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).
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.)
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
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.
(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
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?
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.
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
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
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,
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.