If you’ve ever wondered how a craft book is written, well… I don’t know how anyone else does it, but I can at least tell you how mine was written.
I’m someone who likes really big projects. I like planning them out, organizing all the moving parts, then focusing on the little details until everything fits together. Creating the patterns is a bit like this, but a book was really the ultimate big project for me.
First, a word on time management. Writing a book while running CP was basically like having two full time jobs. It was intense! I decided early on that I needed to be very careful with my time, so I divided my week into two relatively equal parts. I spent half the week on Colette Patterns and half on the book, more or less. Weekends were pretty much cancelled for the duration of the time, which was hard. That’s why I’m going on vacation soon!
Concept & Outline
The whole project started when I was contacted by a publisher. I’d been thinking a little bit about writing a book, so the timing was perfect.
One of my concerns about the idea of writing a craft book is that it wouldn’t totally reflect my own aesthetic. You know, you hear stories from writers about their ideas getting muddled, and I knew enough about publishing to realize that the publisher has a lot (perhaps total) control over the look and feel.
But the editor with Krause (Vanessa, who became my wonderful editor on the book) told me she was interested in letting my own look shine through, and even suggested using my own crew for the photography. I decided to go for it, and she was true to her word. My creative input was highly valued through the whole process and I think that as a result, the book looks different from other craft books out there. I really feel it’s me.
Vanessa and I worked on a concept together, and I came up with the idea of having the five fundamental areas that I feel are so easy to overlook in sewing: plan, pattern, fit, fabric, and finishing. I used that basic idea to create a structure for the book, outlining all the content of the book. I also sketched out my ideas for the patterns that would be included, roughly one for each chapter.
From there, Vanessa created a page plan (shown above), showing roughly what would appear on each page. It was so cool to see the whole book worked out like this early on! It really gives a sense of what the book will be like. We went over it, and both made changes.
I began writing the actual manuscript around April 2010. I had a series of deadlines that extended to January 2011, so the book was turned in in chunks, a few chapters at a time.
I also had to keep track of every single image in the book, so we’d know what to shoot for each page. I kept a massive spreadsheet listing every single image, each one numbered and described for later, when we did photography.
At the same time, I drafted the patterns for the book. I had to create these much more quickly than usual because of the schedule, so I had to get a little creative.
Pattern testing takes about a month, and I only had a few months all together to do 5 patterns, on top of all the writing and running CP. So I only did limited pattern testing before turning them in, but knowing they wouldn’t go to print for some time, I planned more thorough testing for later. I did a much more thorough test round with a big group of seamstresses before my final deadline (tricky, tricky).
In October, it was time to shoot the “beauty shots” for the book. These are all the pretty photos in the book that aren’t part of the step-by-step techniques. So mostly the shots with models and pretty props.
I talked a little about the photo shoot before, but to recap these were all shot in Portland. I worked as Art Director, with my friend Chelsea Fuss as stylist and my other friend Lisa Warninger as photographer. We worked off of the shot list I’d created (that massive spreadsheet I mentioned before) so we’d be sure to get every single image we needed.
Photo shoots are a lot of hard work, but they’re one of the most energizing and fun parts of the whole process. I love watching Lisa and Chelsea work.
I then flew to Cincinnati, where Krause is located, to spend a week shooting all the step-by-step shots for the book.
One thing you may not realize is that we had to create stuff for every shot in the book in advance. That means that if I wrote three steps for sewing in an invisible zipper, Caitlin and I had to create three different zipper insertions, each showing a different step, so that we would be able to quickly photograph the whole thing. If you think about this, it makes total sense. If we’d sat in the photo studio sewing each step, we would have been there for weeks!
In practice, this meant creating every single step out here in portland, tagging and labeling it, then shipping it all to Cincinnati. Crazy, huh?
Finally, we hit the editing stage. This is more or less what you would think, but probably a bit more intense. I read and re-read the book (and of course made Caitlin read it too), while Vanessa and I sent changes back and forth. We made illustration changes, text changes, and even reshot a couple images. Finally, everyone signed off on the thing and it went to print!
I muse say, after all the work, I am so utterly thrilled with how the book came out. I know I’m more than a little biased, but it really is the book I dreamed of creating, and that makes me really proud.