A few weeks ago I got an e-mail note from a woman named Evelyn. She was knitting a teddy bear I designed for the book I wrote with Melanie Falick called Knitting for Baby and was having trouble with the shoulders. I was in the middle of one of the last crunches on my upcoming book - Color by Kristin - and just didn’t have the time to answer. So I didn’t, much as I wanted to. When you do what I do, you have to spend your time where it is needed most. Most publishers have a staff person or a tech editor on retainer that I can pass pattern problems onto. As far as I know, this is not the case with STC so I usually have to help knitters through problems they have with books I have written for them. Honestly, this is one of my least favorite parts of my job.
When I write and design for a knitting book, I give the publisher the instructions my knitters have made the projects from. Then the publisher’s tech editor puts those instructions into the house style (every publisher has a different style). At the same time, the tech editor checks math and tweaks the instructions so that they are understandable and hopefully perfect. Tech editors are the un-sung heroes of the yarn industry. They stay behind the scene, tidying everything up and making authors and publishers shine. They strive for perfection and clarity. A good tech editor is in high demand and most of them are extremely busy people.
After a book is laid out, the manuscript is sent back to the author for re-checking. This is a crucial spot for the author to find inconsistencies or mis-interpretation by the tech editor. It’s the part I really try to spend hours on because I want my books to be understandable and easy to knit from. I was at this point with Color by Kristin when Evelyn contacted me.
Evelyn did not give up. Two weeks later she contacted me again. My book crisis was past and I had forgotten about her e-mail – it was buried in my in-box. At this point, I had a minute to look at the pattern for her. As far as I could tell, there was no problem with the pattern. Most times, this is the case but a knitter is not understanding how the directions are written or how a project is made. It is a matter of interpretation. I could tell this was Evelyn’s problem because the little bear isn’t the most straight forward project – although it is darn cute.
I wrote Evelyn back, helped her out and here’s what she wrote to me.
Thank you so much for personally responding to my email. I am honored. I expected one of your staff persons to answer. I actually feel very badly now for having bothered you with my problem. I feel so dumb for not understanding the instructions (everything is explained in depth in that book), I apologize. I was getting so frustrated and couldn't figure out my mistake. I understand now that I'm to sew the stitches that were bound off which will become the shoulder. I am so excited!!!
Thank you so much for your kindness and time.
I was relieved that her project was going to work out. But I was in hysterics also. Evelyn thinks I have a “staff.” If Evelyn ever knew. I decided to write back:
I'm still laughing that you think I have a "staff!" It's just me and my dogs, cats, sheep, chickens and actually, I am the only staff -- I'm their staff! I take care of their food and water and letting them in an out, so I suppose I am their maid and chef! Hope the grandbaby likes the teddy (or at least the mom or dad of the grandbaby!)
This little back and forth has made me think about how knitters perceive “the designers” they look to for patterns and creativity. There are a lot of us designers out here and there are very few of us who have “staffs.” Knitwear designers who write knitting books are usually trying to juggle a million balls at the same time – designing, writing, promoting, teaching, doing t.v. gigs (when asked), writing blogs, and more. And then there is the normal everyday things that need to be done. Around here, if I think about it, my head spins. This week, we’ve already been to two farmer’s markets to sell lamb, along with doing all the farm chores, entertaining an out of town guest with a good meal, planting our vegetable garden, mulching the flower beds.
Today, I am off to TNNA in Columbus. I’ll be helping to set up the Westminster Fibers Booth on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be selling yarn for them. If you are there, stop by and say “hi.” I’ll have a mock-up of my new book with me (that I had bound at Staples last night) and some lovely postcards for a takeaway gift. Hopefully I will be re-connecting with old friends and meeting some new ones.
To tell you the truth, getting away for this weekend will actually be a bit of a vacation from my everyday chores. No chickens or chicks or guinea hens to feed. No kittens or cats or dogs to feed. No errant sheep to corral back into the pasture. No family to cook and care for. And I don’t even have to cook for myself.
Truth be told, I can’t wait to get back to all my normalness on Monday!