Making a book (more on the cover) #5

posted in: Book writing, Designing | 15

Wow! On Saturday I posted the work of two designers as they grappled with the idea of what my book should look like.

Thank you for your feedback!

As they started before the book was written I was actually impressed with what they had both achieved. And while I liked all four, I find myself in the same position as the majority: that No 3, the watercolour illustrations, is the best, followed by the Mosaic No 4.


I got further feedback via IG and Facebook too, so I have lots of material now, and it has been very helpful indeed. Thank you to those who commented, especially people who are designers themselves, or book sellers, or published authors. But, in a way, the most interesting responses were from the ordinary, regular blog readers. The people who through the blog have come to know me, and just felt that the designs didn’t quite “get” me.

I found this very interesting.

I am not sure how much I know myself.

Some of the most valuable feedback has been where you have told me why you like the blog, and my style, and the topics that I cover. At one level putting a book out into the world requires one to have perhaps an overdeveloped sense of one’s own importance or relevance. While I have been writing the book I have thought – ‘what is the hook?” – and probably thought, it’s only me. I am not really seeing this book in Waterstones or other classy bookshops. I am thinking it would be great to sell it to the people who read the blog, who like my “voice” and the topics that I cover. If it went a bit beyond that I would be delighted, but this is (as many noted) a personal book. Quite a few of you told me to include an image of myself, now, in clothes that I have made. I wasn’t going to do this before, but now I think I will. Lots of you said pictures of me in pink! I hadn’t realised how much pink is part of who I am (at work I wear lots of grey!).

What is the book about? 

The book (which is going for an editorial review this week) covers three main topics

a) BEAUTY: colour, style, wardrobe, capsules, etc. These topics have been a main theme of this blog. The underlying philosophy is about celebrating and enhancing our natural beauty rather than trying to change it too much.

b) MAKING: 13 Makers Projects – creative projects to make skirts and tops, painted fabric and a few other things. If we want to enhance our natural beauty, making things to express ourselves better is a good option and the book works hard to make these projects accessible. The philosophy here is again that making beautiful things is good antidote to the toxic aspects of modern life. You (my sewing/knitting/blogging community) are in this section.

c) LIFE: about me, my family and how to get more out of life. Personal stories with the crafting element woven in.

If I was doing a commercial, traditionally published book it would cover a) or b). There is room for a book about style that is more modern and less superficial than the existing offering. And in terms of projects, I think there is a market for a much more truthful book about making beautiful things. And of course there is no market at all for stories about my family, but they are part of my life and my blog and people seems to find them interesting!

Who are the designers?

One is a Canadian man, a professional designer, who has done some previous (very impressive) work for me. But of course he couldn’t really grasp the blog-book because it is not really something he could identify with. And the most interesting thing is that he initially designed something with warm (mustard, brown and orange) colours which I reacted against. Then I noticed that he has warm colouring and dresses in lots of greens and yellows and browns. Isn’t that fascinating? We are often drawn to colour palettes that enhance our own colouring. When I pointed this out he reverted to my logo (cool bright colours) but couldn’t resist the yellow! Esme’s remark was that these colours looked like the CMYK print out you get on the photocopier. Hmm. I told him and he laughed. I think he was remembering this book:


Anyway I still like the Mosaic and I think with some changes it has legs.

The second designer is family – my step daughter Charlotte.

Charlotte learns to do French knitting

Charlotte actually works in book design, with a focus on picture books, and has lots of experience with craft books. So when I showed her what the other designer had done she sent her alternative through. I hadn’t asked her to do it as she has been unwell recently, but she has agreed to take on the project. The pictures were ones she had already so not done specially for me.

But I have now been over there with a suit case full of clothes and objects and she is going to paint them. Although her design did not win universal approval I think we can work with it. What I like about it is the white back ground with colour on it. In a sense it reminds me of this, and this. I really love of lots of colour against a white background.

The items I have selected for Charlotte, that represent projects in the book and items I have made, and other things that have a sentimental meaning are as follows:

  1. Christening robe for Kit (and hat) and printing materials
  2. Pink EZ nordic jumper
  3. Girl Guide top (mine)
  4. Notting Hill Housing hard hat
  5. Knitted slippers
  6. Simple pencil skirt
  7. The white dress (as above, with the colourful drawings)
  8. The lake with a sunset
  9. Home made jeans
  10. Crochet skirt
  11. Sleeveless jumper
  12. Schiaparelli mad cap
  13. Silver jewelery

It sounds like what the kids put in time capsules… Anything you would add?

And again, to all those who offered your opinions and experiences – thank you once again.

Making a book #4

I have just one week left to finish the first draft of my book.

In the meantime I have some book covers for you to consider! i have a favourite and a critique of the others, but I am keen to hear your reaction first.

I guess a book cover should look inviting, exciting, intriguing, drawing the reader in. But it also needs to explain what the book is about. Here is an interesting article on book cover design. I spent quite some time putting a Pinterest page together of book covers I loved, but I found briefing the designer very difficult. Although I make clothes and have a good understanding of colour I was way out of my comfort zone with this aspect of the project.

Number 1 is very personal. It includes a photograph of me with George in a sling,(in about 1988) outside Hole Cottage in Kent. We were going on an autumn walk. The picture was taken by my late husband John. On the back is a funny old fashioned Polyphoto booklet of me as (I think) a three or four year old. I gave the designer a pile of old pictures and he chose these two.

Designing a book cover
1. Making life more beautiful (mummy)


The second version is more “crafty”. He has used the colours of my logo, adding yellow to give a kind of retro look. This version reminds me of the NDS (Needlework Development Scheme) booklets that I have at home.

Designing a craft book
2. Making Life more Beautiful (retro)


The third option depends on illustrations to make an impact. The drawings are just placemakers for now. The designer would draw several items I have made, plus a few objects that have significance. This is the most “modern” design I think.


Craft book cover design
3. Making Life more Beautiful (illustrations)


The fourth version is more abstract, taking colours and producing a mosaic. I did consider how this might be augmented by a piece of silk painting, knitting or crochet, inspired by the design, perhaps for the back cover.

Designing a book cover
4 Making Life more Beautiful (mosaic)


Anyway I have my own reactions to these images which I will share next week. In the meantime I am very keen to hear your views. None of these is the final article – we are at the concept stage. The graphics, colours, pictures etc can easily be changed, so feel free to pick and choose, or indeed suggest other ideas.

Incidentally no 2 made me think of the NDC booklets that I have at home. I don’t even know if I want modern or retro to be honest.

I would be most grateful for your feedback.

Review of the year

posted in: Finished projects | 23

Last year I was able to reflect back on a productive year, with lots of hits and misses. 

But I also reflected that my life was changing. Spending more time in the country, winding down a little, recognising I had more than enough clothes. And so it has come to pass. I know there are some prolific makers out there and their output is truly impressive. But I feel a bit fraudulent – producing a regular blog, but not making enough clothes! I never want to make something just to write about it.

The blog, which always seems to have a life of its own, is changing too.

It is supposed to focus on making things. It drifted from sewing and pattern cutting and fitting, into knitting.  I re-dedicated my blog to the task of Making Life more Beautiful. And finally in about October I got this idea of writing a book which is so demanding I don’t really know what I was thinking.


This year I have made about 24 items, and  three partly-complete items. That’s something every two weeks or so, which is reasonable.

For Gus (the unfinished ManSwap) a pair of cords, a green polo neck and a navy blue wool jacket.

For Brenda, a nice piece of painted silk.

With Amo a summer dress and with Bella the glittery Christmas skirt.

By the way Esme made two amazing things for Christmas. One was Esme’s version of Baileys – made with Irish whisky and cream. And the other was a home-made Christmas cake, decorated with a Greatgrandma lookalike, sitting in a chair on a Chinese rug. Very authentic and totally delicious.

For myself I sewed two pleated skirts and one jacket. I dyed the fabric for the jacket and hacked an old Vogue pattern until it looked something like the 1937 Chanel original. I really like the jacket and want to have another go to get closer to Chanel.

Chanel 1937 jacket

The skirts got worn a fair amount, but all three items are summer items. I made some Style Arc Talia trousers, but they were a disaster.

I also knitted 15 items for myself.

  • Two Heavenly sweaters, from Ankestrick
  • Three Elizabeth Zimmermann yoke sweaters (blue, pink and beige)
  • An EZ yoked sweater made into a cardigan
    Hand made boots
    Purple cardigan and hand-made boots
  • Two EZ raglan sweaters, one striped and one ombre
  • Two EZ New Zealand sweaters, one sleeveless
  • Three sleeveless jerseys, inspired by Karen Templer
  • A crochet skirt, inspired by Carolyn Smith
  • A short-sleeved, light weight jumper inspired by Helmut Lang

I started an EZ NZ jumper for Nick, but it is too bulky and firm. I can see that I need to rip that one back.  And you have heard the saga of the crochet skirt for Esme.

In addition I learned to weave, make silver jewellery, leather purses and boots.

It wasn’t a bad year for making.  I really got into knitting and learnt quite a lot. I was really proud of the knitalong I organised. Lots of you participated and made amazing colourful, yoke sweaters. I think I have personally reached peak jersey actually. I probably don’t need any more jumpers. Next year we have signed up for a photography course, because as this blog shows many of my pictures are a bit rubbish.

I am also thinking of joining in the Sewing with a Plan. But just sewing along in a meandering way, rather than setting tough targets and challenges for myself.

And now for something completely different! Because book making is a rather sedentary craft I thought I might choose a fitness challenge.

I read that the best way to keep fit is to do press ups. Or burpees. Which as well as having a disgusting name are completely impossible, involving a squat, a press up and a star jump. Press ups and burpees feature in some of the classes I attend but, while I try the press up, I pass on the burpees, concentrating on squats instead.

So my New Year’s Resolution is to get to 100 press ups a day! They don’t have to be one after the other, just completed in a 24 hour period. My baseline is that I cannot actually do one full press up at the moment.  Anyone want to join me?

Making a book #3

One thing I am doing too much of is looking out of the window. But we are experiencing some wonderful sunsets. And I have a lake to contemplate.

Sun set over a lake
Looking out of the window

But I also have a book to write!

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

How do you write a book? One word at a time.

Creating a structure

Book coach Alison Jones insisted we start with a very clear structure. To be honest this is how I learned to write essays at school and college, and I find it works well for speech making too. The better the structure, the easier the task. So although a book is just one word after another you need an overview first.

It took me weeks to create my Table of Contents.   But once I had slotted all the words in, I wasn’t happy with the structure! I had used up my best blog posts, edited them and made them read well, but the whole book lacked a proper flow. Nick and Gus read it and felt it was bitty – too many vignettes, not enough narrative.

I spent a few nights sleeping on it, and redesigned the structure. At first this felt a bit upsetting – I had, after all, done weeks of work.

I feel the simplified approach is much stronger. And,  since I have been knitting, I have got used to ripping back unsatisfactory work. You soon forget the hours invested when the second version is so much stronger.

Table of Contents

    • Colour
    • Shape
    • Wardrobe
    • Fashion and Style
    • Sewing
    • Knitting
    • Crochet
    • Print
    • Creative environment
  4. LIFE
    • Family

Crafting break

Of course I cannot stick to writing all the time – two or three hours a day and I am pooped – so I have been making a crochet skirt for Esme. She chose deep, wine red for the background colour.

As I was short of yarn I tried to order more. Without telling me Love Knitting tried twice to pass off purple instead of maroon. First time I thought I had ordered wrong. Second time they admitted they had no maroon left. If I had crochet up the purple without checking I would be furious. Also they had sold me short – one ball less than I paid for, on two occasions. When challenged they gave me a refund, but I don’t expect to have check an order. I rely on honesty and was pretty cross. I am waiting for a consignment of maroon to come in.

As I have had some poor service from this company before I tried a different company, suggested by Grace. It is Zarela, and sells via eBay. I ordered some materials so Esme can make a blanket for her friends baby-to-be, and the order was fast, accurate and cheaper than Love Knitting.

Granny square skirt
Making a crochet skirt for Esme


Back to the book….

I am setting a deadline (and now making it public)

An elephant is not just a supply of calories. It needs to killed, butchered, frozen, cooked, and actually the worst thing about eating an elephant is that it would take a very long time. The average American could eat one if she ate no other meat for 40 years, but the average Brit would need 60. I am hoping this book will take less time than that! It is more like eating a sheep, I guess.

I have set a time-table and  a deadline. This book is going to be finished by 1 April 2018. That coincides with my birthday (end of March), the new financial year, and hopefully the achievement of the merger I have been working for. And of course Easter itself! The printing will take a little time but I plan to be done with making the book by then. I realise (and this is the scariest bit) it will need to be marketed and sold. I don’t want a pile of expensive books in the garage – but that is a plan for another day.

I am currently starting on my second draft, with an editorial review by Alison planned for 12 January. Then I will spend the next three months, Quarter 4, 1 January to 31 March producing all the visuals. This is more challenging than writing the book!  Designing the book, taking photographs and collating material from others (I am really keen on a few stories, photographs or drawings from you!). This three months also gives me time for further rewriting, once I have had advice from Alison.  I think that is the key to making the book the best it can be. My motto for the next three months is:

Get it down, then re-write, re-write it again. Then rewrite it, re-write and then re-write some more

I know from my blog that I write a bit too much like I talk (and I am guilty of talking too much too!). My average blog post is around 1000 words and the average section in my book is only 500. Good writing is much more precise and it needs less and better words,  more variety and life.

Luckily Nick is sustaining me with hot soup and home-made bread.

Beautiful bread
Home made bread and soup





Making a skirt with Bella

I love teaching young people to sew. So when our Cotswold neighbour Bella said she wanted to learn I was thrilled. Over Christmas she came round to make a skirt.

I know that she loves peachy shades so I popped into Simply Fabrics to see what they had, and managed to find a stunning piece of pink wool with gold lurex. The face of the cloth was very subtle but I thought Bella might prefer the wrong side.

Pink and gold lurex fabric
Laurent Garigue fabric

As it was obviously a quality product I searched the fabric on the internet. I found an interesting Japanese website featuring a fascinating translation of the wonderous qualities of the cloth. Here goes:

“Slightly sheer, supple, soft, texture is chewy. Other than the summer offers 3 season wear. Obverse is lighten, numeric and feels soft and smooth. Back came many of the lamé-yarns is a gentle lather is a refreshing feel. Tingling is too small, delicate and fine texture. Sweet baby pink satin. From the crevices of the weave, and a sense of transparency gold glitter will sparkle. Clothes still fit cute & luxury!”

Wool 97% lame 3% 148 cm width x 90 cm made in England

Cute and luxury in sweet baby pink glittery satin – I thought this fabric was perfect for a 14 year old in search of a Christmas skirt. And luckily she loved it.

I planned to use the “no waste” approach of draping the skirt on the model. So before she arrived at 8.30am I had detached a selvedge edge for the waist band, and put an invisible zip in the remaining piece of fabric. I found Bella’s waist line with a piece of elastic tied around her middle, and then we pinned the fabric at CB, CF and side seams. Actually I took the picture, then remembered to find her waist. So if you want to use this method find the waist, mark CF and the two side positions with a felt tip then get your friend to step into the tubular skirt. As Bella wanted the skirt to look as full as possible we moved the side seams towards the back to have more fabric to play with at the front. I pinned in two back darts, and then, looking in the mirror, Bella and I tried knife pleats, gathers, box pleats and asymmetric looks.

Once we had created the shape Bella wanted, with two large box pleats and two smaller knife pleats, we pinned the fabric and Bella stepped out. Then using a set square, washable fabric pens, pins and basting equipment she prepared the skirt for making up. She worked hard and consistently and soon we were ready to go to the sewing machine.

At school Bella had used a sewing machine but never made a garment before. She knew how to sew, and using the very slow *tortoise” setting on the machine she did the darts very nicely. She pressed them open using the steam iron and tailor’s ham, admitting that her Mum had banned her from ironing as she “put more creases in than she took out”. But she did well and soon her darts were lying nice and flat.

She said “I can’t wait to be able to say to people ‘I made my own skirt'”. I know the feeling!

I had suggested a deep waist band as Bella is tall and we used some light fusible interfacing to strengthen it. Then we attached the waist band, used some poppers for the closure and hemmed the skirt.

Bella also cut out a second skirt, ready for next time. All done by 11.50, when she went home.

In her skirt.

Teaching kids to sew
Finished skirt

During the morning Bella learned the following techniques

  • Basics of design (eg skirt length, waist band depth, suppressing fullness)
  • Pinning a pattern to the fabric
  • Adding seam allowances
  • Cuttting out accurately
  • Pinning darts
  • Basting
  • Using a sewing machine
  • Pressing

Next time we will reinforce the learning and also cover zips.

Well done Bella. It was a pleasure to work with you. Come back soon and we will make the  pencil skirt!

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Speaking of Christmas Jumpers, can I thank the Demented Fairy for sending me this ace knitting pattern?

And here are some knitting jokes

  • The jumper I got for Xmas kept picking up static electricity so I took it back to the shop & exchanged it for another one. Free of charge.
  • I ordered a jumper from Australia and they sent me a kangaroo.
  • I’m not very good at knitting yet. I was knitting whilst driving on Sunday when a policeman pulled up alongside me and yelled, “Pull over”. I was rather embarrassed. It was the first of a pair of socks.
  •  I went to a Jumble sale and was going to buy a jumper, but I changed my mind. I didn’t want someone else’s cast-off.
  • My grandma is knitting me a willy warmer. It won’t be long.

Actually I am knitting a Christmas jumper. It is Rocquaine by Christina Danaee. I have wanted to do a gansey for a while, and although this is a modern version I think I should be able to do it, by New Years Eve. We are on our way later to my Mother’s for Christmas. Also I really wanted to do a yellow jersey – although it looks like orange in the photo it is a similar shade to the pattern.

I promised, via Instagram, a post on Nick’s bread making. We took some photos today and a full explanation is coming very soon.

Sour dough bread
Nick’s beautiful bread


Finally, before I sign off, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who follows, reads and comments on the blog. It means a great deal to me. I know I have been rambling on different topics this year! I hope you have a nice break, an enjoyable time with your family and friends, and a chance to relax and recharge. Happy Christmas everyone.

The Christmas Jumper tradition

posted in: Finished projects, knitting | 14

Last Friday we had Christmas Jumper Day to raise money for Save the Children. (Sorry if this post appeared early – I seem to have lost the ability to use WordPress properly at the moment).

Here are Katrina and Maddy from the HR team. It is interesting how staff choose jumpers that reflect their personalities. The night before we had our wonderful Christmas party – 600 of us came together at the Camden Centre to eat, drink, dance and celebrate a successful year of working together. I was surprised so many of the team seemed so perky the next morning. 

Lots of staff joined in so I asked if I could take some photographs. Katia, in the first picture organised the event and is standing by the poster with details about how to donate. She works for Folio, the team that let and manage our private rented housing. She is also (alongside another dozen or so staff) running the Marathon in April for our organisation. Katia’s Mum is a keen crocheter and Katia sells funny little cats and other creatures to raise money for her sponsorship.

This year we combined Christmas jumper day with our annual “cake walk”. To celebrate Notting Hill Housing’s birthday (we are 54 this week) senior managers treat all our staff to a cake, satsuma or mince pie. We walk around our offices with a trolly full of sweet things and thank each team for their sterling efforts over the past year. Each team is rightly proud of their work – looking after older people, recruiting staff, managing the repair and investment programmes, giving personal service to all of our tenants and leaseholders, making sure our finances are strong and well managed, selling and marketing new homes, running our market rent operation

Red proves to be a popular colour for Christmas jumpers. Rachel, is one of our reception and facilities team. She loves wearing loud jewellry and managed to drape a whole set of baubles over her chest on this occasion. “If you can’t push the boat out at Christmas”, she said, “when can you?”.

And some more!

Some had simple graphics – if you can call any of these tops classy I would say the BAH HUM BUG was the closest to it – but maybe the sentiment is not appropriate. Others just blended in with the person they sat next to and created interesting collages by standing close to their friends.

New this year were the jumpers with integral lights as shown below. And then two that had something to do with Captain America and Star Wars I think. Whatever will they think of next?

And me? I wore one of my EZ sweaters.

However I have got a new jumper for Christmas! I finished my Inspired by Helmut knitted T shirt. Eventually. This uses the same Elizabeth Zimmermann approach of three tubes, but the arm tubes are really short! I found this a difficult jumper to knit as it uses a very fine lace weight yarn (merino from Colourmart again), on larger needles (5mm). I dropped lots of stitches and found it relatively slow going. But I love the translucent effect, it feels like gossamer to wear, and the two colours look lovely against a white camisole. I didn’t do any finishes for the neckline, sleeve or hem – i just let the edges roll.

Although the Helmut T is a summer item I finally photographed it when it was snowing. Next to our Peony lamp.

Helmut Newton handknitted jumper
Helmut Newton inspired jersey

Do you have any special garments for Christmas?

Making a book #2

posted in: Book writing | 14

I mentioned I used to make books as a kid. A one-of-a-kind book that, at best, was read by seven or eight people.  To whom I was related.

One of my blog followers who knew me when I was a young teenager has sent me one of my “plays”! Isn’t that amazing? I can’t believe this had survived for nearly 50 years. It is complete rubbish of course!!

Writing a book
Teenage scribblings

My kids – especially Esme and Charlotte – also made books. Esme had a brilliant cartoon/comic strip about a tooth. Very funny and poignant, actually. And Charlotte, who is talented and artistic, produced lots of rabbit stories as a small child, is currently working on a couple of kid’s books. The latest one is really funny. I am hoping we might collaborate a bit.

So what is the secret of writing a jolly good book?

A dear friend of mine – Ann Tabak – self-published a book about her life. It is not available to buy but she gives it away to friends, and it is very special. She told me:

If you are going to write a book you either need a fantastic imagination, or a very interesting life!

Her life was of the very interesting variety and, although the writing is not “professional”,  I think her book is absolutely brilliant. It’s strength is that it is about Ann’s life which was harsh and shocking, but she survives. Like Ann I couldn’t manage a work of fiction. While I enjoy reading novels and short stories, I am not able to write fiction,  although I admit I have tried.

So if you are not that good at making things up – a friend runs the Liars’ League which concerns itself with short story fiction – you had best stick to nonfiction. By definition we are now in the realm of truth, facts, and everyday reality.

So the key question I have asked myself is – if I tell the truth will it add something to the world? Are other people interested in my experiences (eg learning to knit, losing my ex-husband, managing my time), opinion (how to dress for work, have we reached peak stuff? why it is nice to look nice) and instructions (how to make a jersey, or a hat, or a draped skirt)? And the simple answer is that people read the blog so I hope they find the mix of topics interesting. Can I create a narrative around this material that holds it together and makes sense to other people?Although I will talk about my own experience I believe that many of the issues and challenges I face are common and will resonate with others. Can I do what I already do, but better?

Maybe not. Self doubt is a killer. I admit I have plenty of self-doubt, but I am going to move on. Never be afraid to test your limits, and fail. It can only make you better – at sewing, knitting, fitting, or writing.

I am also thinking about you, my kind, engaged, thoughtful and generous readers. Some have already offered to proof read, help with design and layout, test the patterns. But I have been wondering how I can include you in the project. I would love you to collaborate with me, if you would. Two ideas are on my mind

  1. Photographs of you knitting or sewing in unusual places. I don’t know if you remember the extreme ironing challenge? These images may have been photoshopped but most were genuine and quite funny.

    I wondered if you would be kind enough to send me a (big, clear) photograph of you doing a craft activity in an unusual place. It doesn’t have to be that unusual – a beach, plane, kids’ judo session, in a queue, in bed, on the tube or where ever you do it!

  2. A drawing or sketch that relates to making beautiful things. Or something you might write, in your own handwriting, that expresses your approach to making. As colourful as possible!

The deadline would be February I guess so plenty of time. Maybe you could email it to me? I am

If any of you are worried about me “monetising” my blog, or “going commercial”, please let me reassure you that I don’t expect to make any money! I will be selling the book in an attempt to recoup the costs of producing it. If (very unlikely) I should make a profit on it I will give the proceeds to a homeless charity, so you don’t need to feel that your photograph or drawing would be exploited, but I would need you to agree to me owning and publishing it (fully credited). I am asking for a gift – don’t feel obliged!

So this is what I have done so far

  • Named my baby: Making Life more Beautiful: a maker’s handbook
  • Created a one sentence summary: Tips, projects and stories to make busy lives more beautiful and meaningful
  • Decided on the dimensions: 200 pages of A5 with 40 full colour photographs, illustrations, diagrams and other types of marginalia
  • Drawn up a Table of Contents:
  2. LIFE (Beliefs; Work; Family; Community)
  3. MAKING (Sewing; Knitting; Crochet; Textiles; Creative environment)
  4. BEAUTY (Wardrobe; Body Shape; Colour; Beauty within)
  • The Table of Content has enabled me to produce my writing schedule; I aim to complete the first draft of the text by 1 January 2018,  and the book design (including patterns, illustrations, photographs etc) by 1 April 2018. I am trying to write different sections each weekend, and so far I have covered section 1 and 2 and I am into the Making section. This requires technical instructions which I struggle with. I can’t write a beginner’s book – but I want to encourage people to have a go. So it is difficult to pitch it right, and also explain how to do things that are better shown face to face.



More lovely Elizabeth Zimmermann jumpers

I have been waiting patiently for one of my friends Giorgia to finish her sweater as she strongly encouraged me to do the Knit a long. And “Ta Da!” her jumper is finished. It is such a beautiful one, isn’t it? Giorgia chose a nice deep plum merino yarn from Colourmart and spent quite a lot of time thinking about what colours to use for the yoke. We met up, with Sew2Pro, for a lunch, to consider it! In the end she went with pink! It’s beautifully knitted with perfect tension and I love it!

Elizabeth Zimmerman yoke jumper
Giorgia in her EZ jumper

The other person I have been waiting patiently for is Maggie. Things were very tough for her as her husband was very poorly during the knitting. I was so sorry when she told me he had passed away and she was knitting through her grief. On her blog she has written a very moving post about Bob. Maggie nevertheless has produced a really splendid jersey and she looks wonderful in it. I love the little touch of red on the sleeves, don’t you? It is so vibrant.


Maggie is very tall and she shaped her jersey by having more stitches for the hip, which she then reduced down by around 40 stitches for the bust. This worked well and she neatly reduced the body tube every few rows in the side seam position. Although she was worried the sleeves might be a bit wide at the cuffs, using the Zimmermann per centage system, I think they worked out fine.  Also I have taken issue with EZ on the yoke depth, which she suggests should be 25% of the bodice circumference. I felt that 20% was enough but Maggie was happy with the longer yoke. So if you have a shaped body, or are rather tall, or even a man (!) this sweater works fine, but you may need to adapt it a little.

Now what about this one? Glorious, isn’t it? This is Helen. She made this jersey back in September, and wrote it up on her own blog. She is a great knitter and I find her blog very inspirational. The red and orange look super against the grey, don’t they? Also just using two, adjacent, shades works brilliantly and makes a very elegant sweater, beautifully paired with a nice pair of jeans. Bravo Helen.

The next one is Felicia’s. You may remember she had already done a lovely plain cream one.  This time she introduced colour, inspired by the Who and Quadrophenia. I especially like the sleeves and the rolled neck finish. Nice, eh?

Zimmermann yoke sweater
Felicia EZ plus the Who

Next up is Kerry who has produce not one but two EZ sweaters.

Brilliant!  I love her colourwork. Intricate but subtle. She has used the same motif on both the jerseys and it is interesting how the contrast on the black and white makes the motif advance. The drape of the white over the jersey is much more marked. The grey on red is more subtle but also very special. I know the red one went from Australia to the UK and Italy with Kerry and she knitted it up in transit. Kerry has managed to get a very good fit and the white on black looks so fresh (especially in her November garden). Well done Kerry. i was hoping to meet up with her, but another time Kerry?

I will just mention my own version, which I know I have featured before. I used the same pattern for this cardigan – my first cardigan.

EZ yoke sweater made into a cardigan
EZ yoke sweater made into a cardigan

I am in love with this pattern. It is so adaptable, simple but flexible, fits all sorts of shapes and provides endless fun with colour and pattern. Do let me know if you have one in progress (I have lots of posts to help you through it), and I will feature it. I have another one on the go myself actually….




Making a Book #1

posted in: Book writing | 28

My book started with a different topic entirely. I wanted to write about the process of making a merger happen without the people involved getting beaten up. That is what I am doing in my day job and I am trying to live this idea. I am making notes and trying to specifically capture the emotional impact of major change on the individual and collective psyche. A huge project, and definitely one for another day.

In the meantime, and as I already mentioned I wanted a project to focus on in my down time – specifically to protect myself from burn out at this specific moment. I use creative activities like sewing and knitting, but also blogging and writing, as a way of doing something that is challenging but rewarding. I used SWAP for this two or three years in a row. That challenge – of creating a small collection of 11 items – consumed and sustained me brilliantly. But I don’t feel I can do it again. I don’t really want that many more clothes and I feel I have nailed SWAP as well as I ever will. I shall be following along though, on Artisans Square, as it is a fascinating process. For me creative, somewhat solitary work is a very good antidote from trying to look after 3000 people while we create what I hope will be the best housing association in the UK.

So once I had decided I wanted to write a book that covers some of the same material as I have been presenting in the blog for the past few years I had one of those “epiphany” moments. If I write this book alongside the most difficult project I have ever done in my work life the two tasks will be mutually supportive. That’s the idea anyway. I could fail on both counts!!

However here I go. I am writing a book in public! I will share the process – the content is broadly already known to you – and see what happens.

The first thing I did, and this is what led me to drop the merger book project and start on the Fabrickated book project, was sign up to a ten-day business book challenge. This is completely free and takes you through the process of creating a proposal for a publisher based on your “business” (a bit of an issue for me as I don’t have or want a business. I have no time and no inclination to run a business; my work is my business). But as I was writing a business book I joined in.

It was brilliant. Let me give you the details if it might be of interest to you. Alison Jones will help you think through the whole process of writing a book to support and boost your business, but there is much in there that is generally about book writing. The focus helped me work out that I didn’t want to write or publish a business book – at least not now. But I did want to create a book, make a book, and this is now what I am dedicating my weekends (and Christmas break) to.

The lovely Alison Jones

My book doesn’t yet have a name, or a one word summary, or a cover. It is not going to be a commercial proposition, and it is not going to be traipsed around publishers. I actually want to do all the processes myself (with help from friends and family) as a creative process. Apart from writing and rewriting the book, I want to learn all the processes involved. I will write the patterns. I will style the models. I will take the photographs and design the inside of the book (pagination, layout etc). I will do the diagrams.  I will also have to do the marketing and distribution myself! I will have to pay for some of the editing, design, the printing and I will attempt to recoup this outlay by charging for the book. My gamble is that if I do a really nice job, making a colourful, interesting and useful book, then some of you might buy it.

Now there are a few blog-to-book publishing successes, but most blogs don’t necessarily translate well to the book form. It is a very different proposition. A few dozen people have told me they have read this blog from start to finish (a mammoth task – 850 posts), which I found astonishing. Even I haven’t done that – I treat the blog more like journalism – once written it’s over. I even find it a bit hard to make the time to respond to all the marvellous comments once I have moved on to the next article (sorry!). So my gamble, my hunch, is that if I can take the best bits, and polish them, and find an overarching theme and thread, and provide better patterns, and glorious photographs, then I might have something useful and nice and more professional that my friends and their friends might wish to acquire for themselves or buy for someone else.

I am asking myself what have I got to lose? Some money if I don’t cover my printing costs. The time isn’t wasted – I need a juicy project and I am finding this one amazing, so far. I believe the process will help me think more deeply about what I am doing with my life, and I will learn more about the world of books and writing and stories and communication. Doing it with you (if you are willing to join in) will be an enriching and interesting process and it will make the book more of a collaboration or act of co-creation. At the end if you are willing to part with £10 or £15 quid to get one that would be a bonus.

So – here I go – off on another adventure.