The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design Blog Tour

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Shannon Okey's new book, The Knitgrrl guide to Professional Knitwear Design, is available and if you aren't already hearing some of the buzz, well, you don't spend as much time online as I do. Search around and you'll find plenty of high praise for good reason. This little treasure is a comprehensive look at how knitwear design happens; good, bad and everything in between. For designers and aspiring designers alike, there are tips, tricks and insightful interviews to more than cover the cost of admission and for those of you with no intention of ever designing but who love to see what happens behind the scenes, this book delivers there too.

So are you dying to crack open this book? Shannon has graciously offered a copy to one lucky winner and since the last contest was so much fun, I thought I'd carry on the theme. Details at the end of the post!

But before that, I wanted to throw a few questions Shannon's way.

Marnie MacLean [MM]: This book is broken up into two broad sections; the informational part which is based on a lot of your personal experience as well as some input from other people in the industry, and then an interview section in which you talk to a great range of individuals in the industry. Did you have any big “AHA” moments from the interviews that shaped the way you wrote the first section of the book?

Shannon Okey [SO] :Most of the first portion of the book was written before the interviews took place, and is based on both my experience and observation, so there weren't any "AHA" moments so much as "mmmhmm, mmmhmm" when someone confirmed something I'd been thinking or had said.

MM: Have you made any changes to the way you run your business based on what you learned creating this book? And if so, what?

SO: I have, very slowly, come to the realization that it is OK to ask for help, and more specifically, to hand off things you don't like as much or aren't as good at doing to someone who is. It frees up more time to do what you love more. So, for example, I don't particularly like to grade patterns, and I am NOT a tech editor by any stretch of the imagination. I would rather hire someone who loves the math aspect, who delights in being nitpicky and crossing all the t's. Karin Strom's interview answers really made me feel better about doing this. I always felt that I SHOULD do every single bit of work on my patterns in order to be a "real" designer, but you know what? Karl Lagerfeld's not out there hemming dresses. The "petites mains" (specialist stitchers for the big couture houses) all have very specific skills, whether it's beading or stitching or whatever. They're not expected to do everything themselves: why should I? And with the exception of summertime, when I'm fortunate enough to have TNNA interns most years, I'm a one-woman show! So with all that in mind, I've come to accept that doing this will let me design more, not less, and make a better income for myself. I'm stubborn -- it took a while to convince myself this was ok!

MM: This book is so current that it has stats from a couple months ago which makes sense, because the industry is in such flux that what was true a year ago may be irrelevant now. What do you see for the future of this book? Do you imagine releasing updated versions every few years keeping what’s relevant and ditching what’s not?

SO: With the state of both the knitting and the publishing industries being what they are, who KNOWS what's going to happen a few months from now, let alone a few years? One of my projects this week was looking at online subscription-based models (akin to the ones some knitting magazines are using to make their titles available on the web), and thinking about how that might work for craft books, too. O'Reilly and technical publishers have already caught on to this -- tech books tend to have a very short shelf life, and being able to subscribe to the book on a virtual bookshelf makes more sense than spending $20-40 on a dead tree version. If you only like ONE pattern in a book, you're not going to buy the book, but you might be willing to pay $x to have access to the book for a short period of time, or to have access to just that pattern.

Two things we're looking at here at Cooperative Press (and by "we" I mean "royal we + anyone I draft in to help," such as my dear boyfriend, who did the typography on this book's cover) are the subscription model discussed above and also custom publishing. You, the end user, would be able to select specific chapters, sections or content from our books and blend them all together into an on-demand PDF or print book. It's not a new idea: one of the old school internet-gold-rush companies was doing this for travel books 10+ years ago at It's a question of applying the right technology and the right pricing to the model.

Also, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Someone else with deeper pockets than me will probably run right out and do both of those things. You heard it here first, kids. (Though the one advantage of DIY is that you can usually move faster than the people copying your ideas can!)

MM: Ok, so for our contest, I’m going to be carrying on the embarrassment theme from my last giveaway. To close off this interview, would you be willing to share a most embarrassing / head-deskery type moment from your crafting/authoring career?

SO: The knit-burqa. Oh man. I was doing a pattern for the Harry Potter knitting book (Charmed Knits). It was a knitting bag for Hermione. I'm a very experienced felter, and I should have known better. Imagine knitting a giant tube of Cascade 220. A tube so big (and black, for that matter) that I could fit inside it. I am 5'7" and I am NOT SMALL. So we started calling it the "knit burqa," that's what it looked like. I was SO HAPPY to have the damn thing finished that I resolved to march right down to the washer and felt it immediately. Never mind it's late and I'm exhausted. Never mind machine felting probably wasn't a superfabulous idea. I wanted it DONE done right this very moment. You can guess what happened, and it wasn't pretty. I had to cut it up in order to make it resemble my original plans and reverse-engineer the written pattern to suit. Doesn't matter how good you USUALLY are...doing anything that nearly destroys months of knitting in less than 30 minutes is not just head-deskery, it's earthshatteringly dumb.

MM: Thanks so much Shannon and thank you for including me in your book. It’s been a real pleasure.

Contest Rules

Leave a comment with some face-palming, head-desking, foot-in-mouthing embarrassing moment you don't mind sharing with the world. I will pick one person at random, so even if you can't recall one, you have an equal chance at winning if you leave a comment. But where's the fun in that? Comments must be sent by end of day on Thursday, July 15 and I will pick one random winner to receive a print copy of Shannon Okey's The Knitgrrl guide to Professional Knitwear Design.

And in the spirit of good sportsmanship, I'll share one of my many many embarrassing moments in life. I was, perhaps, 14, I lived in a small New Hampshire town, where everyone knew just about everyone. There was one boy, we'll call him George since I don't recall and Georges from my grade. I had a fantastically unrequited crush on him. I was walking around the drug store picking up a few things, when I realized he was in the store with me. I gave him an enthusiastic wave, a giant smile and called his name. He turned and looked at me, with a polite smile and then vague discomfort, which is the moment I realized that in my happily swaying hand, straight above my head, was the box of tampons I had just picked up. Go me!

To order copies of the book, you can go here. And be sure to follow Shannon's entire blog tour by visiting her site and checking the blog tour sidebar.

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I was recently embarrassed while returning from a leisurely morning in the on-campus coffee shop -- my boss met me halfway between buildings to let me know that I was supposed to be supervising student presentations and had already missed a couple. That's when I realized that my blithe refusal to carry a cell phone was actively inconveniencing the people I work with. Imagine somebody not being where they're supposed to be, you pull out your phone to call ... then start cursing up a storm because you remember they are stuck in the 1980s. I went out and got a phone the next day.

This just come to my mind after 20 years of blockage.

It happened in 2nd grade. We were sewing a baseball cap. I'd just finished the flap and put it on my head as a joke, when teacher tells me to go get some plastic from the woodwork class. Well, I get up and go to the woodwork class with all the 6th graders in it, get my plastic and head out and just as I'm at the door, someone says "nice hat" and starts to giggle. I put my hand on my head, feel the flap sticking straight up from my head, blush and storm out.

Haa haa.

my embarrassing moments are ongoing! I never cease to amaze myself!

I didn't really have any cringe-inducing parental gaffes, but I've done plenty by myself!

I sat in on a bicycle advocacy meeting once, back in the 90's. They were planning what to do on Bike to Work Day (a fairly new thing back then.) They were talking about riders going in a convoy or something down the road, to show the numbers of folks involved. The group was brainstorming about how to make themselves more visible and safe.

My bright idea? "We could have a car escort them."

It was only when everybody went totally silent and just looked at me that I realized what a stupid thing I'd said.

I was too embarrassed ever to go back.

Now that I don't drink, my number of embarrassing moment have gone down dramatically. Now they're usually of the opening mouth & inserting foot variety. :-)

I know I spent my entire childhood nursing a keen fear of humiliation, but I can't remember any particular moment. I must have blocked them all.

I've got a humiliating crafting accident blogged here, though:

When I was still in grad school, I got an email about a meeting for MA students. I was very annoyed about going, but went anyways. When I showed up, I realized that no one else from my program track was there. The meeting was only for those students planning to get a PhD -- in other words, not me! I sat through about 15 minutes of the meeting before I worked up the nerve to sneak out as quietly as possible ... but not before taking some cookies! And I carefully avoided the department head for the next month -- I was afraid someone would ask me why I was at the meeting and why I left in the middle of it.

Embarrassing: being besotted with the guy I was dating at the time, following him everywhere, winding up at the local 24-hour restaurant late at night (or was it early in the morning?), and still following him, going through a door and finding a men's room, for the first time in my life.

I'm a mother of 4, I have lots of embarrassing moments. I just can't remember any of them b/c, ha!, I'm a mother of 4 and have no brain left!!!
I get pretty embarrassed when I'm talking to someone while holding a baby and the baby decides he's hungry, so it's time to pull my shirt up(or down, depending on the shirt and which baby it was).
That's happened enough times for me to remember it.

A few weeks ago I was at a cosmetic store at the mall, and I was so distracted by shiny packaging I did not notice my 2 year old son handing me his sippy cup. It fell on the floor and their was juice everywhere. I tried cleaning it up with some Kleenex at a makeover station and between that and my son going OH NO OH NO really loud, I'm sure we were a spectacle.

When I was in college one of my classmates asked if I had eaten at a certain buffet the previous weekend and asked if I remembered a particular server. I then proceeded to make jokes at her expense. After I had finished (and the class stopped laughing) he slid me a note.
The server was his wife.

Not sure if it was my most embarrassing ever but since it is fresh in my mind... On Tuesday I went to a big party (my Aunt's b-day, she is very popular!) at the local beach/picnic area. There were tons of people there, some I knew some I didn't. After hanging out for a while I went to use the restroom (since it is a picnic area it was basically a large cement outhouse). After I finished I went to leave but realized that I WAS TRAPPED!!! I could not get the door to unlock or open! I am claustrophobic and immediately started panicking. The outhouse was too far from the main picnic area and the walls were too thick for anyone to hear me yell over the noise of the party! How long would it take for anyone to realize I was missing?! Would I ever escape?! How would they get the door open?!

Luckily I then realized that I had my phone with me and called my cousin to come and rescue me. She started laughing so hard that she couldn't move so my bf had to do the rescuing.

Still no idea what went wrong since he was able to open the door from the outside with no problem.

I'm sure this isn't my most embarrassing moment, but its one I'm willing to share. On the first day of classes one semester I cane strolling into class with my messenger bag over my shoulder. The same messenger bag that was sitting on a pile of clean laundry before I left the house. Well I reach in my bag to get out my books only to notice a pair of my underwear dangling from the Velcro for all the world to see.

When I was in high school, back a few good years, neither I nor my close friends had my father was of the mind and sensibility that transportation was a means to an end, and didn't put much store in what that mode looked or sounded like; he was always tinkering along an old model something or other, just to get him to work and around town. We had, for a time, an old, very tiny Renault and even though this was the late 60's, this little car actually had a crank that you would use to get it "jumped", I kid you not. So one day, my dad is driving me and one of my girlfriends to the local hospital to visit a friend of ours who had had a surgery and was recovering. Just as we pulled into the parking lot, the car stuttered and died. My dad hops out, grabs the crank and as he is literally winding up this car, a bunch of boys from the school football team come driving by and we can see them rolling their eyes and laughing; my friend and I are slid down in the back seat desperate to be hidden from view. Well, the next day, in school, the talk is of the nutcase cranking his car. Fortunately, we'd managed to avoid being seen and thereafter I avoided the car like the plague but my dad would never have understood my mortification....he thought that crank was just the handiest thing. I thought I'd rather die than admit he was my dad! And wouldn't my sons love to have that car now.

Do you mean a moment like in high school, when I made a shirt for a rock concert. I waited until the afternoon of the concert to even buy the pattern and material, because, you know, it was my first time sewing a shirt, and how hard could it be? As my friends were griping that it was time to leave, I was sewing the second sleeve on ... upside down, sleeve's underarm to shirt's shoulder. OK, it's a rock concert, I'll just do the overhead fist pump for three hours straight and nobody will know. Fortunately my friends were too worried about their own embarassment and allowed me the few minutes to repair it. Thanks for the giveaway, and for making me relive that moment.

I seriously cannot recall an embarrassing moment. I'm not sure if it's because I've suppressed them, only to be revealed in a hypnotic state, or maybe my life is just one embarrassing moment after another and it's just so everyday mundane to me that I can't differentiate embarrassing moments from my regular life happenings.

Anyway, I was so glad to see you on Shannon's blog tour. Love your blog and I've been coveting Shannon's book!

I think I have blocked out my most embarrassing moments. Getting caught in a heavy downpour in a genuine Madras cloth dress (very popular & fairly pricy in the mid-60's) may have been one. It was a navy plaid & I actually had navy dye running down my legs & arms. (The desired property of the dresses was that the colors bled & faded with washing & looked better with each washing - unfortunately this happened the first time I wore it so there was plenty of dye to run down my arms & legs & stain my underwear!)

My freshman year in college I had an enormous crush on a boy in my English 101 class. Even thought I can't remember his name now, I do remember that he was cute, cute, cute! When he finally asked me out I was thrilled, but the night of the day I was nervous beyond belief. When we went to dinner I only picked at my food because I was so sick to my stomach with nerves (and you have to understand the I NEVER pick at my food!). We left the restaurant and walked to his car and just as I was opening my car door, without any notice whatsoever, I let out the biggest truck drivers belch that has ever been heard. It was deafening and I was mortified to say the least. He gave me a long look and then said, "Well, everyone has to do that sometime." I think we had a good time the rest of the evening, but it was all a bit of a blur because I was so traumatized by my faux pas. Needless to say, we never went out on another date.

I think my most recent DUH! was deciding that it was time to learn intarsia. I planned to make a sweater. Since I never make any learning experience easy, I designed a garment that had me working with 27 active strands of yarn at once, and decided to make it in Woolease Thick and Quick. There's a WIP picture on my blog at . I did finish, but I haven't tried intarsia again.

Oh boy! You made me remember my own "George" incident! I summered as a kid in a small friendly town on Cape Cod. It had a small deep water dock at our small public beach. When I was seventeen I was out at the end of the dock one day when a little sail boat with the Cutest Boy came about into the dock. Like any right thinking person I reached out for the line to tie it up, something I'd done a hundred times before. Obviously I wasn't having a right thinking moment. I stepped up for the line and stepped right over the edge into the water and had to have help being hauled out! As it turned out, his name really was George. After 45 years I still don't repeat this story too often. In fact, my memory is clearly still trying to repress it!

I already have the book, but in the interest of playing along:

In my senior year of high school, I was finally getting courageous enough to start breaking out of the courderoy and fair-isle wardrobe that I'd worn up until then. I chose a bunch of funky vintage clothes with my summer earnings, and wore one piece, a purple bodysuit out of some crinkly fabric, while doing an introduction to a school assembly early in the year.

It was only after I'd finished that my best friend told me the lights rendered it completely see-through.

Really enjoyed this post & interview, thanks!

When I was 6 years old, I was standing with my mother in line at the grocery store, "helping" her unload our cart. I picked up a plastic gallon jug of orange juice and was showing off by lifting it over my head, yelling, "Mom! Mom! Look!" The elderly lady in front of us in line said, "Well, aren't you a strong little girl!" Either my strength gave out or she startled me, because I immediately dropped said jug which, exploded all over the checkout lane. I burst into tears, the lady (probably sprayed with juice) turned away sharply, and I heard my mother's apologies the the storm of my tears, as she insisted on paying for the juice.

Some days are better than others.

One time returning to college after a holiday, my flight was delayed, and I was in a tizzy that I might miss the last shuttle home. I bolted off the plane (I mean, first of all, imagine what it takes to "bolt" through a crowd of people in the aisle...) and made it to the lobby, where I thought I recognized others from my school waiting. We all loaded on to a bus, and as we pulled away, I looked around, and didn't recognize anybody. Finally I had to tell the bus driver that I was on the wrong bus, going to some other college in a town I didn't know! The whole bus full of people had to accompany me back to the airport to be dropped off...

I belong to a knitting group, and one evening we were discussing our names and baby names in general. I said that if I had been a boy, my parents were planning to name me 'male-name'. I said I really severely disliked that name, and, gee, am I super glad I didn't end up being called 'male-name'- ick! The woman sitting next to me turned, gave me the stink eye and said "My husband's name is 'male-name'". Funny thing too, I actually met her husband once yet conveniently forgot his name long enough to tell my story...

I was thronging through a crowded mall with my hubby.

I reached out my hand and instinctively grabbed his hand amidst the crowd; totally pleased that I didn't lose him.

When I got a step further upfront, I saw this guy with an amused look on his hand. Looked down and saw that I was clasping his hand by mistake!

And hubby was staring. Oops.. :)

Now, I make sure I hold his hand tight even before braving the crowd!

As a child, I was famously absent minded. I still remember, with gut wrenching mortification, the day (aged about 7 or 8) I got dressed after a school sports lesson in record time - or so I thought. On arriving back at the classroom, I found that actually, I was only wearing my panties, a half length slip, my socks, and my shoes.

When I was in high-school, I decided that I wanted to wear my first pair of thigh high pantyhose. I was sprinting through a bus terminal, trying to catch my bus before it drove off, and my pantyhose fell down around my ankles. I was trying to pull them up and run for my bus at the same time. I was SO embarrassed because there were TONS of people there. I finally just slipped them off and ran for the bus. I was lucky to catch it before it drove away.

This story should show you just how much I would like a copy of the book. It definitely falls under the category of TMI, so if TMI is too much for you, read no further, fellow commenters.

I was at my gynecologist's and had been asked if it was okay for a student to observe my exam. Being the advocate for science and medicine that I am, I agreed. (We want well-trained OBGYN's working on us, right?) While in the waiting room I met this fantastic, incredibly good-looking guy (This should have clued me in - how many single men sit in the waiting room of the OBYGYN office?). We talked and had a lot in common and I was pretty smitten. You can imagine how I felt moments later when my OBGYN introduced him as the student-observer. Egads. And yes, I went through with it, and no, I did not give him my number!

I met a woman in a bar (she was with some of my coworkers) and we started talking about work, and I complained bitterly and at length about how little my manager appreciated me. A while later, my manager came in and it turned out she was his girlfriend. Biiiig life lesson.

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This page contains a single entry by Marnie published on July 9, 2010 5:49 AM.

Winners! was the previous entry in this blog.

Another winner is the next entry in this blog.

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