Author Donna Druchunas asked me so many good questions that this is part 2 of the interview. Part 1 appeared yesterday.
Donna: Do the books seem to be meeting the goal and filling the need that you originally envisioned?
Deb: The books you have written have gone beyond my initial vision: they accomplish what I had in mind, and they also have their own spirit and voice.
The Ethnic Knitting series was conceived as an introduction to Knitting in the Old Way (KITOW). While you provide supporting materials for KITOW, you also added material that reflects your own experiences and interests: the Andean material that you present in Ethnic Knitting Discovery (EK1) is different from the Andean material Priscilla included in KITOW, and in Ethnic Knitting Exploration (EK2), of course, you cover Lithuania, which isn't part of KITOW (the sweater tradition in Lithuania having been massively overshadowed by, for example, gloves).
I'm not at all sure whether they are working for readers as we intended, because most of the feedback I get is the sales numbers, which are really important for us to keep doing this work but aren't very informative about how people are using the books!
I love seeing garments people have made, whether on their blogs or through Ravelry or in person. The books are intended to spark ideas, not to dictate their implementation, so every new piece made from them represents a personal view and a bit of magic.
Donna: As editor and publisher, what's been the most fun part of working on this series for you? The most challenging?
Deb: Taking the manuscript and turning it into a book involves a lot of steps, a number of which are fun.
One of the best is getting the illustrations back from Joyce Turley, who does the drawings that go with the projects and also a number of the technique drawings. I give her detailed references to work from, and she turns them into crisp, attractive pictures. Joyce knits and crochets and understands electronic book production. She's a gem.
For the fingerless gloves, I knitted a prototype for Joyce to draw from. (Unfortunately, because I really like the glove, I haven't had time to knit the second one.)
Speaking of the fingerless gloves, we have a sample pattern from the book available here as a PDF, so people can check out the style in which the projects are presented (including Joyce's great illustration!). There are more sample PDF patterns from Ethnic Knitting Discovery (EK1) available on Ravelry, some for free and some at low cost. We're experimenting with PDF and electronic publication.
Download EthnicExplorationExcerpt-FingerlessGloves (about 800 kb)
And continuing on the topic of fingerless gloves, here's a transcendent version made by LynnH at ColorJoy!
Isn't that fantastic? So different in colors, gauge, and personal size from the one I made—although all of the basic elements are the same.
It's so wonderful to see all the variations that people can create on the blank canvases of the projects in Ethnic Knitting Discovery and, now, Ethnic Knitting Exploration! This is the sort of thing that makes all the challenges of independent publishing worthwhile.
So here's another. . . . Kris Paige, who knits like a fiend but doesn't have a blog, made a sample poncho for Joyce, the illustrator, to use as a reference. It now belongs to Kris's baby granddaughter.
I also love doing the layout and typography, thinking of ways to make the material you've given me as user-friendly as possible in its new format as a book.
. . . the most challenging . . . ?
Well, the books have been much more work than either of us envisioned! That's true of many things we take on. I think it was Peter Drucker who said that every good idea ultimately degenerates into work: so true. Fortunately, when we get the finished, printed books and can send them out into the world, I mostly forget that, so I can start the next project. . . .
Certainly the hardest part of EK2 involved the massive computer problems, partially chronicled in this blog, that were never completely resolved and that made me think for a while not only that we would never get this book released—after several years of work on it—but also that Nomad Press would fold entirely.
We haven't recovered completely from those challenges, but (1) the BOOK IS OUT and (2) I now have completely new hardware and software, and am able to proceed with the next set of good ideas, which are, of course, running behind schedule. . . .
My relief at getting EK2 to press, even late, was huge.
Donna: On April 6th, I talked with Amy O'Neill Houck at The Hook and I about some reasons that I am attracted to historical and traditional knitting.
What attracts you to this topic?
Deb: That was a terrific post Amy and you did, Donna. I have a lot of reasons for being interested in historical and traditional knitting, which I'll only be able to touch on briefly here.
My own creativity was in many ways discouraged by the school system, and I've had to fight against the lack of encouragement relating to artistic and creative work that I got while I was being "educated," especially in high school.
I first broke loose of that sense of restriction with textiles: my first hand-knitted sweater (my second completed project) was a five-color Norwegian ski sweater. I had excellent yarn, a pattern written in Norwegian (which I don't read), and charted motifs . . . as well as a college roommate and a shopkeeper who acted as if this was a perfectly normal way to begin.
Then, on my own and in other places, I had to learn to recreate the delight of that first experience. The skills that traditional and ethnic knitters learned from other knitters were what I needed, and as I acquired them, mostly through stubbornness plus trial and error, they liberated me. This was before books like Priscilla's Knitting in the Old Way and Jackie Fee's The Sweater Workshop (raglans) had been published; it was about the time that Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting without Tears and Knitter's Almanac were released, although I didn't discover them immediately.
Learning to spin my own yarn knocked me square into the "need to work without detailed instructions" realm, because initially my yarns didn't match any known gauge (they were amazingly inconsistent).
As I've gone on with knitting, I keep discovering that the traditional and ethnic skills apply to all sorts of knitting. They allow me to knit from patterns without being thrown by errors in the printed instructions; to modify designs to better fit the intended wearer; to substitute color and texture patterns that I prefer. Or to take ideas from several patterns and make my own interpretation by combining them.
I think every knitter should start with the skills that traditional and ethnic knitters employed on a daily basis. That's what puts us in charge of, rather than at the mercy of, our knitting.
Besides, I've realized recently that the sweaters I have worn for years (even decades) and on a near-daily basis are the ones I've made in traditional shapes, with patterns of my choosing, in yarns that I love. Ultimately . . . this kind of knitting WORKS.
Donna: What's your favorite part of Ethnic Knitting Exploration and why?
Deb: That's a hard question to answer, so I'll go with my first gut reaction: the explanation of how to read, and knit from, cable charts. Pre-publication, I found myself printing out copies of pages118-119 and 123-127 to hand people to help them solve problems with beginning cable knitting. Including my daughter, who was learning to knit cables at a time when I was out of town.
I know many readers are interested in different formats for books and
we're working on some PDF releases, Kindle editions, and an audio book.
What do you see in the future for Nomad Press?
Deb: We're exploring ways to get information to people in formats they find handy and useful. We're kind of working in the dark here, though—again, the feedback comes six months to a year after we do the work, and often in ways that are hard to directly trace to our actions.
So we're experimenting with the PDF patterns, some free, on Ravelry and through your website and the Nomad Press site. The books should be available any time both for Kindle (including the iPhone/iPod Touch apps) and for Sony eReaders. There will be an audiobook for Arctic Lace. We're looking at smaller projects that would be delivered only through the internet (even though I am resolutely loyal to print publication).
We have enough books and other ideas in the pipeline to keep us joyfully working on new releases for between three and five years. Sometimes I get antsy to get them finished faster so people can enjoy them, but I won't take shortcuts on quality to make that happen.
And, of course, we'll continue to produce the books in ways that minimize their environmental impact without compromising the quality. All of your books, for example, are printed on papers that meet Green Press Initiative standards, using vegetable-oil-based inks (soy and canola), rather than petroleum-based inks.
And, of course, we're making books that we trust will be reliable resources for knitters for many years. They're not ephemera. We're all about feeding knitters' brains and creativity, empowering them with transferable skills, and making things that last.