I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Feller at TNNA this past June and seeing her exemplary knitting in person. I was really struck by the beauty and thoughtfulness that went into creating Contemporary Irish Knits. I don’t think I have to tell you that Carol is passionate about Irish knitting. Her lovely book contains 20 well written patterns and documents Carol’s exploration of the Irish mills. Visit Carol’s website Stolen Stitches here.
Click here to buy Contemporary Irish Knits (On sale for $24.99 USD)
What I like most about Contemporary Irish Knits is that it literally has knitting patterns for the whole family. The book has 20 beautiful knitting patterns, photography of the idyllic Irish Countryside, essays with an emphasis on Irish Mills, and traditional motifs used in new ways.
Carol has done a beautiful job with her book and I hope you’ll help support her continuing efforts by buying her book. She gracefully walks the line between independent designer and utilizing traditional publishing and shows that you don’t have to embrace only one publishing method to accomplish your goals. Thanks Carol for your insightful comments about publishing and I’m looking forward to your next book!
Fickle Knitter Design Interviews Carol Feller, author of Contemporary Irish Knits
How long from concept to printing did it take to create Contemporary Irish Knits?
Almost exactly two years ago I started thinking about this book. I had the first pattern, Killybegs, finished two summers ago, and I had started looking at Irish mills and the yarn they produced. I really wanted a bigger project to sink my teeth into and the idea of a book really took hold. Shortly after that Kristi Porter (author of Knitting in the Sun) introduced me to Roxane in Wiley and we started talking about the idea of a book.
They say that producing a new book is like having a baby. Do you feel like one of the Duggar Family after publishing your 1st book?
First of all, being in Ireland I must admit I had to look up who on earth the Duggar family was! I can confidently tell you that writing a knitting book is definitely a whole lot easier than having 19 kids! The four I have are plenty, thank you very much!
I tend to panic early in a project. Basically, when I put the initial plan together and realized how much needed to be done I started working as fast as possible and (as I usually do) ended up finishing early. It was the same for me in college, whenever there was a big project to work on I rushed and panicked at the start and always ended up finishing before everyone else began pulling last minute all-nighters.
Approximately how often did you eat meals prepared by someone else during the final stages of Contemporary Irish Knits?
Well as I had got a lot of the work done early, cooking wasn’t a problem. The schedule that was worked out with the publisher meant that the work had a nice even pace that was never too overwhelming. Keeping 4 boys fed, clothed, ferried to different activities and somewhat sane means that I don’t have the luxury of locking myself in the studio for days at a time (however appealing that would be!). Plus we live in the country so take out isn’t an option – when you have a 30 minute round trip to collect food it kind of loses its appeal!
What does slip in my house though is the housework, kids couldn’t find their school uniforms and no one could find clean spoons in the kitchen.
How much alcohol did you drink during the creation of your last book?
No more than usual, but I’m not sure that I’d have gotten much sleep without my glass of red wine in the evenings. It can be pretty hard to get the brain to switch off when you’ve been crunching numbers all night!
What are the benefits of traditionally publishing a book versus self publishing? What makes traditional publishing right for you?
I spent a lot of time trying to decide how to publish this book. Up till then, I had been self-publishing my own patterns and also producing some work for magazines. I love the control you get with self-publishing, the pattern, layout, styling and photography is all yours. Also you need a smaller volume of sales to make the same profit, as a larger percentage returns to you.
However, for a project of this size, working with a publisher really benefited me. I could not have afforded to put this much time and money into a self-published book, it would have ended up being a much smaller project, which I don’t think would have done the subject justice.
I was also very fortunate working with Wiley as they gave me almost total artistic control; my husband (who photographs my self-published work) did all the photography, we could shoot on location here in Ireland, and the styling and model choices were mine to make. Fortunately, my editor Roxane and I had very similar thoughts about photography and style, which made the whole process friction free!
I loved the leisure of being able to focus purely on the design and styling of the book, and working with the publisher meant that distribution, promotion and legal issues could all be dealt with just by email. I have plenty of future plans to continue self-publishing, but for a book this size working with a traditional publisher was a perfect fit.
What is the most useful tool that no one else knows about in Traditional Publishing?
For me, the biggest benefit was having a dedicated team people to work on the areas I don’t like/don’t have time to/or can’t do myself (managing distribution, direct selling, all the time you need to spend on promotion, etc.) I love the independence of being a single designer in a studio, but sometimes you need a whole team behind you.
Did you keep any of the samples from your book for yourself?
As we did the photography here in Ireland I still have all the samples. Currently they aren’t for personal wear though as they are all being used for trunk shows at yarn shops. Down the road, I can’t wait to get my hands on Ardara as it’s a garment that I’ll get tons of wear from.
What’s your favorite curse word?
I actually try to be good about not cursing in front of the boys but the occasional ‘feck it’ does sneak out! It’s hard work attempting to be a role model. My husband however reading this behind me is snickering, he hears much worse on nights when I have to rip an evenings work, but I’m not owning up to it!
Which project from Contemporary Irish Knits is most special to you?
The concept for the jacket Killorglin haunted me for a long time. I love cables flowing organically from ribbing and wandering across the fabric very naturally. However figuring out how to write that as a pattern took me a long time. When it all came together as a multi-sized garment it was really satisfying. Not all ideas in designer’s brains can be translated into patterns!