When I got my copy of Julie Turjoman: Brave New Knits, I was instantly enchanted by it on a couple of different levels. Certainly, there was the immediate reaction to the beauty. Jared Flood's photography is stunning, as always.
After that initial flip through, I took a little more time to look at the projects and realized that there several things in it that I wanted to knit. Actually, it was more than that. What I realized was that all of the patterns were wonderful, that there weren't any duds. Like many knitters, I feel like a book has to have at least two designs in it that I think I'm going to knit before I'll buy it. This one had that and more!
Then there was the "will I actually read it test". I think sometimes pattern books get a quick glance and then they go to the bookshelf to be pulled down when you're ready to use them. Brave New Knits was different. I took it home and read it. All of it. It was wonderful to see how the the online lives of old friends like Stef Japel (Waves Pullover shown here in Mirth) and Wendy Bernard (Textured Tam in Pond Blue) had unfolded. It was even more fun to meet new friends like Ruth P. of Wooly Wormhead and Teresa Gregorio of CanaryKnits.
It all made me a little curious about the author and how the book unfolded. So I decided to ask. Here's a little peek behind the curtain.
Tell me a little about yourself, what's your background?
I grew up in a suburb of New York City as the oldest daughter of an artist mother who painted beautifully and could draw like an angel. I quickly realized that I needed to distinguish myself from the artistic media in which Mom had already cornered the market. As a young adult I spent my leisure time crouching over a potter’s wheel with my hands sunk into mounds of wet clay, making useful stuff such as teapots, plates, and bowls. For many years I embraced quilting; a couple of my original designs won ribbons at state and national shows. I worked for many years as an interior designer, and that training definitely informs my knitting designs today – my passion for color, form, and texture always guide my choices.
What was your first knitting project?
Needing a new hobby to keep my hands busy, I started knitting soon after I finished college. My first project was a simple Stockinette vest, made out of the first hand-dyed yarn I had ever seen. This was back in the 1980s, when the yarn choices were mighty slim compared to what we have at our disposal today. That yarn contained all the colors of a tropical sunset – so gorgeous that I almost wanted to eat it rather than knit with it! I can still summon the sense memory of that amazing fiber sliding through my fingers as I labored over the vest. Don’t think I ever actually wore it, but it’s still around my house somewhere.
What project have you learned the most from?
Early in my knitting life, I made everything in pieces. Then I made my first Icelandic sweater. That project got me to try knitting in the round for the first time. I did my first ever colorwork on the yoke. And I used waste yarn to hold the live stitches for the sleeves, which I picked up later and worked from the yoke down to the cuff. That was a LOT of new information in a single project!
What is your "go to" knit? What do you knit over and over?
My favorite knitting project is a sweater, but since they take a substantial time commitment I usually have a smaller project going at the same time. I’ve made several lace shawls, and around the holidays I tend to make lots of hats as gifts. Generally, I like to try new things so I don’t have a true “go-to” knit.
Can you tell me a little about the genesis of this book? How did you come up with the concept?
A few years ago, knowing how much time I spent reading knitting blogs and cruising around Ravelry, it hit me that there had to be thousands of others with the same curiosity about the designer-bloggers whose work I admired. But in addition to the time I spend on social media and on the internet’s vast resources for knitters, I have a shelf full of well-loved knitting books. It occurred to me that there could be a place for a volume that brought the talents of designer-bloggers to the reading public in book form. Pairing each designer’s profile with a special pattern created a tangible extension of his or her personality.
How did you pick the people you included in the book? There are really big names here as well as some rising stars.
While I wanted to bring attention to the rising stars whose work merits a wider audience, my editor impressed upon me that it’s those big names that sell books. The celebrity designers in Brave New Knits were incredibly gracious with their time and generous with their talent, and it was my goal to make sure their interviews contributed new information to their fans. Since the book’s release, many knitters have told me how excited they were to be introduced to some new designers with whose work they had previously been unfamiliar.
Tell me about your interview process. The bios were fascinating.
I’m a curious person, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to interview such a talented group of designers. I traveled as much as my budget would allow, to meet designers in person. Most of those I couldn’t get to (such as Mari Muinonen in Finland and Ysolda Teague in Scotland) were able to talk to me via Skype – another example of how our knitters’ community relies on the internet. Using a digital voice recorder, I taped each interview to ensure that I would have accurate quotes, and to help keep each individual designer’s personality fresh in my mind. I wrote a first draft of each profile as quickly as possible after the actual interview, but then spent countless hours reshaping and polishing it into final form.
What kind of direction did you provide for them in terms of their projects? Who picked what type of project ie sweater, accessorry? Yarn type? Color story?
Because this is such a personality-driven book, I especially wanted to be sure that each project was a reflection of its designer’s identity. Certain designers are known for making a specific kind of project, and I wanted them to be free to indulge that passion; for instance, Anne Hanson is known for her gorgeous lace, and Chrissy Gardiner has published a book of toe-up sock designs. I wanted the book to include a good mix of garments and accessories, but I’m well aware of the huge time commitment required to design a sweater. I really appreciated that several designers were willing to take on those large-scale projects. Several designers suggested yarns they felt would be appropriate for their projects, and others were happy to take my suggestions.
There were so many wonderful people on this project...How did you manage to coordinate all those schedules and deadlines?!
I’m fairly organized and have a healthy respect for deadlines, but I understand that not everyone works that way. I created spreadsheets to keep track of the interviews and the book’s projects. I sent out gentle reminders when necessary, but for the most part the designers exceeded my expectations. They are professionals, after all, and many are accustomed to the submission process for knitting magazines – even the newer designers who have other day jobs understand the importance of meeting their commitments. But I hate to bug people, so I was thrilled when many of the designers sent me their completed projects early!
So, I promised you a contest didn't I? Well, Julie was nice enough to send along a signed copy of the book. In addition, the lucky winner will receive Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn so they can make Ysolda's Orchid Thief Shawlette*. I picked this project because it's the one going on needles next for me. I'm just dithering about color now.
To enter the contest, make a comment. I'll leave the contest open through Monday, September 27 and pick a winner using a number generator on the 28th. Thanks for playin'.
*Errata for this pattern can be found here.