Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design (How to Keep Your Knits About You)

Very few things please me more than a well-written book about knitting ... when the book is also about knit design, and being a "professional" at that, well I just devour a book like that!  And Shannon Okey's latest didn't let me down at'all!

The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design is one of those absolutely unassuming books ... some might even pass it by due to its dull and text-booky look.  But don't!  Okey's siganture-style wit and wisdom emanates from every page in this book!

First off, this is not a book about designing -- there are lots of great books about designing your own knitwear (some I often recommend include Deborah Newton's Designing Knitwear, ANY of Elizabeth Zimmermann's books especially Knitting Without Tears or Knitting Around, Shirley Paden's Knitwear Design Workshop: The Comprehensive Guide to Handknits, Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook, and the eternal classic Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book  (quite a justifiable claim in my mind!) cover every aspect of designing great hand-knits. 

No, Okey's book is purely about putting the "professional" into knitting design.  She starts out with defining what "professional design" is all about ... mentioning a few names of real pros (and the last chapter is pure interviews with some of the best knitting designers and support folks in the business!).  She then goes on to describe social media and their many benefits to running a design business -- going way beyond the social, time-wasting and delving into this new-age way of marketing. [On a side note ... I'm now twittering as MaryGKnits ...!] 

The next few chapters discuss the knitty-gritty, business side of things including accounting, writing proposals, finding professionals for help (yes, we all need to pay a pro occasionally!) and copyright and contract issues.   Other chapters develop how to write patterns (including suggestions about design software), making sales (and who should do this for you!), advertising, where to get truly educated, professional organizations (including the Association of Knitwear Designers, a grand group of folks I've been pleased to be a member of since before the millenial-change when it was still called the Professional Knitwear Designers' Guild!).  The last third of the book is devoted to interviews with some 32 (!) of the best and the brightest in the professional-side of knitting design work: designers, publishers, editors, tech-editors, etc.  Some of these folks you may never "meet" ... and yet they all have valuable advice and wisdom to share with the reader.

As you can see, I really like this book -- I've already implemented a few of her suggestions, have pages marked for further research and plan on pulling out this book at least on an annual basis to re-vamp my work.  That said, I wish she had done a few things:
  1. the book is very techy -- there are NO graphics except the cover.  It is loaded with text and wisdom and advice ... but it's definitely got more of a feel of a text book than a coffee-table, eye-candy look
  2. there is no index!  I can't stand books without indices -- I'm willing to put up with it for this particular book ... but it means my copy of this particular book will be dogeared, pencil-marked, sticky-noted so I can find the right quote, reference or advice I need.
  3. because Shannon is young and caters to the young X-gen (maybe Y-gen ... who knows) batch of knitters, she tended to talk with the newer designers.  I wish she had interviewed some of the "old school" ... the contemps of Elizabeth Zimmermann who paved the way for those of us who grew up in the 70s, drooling over their wool sweaters, and tried to imitate them ...
Definitely give this book a "two-thumbs up" for being informative and well-worth the cover price, the time to read and the shelf-space to keep it nearby.  Enjoy!
Happy knittin'
Mary C. Gildersleeve
By Hand, With Heart -- hand-knit designs

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