Behind the scenes: Hitch, Vertigo, and the San Juan Bautista Shawl

hitch_cover1-270x350

Today, my blog is the 12th stop on the blog tour for Hitch: Patterns Inspired by the Films of Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Stephannie Tallent. Since I both designed a shawl for this book and also did the page design and layout for the book itself, I thought I’d take you behind the scenes on both parts of the process.

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In addition to my love for designing for men and boys, I also have a penchant for designing garments with unusual constructions. I’ve loved unusually constructed garments ever since I first knit Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Baby Surprise Jacket – an ingenious design that looks like a malformed jellyfish until you perform the origami maneuver at the end that transforms your jellyfish into a perfect little sweater.

When I saw the call for designs for Hitch, I knew this was another perfect opportunity to design against the grain. As a director, Alfred Hitchcock reset all the cinematographic rules, so I wanted my design to be similarly off-kilter.

My direct inspiration came from this iconic movie poster that Saul Bass did for Hitch’s film Vertigo. (Bass also did the poster for West Side Story, The Shining, and many other great films, by the way.)

vertigo-movie-poster-saul-bass

I decided to translate that wonderful spirograph shape into a two-color shawl. The colors were easy: an orange-red and a light gray, kindly provided by Shibui Yarns. I experimented with several different combinations of stripes and stitch patterns, until I hit upon a simple, two-row, knit-and-purl stripe with yarnovers that fit the bill. The yarnovers run in one direction and the stripes in the other in a way that I thought was quite reminiscent of the original poster.

All that was left was to mimic that dizzying spiral shape. I found that if I cast on a certain number of stitches at the end of every so many rows (more detail available in the pattern, obviously), then the shawl grew outward in an intriguing spiraly way:

Vertigo Shawl swatch

In the end, I had a shawl that is simple to knit and did not feel over-designed – but that has maximum graphic impact:

sanjuanbautista1

sanjuanbautista2

I’ve called it the San Juan Bautista Shawl after the old Spanish mission where Hitch filmed the climactic bell tower scenes. It turns out the bell tower was a complete fabrication created as a movie set – the actual mission’s tower had burned down decades earlier – which I thought was a fitting tribute both to Vertigo‘s own deceptions as well as the fact that this shawl is deceptively simple to knit.

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Once I had finished designing my piece for the book, I had the pleasure of laying out the book for Cooperative Press, where I’m the art director. The editor, Stephannie Tallent, had done an exceptional job of choosing garment designs that complemented each other well, and she had also smartly limited the color palette for the yarns to red, black, gray, and white. Even though more than 25 designers contributed to the book, the collection looks as cohesive as if one designer had done them all.

Our photographer, Nick Murway, specializes in dramatically lit shots, and CP’s editor/publisher, Shannon Okey, selected an elegant vintage wardrobe kindly loaned to us by Deering Vintage. The combined look was very Hitchcock. (By the way, the model pictured above is one of my former students, Marie Draz, who is a brilliant doctoral student in philosophy and just happens to have a classic Grace-Kelly-like beauty.)

It was my lot, then, to pull together all these striking elements into a book. Stephannie and I perused through various Hitchcockian fonts, finally settling on Filmotype Kingston for its elegance and legibility. (The body text is all in Century Schoolbook, a font used frequently in the 1950s.) For the book’s color palette, I of course adhered to the same black-and-white-and-red-all-over look of the garments. The rest of the book design was relatively straightforward, but I did add a few fun elements like using a small Hitchcock silhouette as the icon that you click on in the digital version when you want to return to the table of contents.

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Do check out the 28 other gorgeous patterns in this book. As someone who designs mainly for guys, I should point out that there are some patterns in here for you as well: the Robie Sweater, the Exakta Hat, and the Kentley socks.

And if you enjoyed reading this post, try these others stops on the Hitch blog tour!
9/28/2013: Sunset Cat Designs
10/5/2013: Knitting Kninja
10/7/2013: Herrlichkeiten
10/8/2013: Knit and Travel
10/9/2013: Knit & Knag Designs
10/10/2013: Wooly Wonka Fibers
10/11/2013: Verdant Gryphon
10/15/2013: Impeccable Knits: Shifting Stitches
10/16/2013: Rewolluzza
10/21/2013: Knitwear Designs by Carolyn Noyes
10/22/2013: Peacefully Knitting
10/23/2013: Dark Matter Knits (You are here! Thanks for stopping by. Come back, won’t you?)
10/24/2013: Turnknit: Dani Berg Designs
10/25/2013: SweetGeorgia Yarns
10/28/2013: doviejay knits
10/29/2013: Triona Designs
10/30/2013: Tactile Fiber Arts
11/2/2013: A B-ewe-tiful Design
11/4/2013: A Knitter’s Life
11/5/2013: Catchloops
11/6/2013: Yarn On The House
11/07/2013: Ramblings
11/12/2013: Hazel Knits
11/13/2013: Knitcircus
11/19/2013: indigodragonfly
11/9/2013: Fyberspates
11/25/2013: knittingkirigami

One thought on “Behind the scenes: Hitch, Vertigo, and the San Juan Bautista Shawl

  1. Pingback: Knit yourself a Hitchcock movie poster! | Dark Matter Knits

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