Thursday, April 30, 2009

Honey, I'm home...

Thank you, dear readers, for the reassurance regarding feeling betwixt and between. I appreciate having company during my "waiting" period. In the meanwhile....I've made it safely to Virginia. I drove 716 miles yesterday. It was a long, long (did I say long?) and rainy drive. Eleven and a half hours, but really 12.5 hours, because of the time change from Central to Eastern time. I left home at a little before 7 AM, and now I am at my parents' house.

In between, I saw miles and miles of spectacular rolling countryside, flowering spring trees and greenery, horses, cows, and even...sheep. The most interesting livestock:
1 herd of minature horses
1 enormous hillside full of meat goats (maybe pygmies, but hard to tell from the car)
1 large flock of Suffolk? sheep (black head, white body, as seen from a distance)
1 small flock of extremely woolly sheep in need of shearing

Sadly, I saw two loose and lost dogs on highways, and a third that had already been hit by a car. I struggled each time with whether to stop and do something about it, but given the distances I had to drive, I kept going. I hope someone else helped them this time.

You'll note the lack of photos here. I couldn't drive and take pictures. For the safety of everyone on the Cumberland Parkway, I-75, I-40, I-81, and I-66, you'll be relieved that I didn't!

I did however eat a lot of chocolate with espresso in it, spiced paprika almonds, and fruit roll ups on my journey. My stomach is in recovery today. :)

Now, on to the big show! Here's my official book schedule again. If you live in the DC area, I hope to see you!

Thursday, April 30th, 7:30 pm
I'll be giving my first book talk in Northern Virginia! I'll be at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia. This will be a special presentation prepared for the congregation where I grew up, complete with a trunk show and book signing. Everyone is welcome, it's free, AND I hear there will be snacks! Bring your knitting!

Friday, May 1, 2-5 pm
A book signing at Nature's Yarns, a lovely yarn shop in Fairfax, Virginia...can't wait!

Sunday, May 3, 1-3pm
A book signing at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in Howard County, Maryland. I'll be at Carol Leigh's Hillcreek Fiber Studio. (I'll also be checking out the festival, so if you bump into me before or after the signing, say hey!)

I will try to shoot photos for the next post or two as well. Now that I'm not should be safer!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

almost but not quite

I'm almost ready to leave on my trip. The stuff I need to teach workshops, do the trunk shows and book signings? Check! That's packed. The snacks are ready (Check!), the audio books checked out from the library. I'm nearly there. Tomorrow, at an unseemly hour, I'll be in my Yellowmobile and starting the drive east...and, you know, maybe 12 hours and 700+ miles later, I'll get to my folks' house, just one long neighbor state away. No sweat, right? As long as I've got the audio books and the chocolate with espresso and the almonds, I should be ok, I hope.

Then there are the other "almosts." In an attempt to calm myself this week, I've been spinning a lot on my antique Canadian Production Wheel. It's a meditative thing, this wheel. It makes an occasional few thunks as this enormous wheel goes round, and puts a lot of spin into my yarn. The yarn it produces? thin. Think very thin. I'm spinning up some Shetland, and when it's a 2 ply, it'll probably be about fingering weight. Here are two different photos, which show the dark brown color in two different kinds of light. It's the same yarn. I'm up to 6 balls now, ready to ply.

I've been trying something new while I spin. I have these arm/leg weights that are theoretically for exercise. I'm not a big fan of the exercise thing, beyond walking my dogs. So, I've been spinning with weights on. The weights maybe make me burn just a few more calories. It's not a big difference, despite several days of spinning an hour a day. Another almost, not quite moment. Still, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

I've been going through things in my house in a very slow way. It's cleaning--when I get 'round to it.... I finally faced this stashed project, which is:
a) a lesson in why silk/cotton should not be steeked
b) a lesson in how to do stranded knitting and why wool is best for stranded knitting
c) a lesson in how to measure oneself before designing on the needles
d) a lesson in how one's measurements (ahem) change in the many years since starting this project. Think...rather matronly changes.

After salvaging what yarn I could, I did something I haven't done in-forever. I just chucked the rest of this knitted sampler in the trash. It couldn't be ripped since I'd steeked portions of the garment. It couldn't be stretched to fit me by any stretch of the imagination. These things happen, I suppose. I gave it up, saw all that I learned from it, long ago (probably 10 years and 15 lbs ago?) freed it from the "unfinished projects" box and sent it onward on its journey.

I also (with the professor's help) ripped half of a sweater knit from chenille, which was trying in its own way, but at least I didn't have to throw anything out. Now I have some chenille yarn (annoying to knit the first time, as I remember) to knit with again. Ahh. Yarn rebirth.

This week, I released two new patterns into the world (hurray!) but the third one didn't quite get there. It took a while to finish tech editing, and it's not online yet. It can wait, I guess.
Cause, you see, the project's called "Due North." We're still waiting to hear from these folks regarding our summer moving plans. That is, we're waiting to receive official notification about whether we're moving North (west.) I'm trying to be patient, really I am. It's just that we had unofficial reassurance that we'd know for sure by Friday, April 24, or at the latest... yesterday. Yup. Yesterday. It's been a long few days.
Some days are like this, I know. I'm trying hard to be upbeat, calm, and patient. I'm looking forward to my trip. I'm almost ready. Just wish things weren't quite so "almost" but not quite. Sort of betwixt and between. It happens to everyone, right?
Please, tell me it happens to everyone?!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

polka dot socks

Need a little whimsy?


You may have seen these before. These socks came out recently as part of a big, book length collection of socks and hats. However, it occurred to me to offer an individual pattern download (and it was possible, according to the contract I signed). I figure many people might just be Polka Dot Sock fans. That maybe, you wanted to download the pattern and have an instant gratification terms of socks! These are now available on my website for the first time for as a $5 download. I'm including the description, too, if you're curious.

We aren’t all brave enough to wear yellow polka dot bikinis, but there’s nothing to lose by knitting some fun polka dot socks! These socks for women and children are done on US size #1(2.5mm) double pointed needles in a riot of two color stranded knitting at 8 stitches to the inch. There’s an inch of K2,P2 ribbing, a simple to follow chart for the intermediate knitter with a short retro cuff (bobby sock length to go with one’s saddle shoes) and a short row heel and toe, inspired by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. An extra polka dot repeat is easily added or subtracted to adjust the size, or substitute other colors for boys and men who deserve more polka dot fun in their lives!
Kid’s Small(Kid’s Large, Woman’s Small, Woman’s Large)
Kid’s Small fits shoe sizes 9-12
Kid’s Large fits shoe sizes 13-3
Woman’s Small fits shoe sizes 5-7
Woman’s Large fits shoe sizes 8-10
Sock Circumference:

Foot length from Toe to Heel:
7(8,9,10)"/ 17.8(20.3,22.9,25.4)cm or length to fit recipient

PS: I am likely to be knitting socks on my trip. Simple socks, good after a long drive or on a crowded plane. Do you choose simple or complicated knitting for your travels?

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

A new pattern!

You may be wondering what I'm up to, lately. (me too, frankly...) I've been trying really hard to tie up loose ends and to get ready for a 2 week trip away from home! (see the details in my last post...) At the same time, I've written up three new patterns for pdf download on my website. Two of the patterns are already live. I'll announce them here one at a time, and get them up on Ravelry soon.
This is... the Two Point Scarf.

The description:

This scarf’s an easy knit with DK weight yarn in garter stitch, and its whimsy allows you to adjust it to fit your personal style. Pull either of the points through any of the buttonholes, and you have a fashion conscious- and possibly even warm- option! The shortest distance between two points is a line…unless, of course, you add in some buttonholes along the way. This fast to knit item uses #5(3.75mm) needles and needs approximately 330 yards or 300 meters of DK weight yarn—use more for a longer scarf. Lace a silk scarf through the holes for added flair.

Ideal for a beginning knitter, or for a mindless warm weather project! It's also perfect for either a solid color or a hand-dyed yarn. Hope you like it...and now, I just have to get a chance to announce another pattern or two in the next day or two on the blog. More to come...

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

an autograph trail

The comments in response to my last post were pretty interesting. I'm not, personally, an autograph hound. Like Donna, I'm much more likely to buy a book or get it signed if I've heard the author speak. However, the signature itself doesn't mean so much for me...unless I've also had an exchange with the author.

Now, given the signature business I appear to be in, that might need some clarification! Here's why I feel this way. The professor and I read a lot. We have hundreds (if not thousands) of books. We buy lots of books and--here's the crucial part--we give away lots of books to our local library book sale once we've read them. For me, a great trip away includes chances to browse in a used book store or a great independent bookshop. I read a novel or two a week. We listen to audio books. We use reference books. Yet, we rarely pay full price for a book--simply because we go through so many. We aren't like Erasmus, who said, "When I have money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes."

Why? Well, we probably like food too much. :) So far, the best meal this week? Homemade potato gnocchi, served with wild mushrooms and spring greens, sauteed in white wine, butter and a bit of cream. Mmmh.

That said, if we know the author, we pay full price. We'll buy two books. We believe in supporting other writers....and this is the perfect lead in...

I'm going on tour!! The below list is the "Fiber Gathering tour" I've cooked up so I can see folks, sign a few books, and travel a bit. Since this tour is entirely funded by moi, I'm staying with friends and family. I'm limited in terms of time, money, and distance. Still, I'll be "getting around" in the next few weeks, and I wanted to answer the questions of those commenters (Mickey?!) who asked where I will be.

first, a 700+ mile drive east...
Thursday, April 30th, 7:30 pm
I'll be giving my first book talk in Northern Virginia! I'll be at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia. This will be a special presentation prepared for the congregation where I grew up, complete with a trunk show and book signing. Everyone is welcome, it's free, AND I hear there will be snacks! Bring your knitting!

Friday, May 1, 2-5 pm
A book signing at Nature's Yarns, a lovely yarn shop in Fairfax, Virginia...can't wait!

Sunday, May 3, 1-3pm
A book signing at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in Howard County, Maryland. I'll be at Carol Leigh's Hillcreek Fiber Studio. (I'll also be checking out the festival, so if you bump into me before or after the signing, say hey!)

(there will then be a short break to spend time with small nephews...)

On Wednesday, mid week, I'll travel to New England via plane. I'll spend a couple of days with my best friend, Dr. Anne, and her parents in Vermont. I'll probably see my Boston uncle, too...

Sunday, May 10th
I'll be at the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool Festival. There will be a Fiber Gathering book talk from 11-12pm, with a book signing to follow. From 1-4, I'll be teaching a workshop called "Taking Spinning Back to the Basics." If you'd like to work on your skirting, teasing, flicking, carding, and combing skills with raw and washed fleece, this class is for you!

On May 11th and 12th, I will journey back, via plane and automobile, from New England to the DC area to Kentucky.

On May 22nd & 23rd, I will be at the Middle Tennessee Fiber Festival in Dixon, Tennessee. I'll be teaching "Taking Spinning Back to the Basics," doing the after dinner lecture (on fiber festivals, of course) and then doing another class called "Knit Green"--about fiber arts and sustainability-- the next day.

OK, that's May for you! I have a couple of local events lined up for June, and few things still remain to be scheduled, which I'll list later. I'm not making any commitments beyond June, because (while we're still waiting for official notification), I'm planning to move to Winnipeg, (yup, that's in Manitoba, Canada!) in July/August of this year.

Note: These are photos of Harry, featured with his pink ball, and Sally, with her favorite sheep toy. I will miss them terribly while gone for two weeks solid. Luckily, the professor will be here to take care of them. He says they plan to stay up late, watch scary movies, and drink rootbeer...I guess I'll miss him too--just not the scary movies!

So, will I see you on the May road trip? I hope so. Tell me in the comments, below!

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

rain & recovery

This weekend was my first opportunity to go out and about as an "author" at the Southern Kentucky book fest. First, there was the authors' reception. We donned business attire. I had a glass and a half of wine, awkwardly talked to a few writers, spilled a mushroom canape down the front of my black dress, and couldn't wait to go home to eat cereal for dinner on my couch! Meanwhile, my (normally shy) professor managed to talk to the president of his university, a dean, and Kevin Clash, or the Sesame Street puppeteer better known as Elmo.

Saturday went better. On Saturday, there was an all day "book signing" event, as well as panel discussions. At the beginning of the day, I saw the enormous stack of 20-some books and felt worried. I brought my knitting and spinning and settled in for the long haul! To my surprise,nearly everyone who said they might come to see me--did. It was fun to see my friends walk away with a signed copy of the book...and I got to do some fun inscriptions. (One book was inscribed to the friend and "the Eleanors"--that's what we call her chickens. The Eleanors provide us with eggs every now and again, I am grateful for their hard work!) Another book was bought as a present for a shearer whose photo is in the book...another fun inscription. Finally, one of the models bought books for several relatives..and I got to mention how beautiful she was in each book I signed. :)

It was also the first time I saw complete strangers rush up to the table, grab the book, and look down, pasted to the photos, and clasp it to their chests. That was my cue... "Are you a knitter!?" Their faces would light up. It was an amazing experience.

The panel discussion went well, despite a distinct absence of an audience. It was a weird combination of speakers (4 cookbook writers and me) and topics. I'd begged some friends to come, and whew, thank goodness they did! Afterwards, the food writer from the Lexington paper thanked me for inviting folks. The audience was about 8 people, and I knew 6 of them!

I returned to my "station" and spent the last hour of the festival with my drop spindle, spinning. The crowds had thinned so fewer people stared! I managed to sign and sell all but one book. I think that could be called a success? The professor took me out to dinner and I was in bed by 8:30. Turns out it's hard work smiling and being nice for that long...

Today's a day to recover. I've snapped a couple of photos of my most recent spindle-spun project for you, which I finished a couple of days ago. This is a combination of Polwarth wool/Silk from Aurelia Wool in British Columbia, Canada and Cut Silk Waste (usually for paper making, embroidery, etc.) from The Handweavers Studio in London. I buy these odds and ends as souvenirs when I travel. Then, by serendipity, I discover they match each other nicely. I hand carded the wool/silk blend with the colored cut silk waste (it took less than 45 minutes), spun it up on a Crown Mountain spindle (mine's ebony) and then plied it. It's about 40 yards of yarn, I think...perfect for knitting into some scribble lace with some Sea Silk yarn in the same pearly shades. You might be able to see the ball of yarn in the back of the photo.

Today I spun Shetland wool on my Canadian Production Wheel, listened to some folk music, and enjoyed staying home!

As an aside, I've really come to appreciate a rainy day. Both dogs just sleep nearly continuously. (when compared to highstrung barking and chase from window to window? Give me rain! It's quiet AND it makes the flowers grow.)

The book signing made me wonder--how important is it to you to know or meet the author of a book? Is a book signed by the author more valuable to you? What do you think? I'm curious...

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Thursday, April 16, 2009


Before I say anything else, I've got to mention that there is still one outstanding pile of "well-traveled" yarn around here. Poor Mickey, I'm sorry, I never heard from you so we are trying this again. I returned to, and k8lh, you are a winner! The best of this is I think I know how to reach you (I know k8lh in real life!) so this should be easy this time. K8lh, darling, can you drop me a line? If I don't hear from you in a day or two, I'll be bugging you!

Now, on to other, Have You Seen This Amazing Review?! Ok, I can't lie, when I woke up this morning and saw all the emails, I thought, "uh oh. They've found me out. There are a lot of emails here. What did I do wrong? It could be bad..." But it wasn't! It was all wonderful stuff, congratulatory emails about this fabulous book review. I am so happy. Thank you, thank you. I'm pretty excited to know folks like the book. That much.

Yesterday I had a bit of a slow day and decided to wash some skeins of handspun I had lying around. I thought, gee, haven't been spinning much, no big deal...and then I found I was washing 7 skeins of yarn. Wow, they pile up when I'm not paying attention! Three large skeins of cream colored Romney (2 ply, lofty heavy worsted weight), 2 skeins plus a sample spindle skein of gray and brown Shetland--larger skeins spun on my great wheel (2 ply, sportweight), and one skein of 2 ply gray Romney. Yummy--and now clean--stuff!

I'm off to take a walk in the sunshine with my spring-crazed dogs and enjoy the excitement of a good review. In the meanwhile, here's a photo of a cherished young relative and the professor. They spent some time learning to catch butterflies together last weekend. (Note: the professor was the butterfly; guess who had to catch him!)

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

want to take a class?

Psst! Hey Spinners!
I'm signed up to teach a workshop at New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival on Sunday, May 10th. Here's the description:

Many spinners rely exclusively on processed wool roving these days. What’s it like to take it back to the basics? This class will cover techniques for processing and spinning raw wool and washed locks. We’ll use a variety of basic tools to create yarns and get back to the way that many people around the world used to spin or still spin. Note: you need to be able to spin to take this class.

and here's the link to the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool website.

The thing is, nobody's signed up and paid the fee yet! ($35 before April 15, $45 afterwards...)
If no one signs up, I have to cancel the event. So, if you're in New England and you want to take the class, please check out the link above and pre-register with me soon! (I hear tell that a couple people are interested, but without the payment in's hard to tell if this is going to work!)

If you're not interested, but you know someone else who might want to learn about skirting, washing fleece, teasing, flick carding, hand cards, combs and raw fleece and more? Please let them know. (If you live in Tennessee, I'll be teaching this again locally on Memorial Day weekend.)

Sorry for this commercial break. Now, back to the regularly scheduled program....

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Monday, April 13, 2009

old town walk

I've sent off yarn to three of the four contest winners! Mickey, if you're out there, get in touch with me so I can send you a present!

While we were visiting my family in Virginia, we had an afternoon to ourselves. So, the professor and I took a walk that I've always loved. It's changed some, but it's also still very much the same.

We took a couple of metro trains to Alexandria. (I knitted the whole way.) At Braddock Road Station, I waved out the window to my father's old high school, George Washington, which is now a middle school. My dad grew up in Alexandria, so it's old stomping grounds to some extent. (Colonial home to some of our nation's most famous legislators AND Joanne's dad...)

When I was a teenager, my mother used to worry when I said I was going down to Old Town. The area near the Potomac River waterfront was gentrified; but the rest of King Street was not. She worried about the walk from the metro station down to the "good" part of town. These days, it's hard to find a part of Old Town that hasn't been gentrified! There's even a free trolley that brings people down to the waterfront, making a relatively long walk a bit less so. We took the trolley and started by the water.

First, we stopped in at the Torpedo Factory. I soaked up the art and visited with a family friend who has had a studio there for a long time. We wandered up King Street, taking in the sights. Along the way, we stopped for an ice cream (cup only, no cone, no kinds with cookies, since it's Passover!) and we ambled into a used book store.

Then we magically turned, away from boutiques, antiques, and bric-a-brack, to a knitting store. (yes, I know where they ALL are.) Knit Happens has a lovely selection of organic yarns, natural fibers, and, well, the kind of "plain vanilla" knitting yarns I like best. I used every bit of my will power not to buy up the place. Rather, I focused on talking to Holly and Michelle, the manager and "right hand woman" of the shop, and they were delightful!

Up, up we went along the street in the sunshine, enjoying the crowds and their dogs. Old Town is now famously dog friendly. Most the shops had water bowls by the entrances. Frankly, even the dogs looked well groomed and chic. We doubted Harry and Sally would be able to handle the social pressure!

Towards the metro station, I did see vestiges of the slightly grungy past of the area. In between the colonial-era townhomes and historic markers, there are still a few buildings that fit in between the old ones, complete with asbestos shingles. It was almost as if I reminded myself then--see, you weren't crazy. It used to be sort of dingy here!

Tired, we hopped back on the train(s) during rush hour back to my parents' house. I negotiated the rush hour crush and remembered how things worked as if on automatic pilot. Some things stayed the same. For instance, if the train approaching is WAY too full, just wait for the next one, it will be likely to be much less crowded. Other things (like the growing and changing metro lines, the crowds, the "new" fancy Virginia suburbs) are very different.

My family says I help them "see" the changes around them since I haven't lived in the DC area now for almost 11 years. Over time, they forget and think it's always been this way. I remember when my mom worried that I might get into trouble in the blocks between the metro station and the gentrified areas of Old Town. See? Things do change! Even in historic areas... but it's nice to take the same walks every now and again.

Do you have favorite walks? Where are they?

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

And the winners are...

Wooohoooo! (can we have some cheering?!) There are 4 (that's it, FOUR!) winners of today's lovely yarn prizes, part of the blog tour and well traveled yarn contest. These yarns will be winging their way to:

If you're one of the winners, I am going to try to track you down. I have leads on ikkinlala and Perry...and I'll leave a note on your blog, CardiLover. If any of you are reading this, please drop me a line in the comments and/or email me at joanne AT joanneseiff DOT com.

Also, if you're very partial to one batch of yarn, let me know. There may be something I can do about that. :)

Details on this contest:
I printed out all the comments and crossed off any duplicate posts. (one entry per person, please!) Then, I used an online Random Number Generator to choose these winners....

If, for some reason, I haven't gotten in touch with everybody by Wednesday, April 15, I will draw an additional name and that person will be a there's still a chance it could be you!

Thanks so much for joining me in the blogtour excitement. We travelled home last night and are looking forward to a fine re-entry of laundry, grocery shopping (for eggs, potatoes, and other Passover necessities), and other household delights. If we have luck, the clear weather will hold until our laundry dries on the line and we'll be all ready (not quite) for another workweek tomorrow.

By the way, if you haven't managed to win a copy of Fiber Gathering on the tour, remember that Amazon (click on that book title to the right of this post) and Knit Picks both have discounted prices on it. If you happen to live in Bowling Green, Kentucky, there will be books to purchase next weekend at the Southern Kentucky bookfest. I'll be there and signing them, too--if you let me!

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Friday, April 10, 2009


The Fiber Gathering designers' blog tour has finished...sadly, we've run out of posts for this trip. (time to go home, do the laundry, and get back to a figurative sense, of course. :)
I really enjoyed both reading and contributing to the posts! I hope the tour explained how a book like this comes together behind the scenes, too. Since the blog tour is over, my well traveled yarn contest, below, is also now officially closed. Winners will be chosen in a couple of days and contacted, I promise. I'll also post winners' info on the blog, just in case I can't contact you any other way.

In the meanwhile, I took a real, actual trip on an airplane to Virginia to spend Passover with my family. I've gotten in some quality Auntie time with both of my nephews! You know you're really enjoying the seder while being the aunt/referee to a three year old nephew and seat mate. Hint: he ate heartily, including eating both his and another auntie's egg, a whole piece of gefilite fish AND just about went swimming in his chicken soup while eating his matzo ball. The splashing was duck-like.

Anyway, I'm having a few days off here for Passover... So far, besides the seder itself, this has involved taking a walk with the professor to catch some sort of special Virginia butterflies (one caught, two sighted); lots of book reading and playing with one nephew, cuddling with another fussy and uncomfortable 6 month old nephew, lots of food, time with parents, grandmother, and siblings. I have managed some time to knit, read, and even sleep late! We're off today on more adventures.

Enjoy your holidays! I'll be back in a couple of days with yarn winners and more news!

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Monday, April 06, 2009

the professor speaks

Today's post is written by a guest blogger. He's Jeff Marcus, the photographer for Fiber Gathering... also known as "the professor" on this blog.

Regular readers of Joanne’s blog hear stories about me (in my recurring role as “the Professor”) on a regular basis, but this is my first blog post…ever. The final arrangements for the “Fiber Gathering” book deal came together quickly, and Joanne needed a trustworthy photographer, and she needed one fast! Perhaps even more importantly, she needed one who was willing to work only for food, and who could comfortably share a hotel room with her when she traveled to the festivals. Guess who quickly climbed to the top of the list? You guessed it, “The Professor!”

I didn’t come to the project without credentials. I’ve been going to fiber festivals with Joanne for years, and I always took a camera with me to help keep me busy while she schmoozed and shopped. I also have a PhD in Zoology, and I’ve been an avid amateur photographer for a long time. My primary focus has been animal, nature, and landscape photography since I was a kid (when I specialized in turkey photography…but that’s another story), and I use my images to illustrate my professional articles and public lectures. Since fiber festivals include lots of animals, I was well prepared for that part of the project. My strategy for photographing animals is pretty simple—let the personality of the animals come through. Goats are inquisitive, sheep are placid, most dogs want approval, baby animals are playful, and so on. So long as you let animals be themselves, it’s not too difficult to get a great shot.
(American Gothic Sheep)

Okay, to satisfy the gearheads (if you are not a camera-nut, just skip to the next paragraph, trust me); All of the photos in Fiber Gathering were taken with a Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n 14.4 megapixel camera, though I always had my Nikon FG-20 35 mm film camera as a backup in case anything went wrong. Both of these cameras accept the same Nikon lenses, which was handy. Most of the photos in the book were taken with an inexpensive, but incredibly flexible Tamron 28-300 mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Ultra Zoom lens, which goes from wide angle to telephoto in seconds. A few detailed close-up photos (of knitted cables, etc.) were taken with a Nikon 105 mm f/2.8 Macro lens (originally purchased for butterfly photography). Most of the photos were taken with natural light, some were taken with the pop-up flash on the camera, and some of the model shots were taken with an ancient Minolta Auto132x flash mounted on a Stroboframe Pro-T flash bracket. If you take a lot of portraits using flash, and you don’t have a flash bracket yet, buying one is pretty much the cheapest way to take your flash portrait photography to the next level.

Enough talk about gear, I think. For most kinds of photography, the camera gear is much less important than the approach of the photographer. You can leap into a dynamic situation, cameras blazing continuously, and you will get one kind of photograph. And you can move slowly, framing shots, and looking for things that other people don’t see, and you will get a very different kind of photograph. “Fiber Gathering” required both kinds of approaches. Some situations, sheep dog trials, for example, required almost continuous shooting and hundreds of photos to capture a single image that would appear in the book. Other shots just required that I see something that others might miss, such as capturing the “bigness” of the Estes Park Wool Market by photographing profiles of the huge llamas they had there against the mountains of Colorado.
(Hard to photograph)
The biggest challenge for me was taking photographs of people. I am a shy person, and for years, I have avoided portrait photography. It’s just not my thing. There are few things that have made me run away in panic faster than when several years ago a budget-minded friend asked me if I would be willing to be the primary photographer for her wedding! Still, for Joanne and for this book, I tried to rise to the challenge. Taking candid pictures of groups of people is very difficult (everyone’s location and expression has to be just right at the same time!), much easier are posed group shots, or candid and posed shots of individuals.

(Easy to Photograph)

Also difficult was trying to emphasize the beautiful garments on the models, rather than the models themselves. Some of the tricks that photographers use to make people look good (soft focus filters, certain flattering camera angles etc.) are out of bounds because the garments have to appear tack-sharp in the plane of focus in the final image. It helped that I was working with beautiful models who were patient enough to allow me to shoot and re-shoot until I found what would work for each of the knitted samples.

<--focus too soft for a knitting book

putting the garment first-->

My favorite shots, even though few of these wound up in the book, were pictures of the unusual foods available at the festivals. This is because at the end of the photo shoot, I got to eat the props. Remember, after all, that I do work for food.

<---lamb: It's what's for lunch!

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

What's next?

The blog tour continues!

Terri and I share many things in common, but one of our mutual fiber addictions is Jo Sharp DK wool yarn. Wander over to her blog today, read a very moving post about festivals and why they are meaningful AND win some lovely yarn if you choose to enter her contest. (think of a joke. We could all use one!)

Yesterday, Cathy's post surprised me. Many of the designers who contributed to Fiber Gathering are friends. We talked in depth about their projects...but in Cathy's case, I never knew that her crocheted sock pattern came from a desire to make something for her dad. Sometimes we need a blog tour to find out wonderful and private details about what makes our needlework meaningful.

Tomorrow the tour heads to Chrissy's blog--and she's another designer who inspires me!

Meanwhile, the professor went out to our yard yesterday (our backyard, in downtown Bowling Green, 1/2 mile from a university and a 1/2 mile from downtown) and he flushed a wild turkey. A wild turkey hen was hanging out in our yard. I don't know who was more surprised--the turkey or my husband! I'm beginning to think that the turkey is his totem animal or something. Stay tuned for his post on Tuesday, April 7th. My professor will talk about how the photography worked for the book, right down to what kind of cameras he uses. (Yes, I suspect he'll even talk about turkeys.)

Remember, my blog tour CONTEST to win spring time yarn for a project or two is still happening. Please don't hesitate to pop over to that post, leave a comment, and win some yarn! (right now odds are pretty good; with four batches of yarn and only 19 comments...why not leave a comment and give yourself a chance to win!)

Thanks for taking a tour with us!
PS: You can leave a comment here if you'd just like to say something but not be entered in the contest. It's ok. Really. I love to hear from you even if you don't want more yarn. :)

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

more contests!

Psst! Hey you. (yes you, stop looking over your shoulder...) Have you been to my friend Rosemary's blog yet today? She's designed a beautiful shawl called Evergreen. It's available for free (if you read her post, you'll get the link to that.) Better yet, enter her contest, and you'll possibly win a copy of Fiber Gathering!

Tomorrow, stay tuned for an interview on Donna Druchunas' blog. Donna was the tech editor for the book, and a good friend. She's been asking me all sorts of searching questions. Find out more tomorrow on the blog tour!

Remember, keep commenting on what you've learned at this entry to win enough yarn for a spring project!

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