Knitting in the Sun

Kristi Porter, designer and technical editor extraordinaire (who also happens to be a member of our Stitch Cooperative), is the author of the new book Knitting in the Sun, which, the last time I checked was #1 in knitting books and #978 in all books (!!!) on Go Kristi! She’s doing a blog tour and graciously offered to guest post here. I asked if she would write about the photo shoot. Kristi got to use her own photographer and style the shoot herself, which means the garments really look like she intended (yay!) She also modeled and coerced convinced her daughter to model too. I love the look of the book, and the idea that knitting is a year-round activity. (Of course, today in Cordova, it’s 49 degrees and raining sideways, so I can wear wool). Without further ado, here’s Kristy:

Amy asked me to write about my experience with the photo shoots for Knitting in the Sun. There are something like 80 color photos in the book, and I think many will agree that the wonderful photography by Stephen Simpson really  brings this great collection of knits to life.  So here’s the behind the scenes story.

When my editor and I began to talk about the photography for the book, it became clear that we would need to do the photography in October. Given the nature of the book, it was obvious that the  photos needed to be done outdoors and, you know, in the sun. Where would it be dependably summery in October? My house! San Diego! I was very fortunate to have the folks at Wiley agree and trust me to take on the responsibility of managing the photo shoots.  I was also ecstatic when my friend, Steve, agreed to do the photography. Steve and I met when our daughters were in kindergarten together a couple of years ago (you can see the two of them beneath the Silver Strand wrap on page 23!). He’s a professional photographer and I love his work, but fashion photography and this kind of project was unfamiliar territory for him. Anyway, he agreed to take on the job. Hooray!

Part of being an independent designer includes a broad skill set, as, often, you end up not only designing and creating the finished garment, but also at times being your own model, photographer, layout artist, printer, and lackey. So I had styled and photographed and modeled my own stuff before. I think the first thing I modeled was “Surf & Turf” for Knitty. At the time, Knitty only had 3000 hits an issue or something like that, so the fact that I was there looking silly in a faux grass skirt didn’t really seem like a big deal (now Knitty gets 1.5 million hits a month or something insane like that, and I hope that few of them are looking at me in my bathing suit! Okay, here’s the link go  ahead and look.)  After that induction into the world of knitwear modeling, it never seemed like a big deal to do it!  Plus, I’ve always felt strongly that it’s important to see real people on the pages of knitting books and magazines. So I don’t necessarily love modeling, but I will always put myself out there when asked. I want readers to identify with the models. Really, I want knitters to feel great about how they look in what they’ve made.  If you’ve created something beautiful, you should also feel beautiful in it. Smile at your accomplishment and walk with pride!

Back in late 2006, just after Kim Werker was named editor of Interweave Crochet, she contacted me and asked for help in scouting some San Diego locations for the photoshoot  for the Spring 2007 issue of the magazine, since they wanted to shoot here in January. I did that… and ended up modeling too! Anyway, that afforded me the opportunity to see how Interweave managed the photoshoot. How they organized things, how they brought their coherent aesthetic to each shoot, and what they focused on during the photo sessions. I remember that the weather really didn’t co-operate and it was really cold and foggy and damp… because of that, we ended up doing several of the photos at my house because no one really wanted to be outside.  Anyway, that experience definitely taught me a lot and made me more confident that I could pull off being the stylist and manager of something a little larger than shooting a couple of pieces in the backyard.

So I had a photographer lined up and an overall vision of what I wanted the photography to look like. Next I started sweet talking people I knew to model for me. Neighbors, knitting students, my baby-sitter, my kids… I also had to come up with the rest of the wardrobe for the shoots, so I raided my closet, and hit the thrift shops looking for some nice summery neutrals to serve as background for the knits. I scavenged around for accessories. My mom was visiting at one point and did a bunch of ironing for me. (I’m not much of an ironer, so I was really glad to have some back-up on that one.) So we had everything lined up and ready to go!

Steve and I chose a few locations  like nearby Windansea Beach and Balboa Park. We also ended up shooting at my house and his house… in the neighbor’s front yard… I think we did about five shoots to get all the photography done. The models all did great and Steve was really good at putting them at ease, I think they all look great, but more important, the knits look great. I know how terrific they look in person and have had the luxury of trying them all on, but there’s a big challenge  of communicating that on the page. I think Steve’s photography has really helped bring them to life in the book.

It wasn’t necessarily my intention, but Knitting in the Sun ended up being a very personal book, my family, my friends, my neighborhood, and that’s really cool for me. But, at the same time, I think readers will take away something different. It’s my hope at least that readers will simply be drawn in and become inspired to re-create some of these great designs for themselves.

Knitting in the Sun-Guest Post by Author Kristi Porter