploring the construction, techniques, yarns and the history of neck wraps and I'll always be grateful to Taunton for offering me this opportunity.
Not surprisingly I do enjoy making shawls. Everyone in my family received one this Xmas – one size fits all, so no sweat about fitting. Recently there's been a baby boom in our family, so I've been doing a lot of tiny sweaters which have a built in feel good factor as you just know you're going to finish the project before something else grabs your attention – good for limiting the UFOs. Oh and also I've knit my favourite shadow knit baby blanket about four times this year.
3. What was your favorite part of pulling this book together?
Definitely the adrenalin rush that you get when there's a blank sheet in front of you and it's uncharted territory and you can either get totally paralysed or take the plunge. It often takes me some time to get past the paralysis stage, but this is what I call the cooking time when the ideas are crystallising and I need displacement activities. I chop things down in the garden, make lots of food, play my guitar, or even clean the house, though that would only happen if I'd done everything else first! Sometimes I even dream about designs and have been known to get up in the middle of the night and rush upstairs to my office to dash off a quick sketch. When I eventually do dive in, the first thing I do is to map out the book in detail, making lists of the types of designs, yarn, colours, techniques, stitches, moods etc and then set about placing them in the relevant chapters, with the aim of getting an overall balance. I then set about the swatching, which is always exciting as you can never tell how a yarn will behave with a particular stitch pattern until you knit it and you can usually count on some surprises.
One of Britain's leading knitwear designers, Jean Moss's innovative combinations of texture, colour and styling have been widely influential over the years. A self-taught knitter, she has been producing her own unique collections of handknits for more than twenty years, as well as designing for Rowan Yarns and many international fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren, Laura Ashley and Benetton. She teaches in the UK and Europe and is a regular visitor to the US.
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