Leslie Ann Bestor comes from a long line of knitters, weavers and seamstresses and has had a lifelong love of fibers and textiles. For many years she designed and made custom knitwear for sale through her business Carpe Yarnum Designs. After the arrival of her daughter and a move from a rural mountain town in Washington to semi-urban western Massachusetts, she settled into a new life as teacher and assistant manager at WEBS, America’s Yarn Store, a job that combines the best of both worlds – a steady paycheck and daily immersion in fibers and creativity. Leslie is the author of Cast On, Bind Off published by Storey Publishing (June 2012).
I can trace the inception of this book back to my mother in so many ways. Creatively, she instilled in me a love of working with my hands and making things both useful and beautiful. She sewed all of our clothes and knitted and tried just about anything crafty. And she taught these things to me and encouraged me to create. She was also a reference librarian and surrounded us with books, showed us how to find out what we wanted to know and nurtured a lifelong love of learning.
My journey to writing Cast On Bind Off begins there and follows a long and circuitous path through learning and experimenting with yarn and the creative process. Although I learned to knit as a child, I didn’t stick with it (I have hazy memories of a scarflike piece of knitting, misshapen and full of holes). I picked up crochet in college and returned to knitting a few years after that, but it was several years before I discovered (uncovered?) my passion for knitting.
Largely self-taught, I knit daily, designing garments and trying out ideas. I announced to my parents that I wanted to make my living as a knitter and my mother promptly sent me a reference library of knitting books. I studied and marked pages and knit, learning all the things I had been doing wrong and figuring out how to fix my mistakes. I spent many years designing and knitting, selling both garments and patterns, a much different proposition 20 years before the advent of Etsy and Ravelry.
Fast forward to 9 years ago when I traded my life as an entrepreneur for the excitement of working in a huge yarn store, teaching classes and selling yarn. It is a fertile environment, surrounded by yarn and creative people all day. Between the staff and customers, I see so many inspiring, beautiful things and have learned so many different ways of doing things.
Teaching is a joy because I love introducing people to the craft of knitting and watching them take off. It is also a learning experience for me as I learn how to present things. People learn things so differently, some can hear it, some need to see it and trying firsthand is always great. I learned that I had to have several ways of describing a technique, that ‘under’ and ‘behind’ sometimes mean different things to different people. I still get so amused listening to my students coming up with their own descriptions of the motions – two people can be sitting next to each other and one says “over under over” and the next one says “under under forward”. It’s all about how they see the strands of yarn in relation to each other.
One thing that I love about knitting today is the curiosity and thirst for knowledge. People are wanting to know more about techniques and how to adapt and design patterns. We saw this at the store in the requests for new classes, which led to my class in cast ons and bind offs. I had a file of techniques I had accumulated over the years and distilled them into a series of step-by-step instructions to present to my students. I didn’t set out to write a book, but suddenly one day that was exactly what I was doing.
The process of writing the book in some ways was like a big research paper – lots of information gathering from all kinds of sources. This felt easy and familiar. So was the endless swatching as I tried out different techniques. What was trickier was writing the instructions, because of what I described about the different perceptions people have. I knew the photos would help with that, but still I wrote and rewrote, had friends test knit, and rewrote some more.
As the book came together, I hit my biggest block of all, something I’m sure all writers confront at some point – what if people didn’t like the book? After all, who was I to be the expert on this? This really stopped me in my tracks for awhile until a good friend put it into perspective for me. She said that I wasn’t trying to be the expert, I was merely compiling the information to share so that others could learn. And I realized that she was right, the book is an extension of my teaching, a way of bringing information together. I don’t have to be the best or know it all. Whew! What a relief that was! More recently, someone remarked that I am like a curator. I love that image as it conveys the sense of bringing together and presenting and allowing others to take away what they find useful/compelling.
The journey to the published book continued through all the minutiae and details of the publishing world – photo shoots (more swatching!), edits and more edits. The result is something that I hope will be the resource and tool I set out to create. I am sure there will be more discoveries and inventions in this world of cast ons and bind offs and I look forward to learning them.
Find out more about Cast on, Bind off on the Blog tour:
7/9 Picnic Knits :: 7/10 Knit and Tonic :: 7/11 Zeneedle :: 7/12 Rambling Designs :: 7/13 Rambling Designs :: 7/14 Neo Knits :: 7/15 Knit & Nosh :: 7/16 Knitting at Large :: 7/17 Rebecca Danger :: 7/18 Lapdog Creations :: 7/19 Nutmeg Knitter :: 7/20 Yarnagogo :: 7/21 Weekend Knitter :: 7/22 knitgrrl :: 7/23 It’s a Purl, Man :: 7/24 Whip Up :: 7/25 Knitspot :: 7/26 Under the Humble Moon :: 7/27 Knitting Daily :: 7/28 Knitting School Dropout :: 7/29 Hugs for Your Head :: 7/30 The Knit Girllls