How the last few weeks have flown! It seems like only yesterday that we sent Kate Davies' book, Colours of Shetland, to press. I was completely chuffed to be the Technical Editor for this project, not least because I was working in my favourite publishing double-act with Nic Blackmore (we did the Fyberspates pattern collections together). Kate is always a delight to work with, but I just knew from the start that this book would be special. And boy, was I right!
To try to capture something of the laughter that we shared while working on the book, I've asked Kate and Nic a few questions...
Jen: You chose to self-publish Colours of Shetland rather than going to an established publisher - what was the biggest challenge of taking this route?
Kate: Starting out, I suppose the biggest challenge was understanding the areas in which I had no prior experience -- I've worked with many different publishers in several different fields, but as a writer you are generally separated from the actual, physical nitty-gritty of preparing a book for publication. One of the best decisions I made (of course prompted by you, Jen) was to work with Nic on layout and production. It made a massive difference to have someone with Nic's skills, expertise, and general good humour handling that side of things. I have learnt masses from Nic, and now have an added respect for those who work in the production side of the publishing business. I suppose my advice to anyone thinking about self-publishing is that all aspects of the process should be professional - otherwise what's the point?
Jen: There are so many inspiring aspects of Shetland and its knitting, how did you manage to narrow it down into just 5 themes? And are there other themes waiting for a next book (She asks with fingers crossed that there will be another...)?
Kate: The landscape, history and culture of Shetland is indeed endlessly inspiring and there were so many themes I might have chosen! At the beginning, I had a large pool of vague essay ideas, and I began by creating distinct palettes that worked with these themes. After that I began to narrow the ideas down in terms of the designs that seemed to work with them . . . and then had to combine the combined design & essay concepts into what pleased me as a balanced collection -- so yes -- several themes were set to one side during this process. I have a notebook filled with these combined essay/design concepts and have no doubt that some will be making an appearance in the future!
Jen: Nic, you previously worked in publishing on a variety of subjects including aerospace - what's been the best thing about moving into knitting pattern publishing?
Nic: You're right, I worked for an aerospace magazine publisher before I branched out on my own, and even after I left, I still did a lot of work for them for another 5 years. The subject matter never interested me and, in fact, some of the defence publications made me fairly uncomfortable, despite working on them for nearly 20 years. Two years ago I heard that Jeni Hewlett of Fyberspates was planning to publish her first book of knitting patterns, and since I love her gorgeous Scrumptious yarn and had met her a couple of times at knitting shows and workshops, I took the bold (for me!) step of speaking to her about it. I'm so happy I did, as working on The Scrumptious Collection Volume 1 was an absolute joy, and I've been happily working on various lovely knitting publications ever since. Of course, the absolute *best* thing about moving into knitting pattern publishing has been that I get to work with you in our virtual Skype 'office' that lets us share a coffee and giggles every day!
Jen: Lots of people have commented on the clear layout of Colours of Shetland. Do you think that being a knitter changes how you work on a book like this?
Nic: I am pleased that people find the Colours of Shetland pages easy to read and clearly laid out - when I design any new publication I do try to be very mindful of who will be reading it and what its purpose is. Being a knitter means that I don't have to imagine who is going to be reading and why, because it's me! I have to admit that while working on Colours of Shetland my main thought through the whole design process was "I want to KNIT ALL THE THINGS". :D
Jen: If you were stranded on a desert island with no sheep and only one design from the book, which would it be and why?
Kate: Definitely the Puffin Sweater! I would dig myself a burrow and wear it every day.
Nic: Errr, see above answer - KNIT ALL THE THINGS. Hee. Please don't make me choose just one... Really? Are you going to get that haddock out to slap me with again?! OK, OK. Well, considering that I have already started knitting the gorgeous Northmavine Hoody, I shall assume that by the time I'm stranded on a desert island I might have finished it (stop laughing!). So, something else... umm, I think it would probably be the Ursula Cardigan. Mainly because I so enjoyed reading Kate's words about Ursula Venables, the woman who inspired the pattern. I couldn't resist getting the Life in Shetland and Tempestuous Eden books while I was working on Colours of Shetland and both books really are an enjoyable, informative read. So, yes, the Ursula Cardigan, but you are mean for making me choose just one!
Ursula Cardigan © Kate Davies
Jen: What has surprised you most about people's reaction to Colours of Shetland?
Kate: As there aren't many precedents for knitting books with a similar structure, I wasn't totally sure if knitters would really be interested in the whole 'package' - by which I mean the book's photographs and essays as well as its designs. Happily it seems that people seem to like the "colour stories" and probably the best feedback I've had is that someone's non-knitting friend/dad/aunt/partner has picked up the book and really enjoyed its photographs or words.
Jen: I think it's fair to say that we giggled our way through the process of working on the book - can you pick out a particular moment that made you laugh the most?
Nic: I think I particularly enjoyed watching your face when I got you to properly study the sheepy photo that we used on page 4 - Kate had pointed out the laughing sheep to me before I used the photo, but seeing you suddenly spot the happiest sheep living in Shetland was very funny.
Kate: Honestly, the best thing about working on 'Colours of Shetland' was that the whole process was truly collaborative, and genuinely FUN. I feel that the book is what it is because of our combined positive input, and am pretty sure that the reader will be able to tell that that everyone involved in making it was having a bloody good time. My favourite moment was probably our joint discovery of the laughing sheep (readers should be able to easily spot her!).
For the record, my favourite moment was also spotting the laughing sheep (oh and also giggling each time we met on Skype and discovered we were wearing the same hat!).
Kate's kindly given me 2 copies of Colours of Shetland for a giveaway prize. To enter, please leave a comment on this blog post, telling me which hand-knitted item (not necessarily one of Kate's designs) you would take to a desert island, and why. Comments will remain open for exactly 2 weeks from the time of posting, and will close automatically. Two comments will be chosen at random from the entries, and each chosen commenter will receive one copy of Colours of Shetland. Please ensure that you leave your email address in the required field when you post your comment, so that I can contact you to arrange postage of your prize. I am happy to post worldwide. Only one entry per person please. Your comment may be deleted if it doesn't comply with the above instructions.
Good luck, and Happy Knitting!