What Do Manatees Have to Do with Jane Austen?

When we shot photos for Jane Austen Knits back in July, I had more fun (in a hectic detail-oriented sort of way) than I’d ever thought possible. The Interweave team, the models, and our hosts all took in stride the kinds of hiccups that can occur. For the location hosts, it’s like dealing with a home invasion or your teenager’s friends coming over: a bunch of people pile into your house or garden, strew their belongings all over the place, and move furniture around to take advantage of the light. Models get to wear beautiful outfits, but some of the garments are designed for cold weather, and we had no air conditioning either day. Finally, the creative team has to make many decisions on the fly. Even when we have detailed lists and schedules–which we did–lots of elements can’t be planned, or an idea that sounded great on paper doesn’t work out, or serendipity strikes.


The sweet dog at Timberlane Farm Museum thought it was time he became a star. Our model, wearing the oh-so-feminine Henrietta Spencer, managed to stay in character.

Fortunately, everybody remembered to bring their senses of humor, so we found hilarity in unexpected situations. Who wouldn’t laugh at Timberlane Farm’s big dog photo-bombing our model (he was a hands-on kind of pup), or the cat whom I wanted to photograph hiding until I was ready to leave the site, then sauntering out into the parking lot? We didn’t tell the owner of My Sister Knits, who donated fresh-laid eggs and hot-from-the-oven shortbread cookies as props, that her little dog ate three of the cookies before anybody could get them out of reach.


Our models have to put up with a lot at shoots: heat, warm clothing, editors who want to photograph them with dogs. Fortunately, this model makes it all look easy while wearing Elizabeth’s Delight Capelet.

But the craziest, silliest moment occurred as we were still researching the sites. The nineteenth-century houses at Timberlane Farm Museum provided all the interior settings, complete with antique furniture and bric-a-brac. As the creative team discussed ways to stage one particular garment in the sitting room, our designer suggested that we could seat the model on the manatee. It was actually a settee, not a large marine mammal lolling on the rug, and he immediately realized what he’d said. But too late–we’d all begun to laugh and to turn his slip of the tongue into a running joke. It ran for a long, long time. Everybody heard the story on shooting days, and back in the office, and so on. By the time everything went to press, we were all using the two words interchangeably without even noticing anymore. Someday I will visit the Everglades and ask to pet and feed the settees; this is what happens when humor takes a turn for the worse.


Erm… A very serious model takes a seat on a manatee. She’s wearing Susan Crawford’s Surplice. Manatee ©iStockphoto.com/lemga; background illustration ©Vectorstock.com/fireflamenco

I would like to think our silliness added to the magazine; it certainly helped all of the participants bond for this group effort. Jane Austen Knits 2015, as you would naturally expect, features gorgeous knitting projects, from its elegant green wrap on the cover to the final shawlette knitted in white silk yarn. (You can also order a kit for the Garden Walls cover project, with luscious Handmaiden Mini Maiden yarn.) May you enjoy reading the issue as much as we enjoyed making it for you.