Friday, December 14, 2012

History on Two Needles - Mine and Annie's

I had the distinct pleasure this summer and fall of working with Annie Modesitt on her new book, History on Two Needles.

Please forgive me if what is supposed to be a book review turns into a blog post about me...

I've been a serious knitter since the mid 1990s, in my early years as a knitter, resources available were scarce. There were few magazines, few books being published, and those books that were in print were hard to find.

I don't remember where I heard about Annie Modesitt - likely on the KnitList. I had read about Annie's self-published book "Confessions of a Knitting Heretic" and I knew I had to own it. I treasure my copy, and have only ever let it out of my house once - to a very special friend/private student H., who hails from Iran, and needed some emotional (rather than technical) support as a combination knitter.

I loved both Annie's clear and pragmatic approach to knitting, and her personal stories about her knitting experience. Annie made me feel like a clever and informed knitter.

Her approach suited my needs perfectly: she likes to explain the how and why, rather than just give blanket instructions without context. This is how I teach my classes, and I have carried over this approach into my own books.

I am a better knitter and teacher because of Annie.

I nearly fell off my chair this summer when Shannon asked me if I'd be interested in tech editing Annie's upcoming book.

I must confess, I was a little intimidated. Annie's work is of such great intelligence and creativity that I was worried I wouldn't be able to understand it. Her style is so distinctive that I was worried that I would ruin it. And her work is so wonderfully detailed and meticulous that I was afraid I'd make stupid mistakes.

However, the chance to to get an advanced peek at her work: I couldn't possibly say no. This new book has been in development for some time. It's an ambitious project: a set of garment and accessories inspired by historical images, blending Annie's love of art, history and art history - and the preview pictures had blown me away.

The process of working with Annie was wonderful. I loved that we could have discussions about what knowledge was safe to assume her knitters had; it was great to be able to use the mount-independent notation I'd been obsessed with since I'd seen it in her original book (k2tog-L and k2tog-R); I relished the challenge of complex patterns and constructions.

And once I got over the "surely I can't have found a mistake in Annie's work, it must be *me*" factor, it was an easy process, too. Annie was a very willing subject for my reviews, always happy to check her math when I suggested that something might not work, always open to my suggestions about clarification. And along the way, I learned a lot.

There's a huge variety of items in the book, drawing inspiration from art ancient and modern. Although all the projects are fabulous, I have two particular favourites.

As a knitter, I adore the  Minoan Surplice: it's simple, it's elegant, and so utterly modern.

I'm hoping to get time to make my own over the Christmas break.

And the other end, as a designer and an editor, I am in awe over the Sutton Hoo Helm. It's a masterwork of construction, absolutely fascinating piece.

(And if the weather is going to be as bad this winter as they say it is, I might have to knit one of these too.)

What I love most about the book - even more than the thrill of seeing my name in the acknowledgements list! and it is a big thrill! - is that Annie's love of the history comes through loud and clear. She has given a history and context for all of the items, with details on her inspiration.

It was an honour to be part of the process and I can't wait to wear my own Modesitt original.