The Making of Echoes of Heather and Stone
So the book is finished and out in the wide world. When we sent the last of the preorders it was both satisfying and left me feeling a little empty, like when you finish reading a good novel. For the last year Echoes of Heather and Stone has been either my what I’m actively working on or at the very least in my peripheral vision.
The whole process began a year ago. I began shooting ideas back and forth with Nadia about book ideas that were Irish, but not in the way we’ve seen before. I didn’t want exclusively cables and aran stitches, I wanted an older, more ancient version of Ireland to be represented. This also gave designers a much larger brush to work with. The design possibilities were endless! I started with some neolithic symbols, high crosses and illustrated texts.
Designers On Board
Once we had decided on the overall theme for the book the next step was to ask designers if they were interested. Many of the designers involved in the book had previously worked with historical themes themselves so they were very excited at the concept of the book. When I’m asked to create a design for a book or magazine myself themes can make all the difference. Sometimes an image or phrase can take you on a very exciting creative journey that really sparks your imagination.
Once we had settled on the designs everyone went quite (but busy) for several months. Then it was like Christmas getting all of the amazing samples in the post! Even though I’ve been working in this industry for many years now it’s fun to realise that I’ve never been at the receiving end of sample post. Every one that arrived was more amazing than the first, I’m just in awe of the talent of my fellow designers.
I like to write patterns but I find myself shying away from full blown essays. Once I get started I can do it but I find it very intimidating. However Nadia really enjoys writing and is very talented at it. She volunteered to write the essay at the start of the book and I jumped at the offer! It is beautifully put together and creates an anchor and harmony for the book, linking the projects together with their historical context.
My wonderful husband Joe did both the photography and book layout. This is not his full time job, but to keep production costs down he does it for us and is just fantastic at it. He’s got such a good eye for framing of photos and is always good at getting models to relax. Jordan (who has just left Ireland) is the model I used (along with myself) and she is just so photogenic and enjoys being in front of the camera. Last winter was really, really cold and ran on much longer than usual which made it especially hard to photograph. We travelled from Tipperary, to Blarney on to Cork city and then out further west. We tried photographing at Cahir castle but the wind was so bitter I couldn’t take my coat off without shivering violently!
This was the toughest part for me. Every designer involved in the book has their own style and way of writing patterns. The challenge was to harmonise the language, charts and schematics but still keep the general pattern style and designer voice unique. I think we managed the balance but do let me know what you think! I did more editing and reviewing than I had thought as initially my main technical editor was unwell and I wanted to get the process started. I discovered that I actually don’t mind editing other people’s work, it’s not a skill I would have thought that I had!
Printing and Packing
Next the book went to print. Up to this I’ve been printing with UK based printers but for the first time I found a local printer that was great to work with. It meant we could discuss the project in person and even got a personal book delivery! We spent a bit of time deciding on the paper quality. Up to this the books I’ve had printed used gloss paper. It creates a very predictable and polished finish but the printer suggested that a matt finish might really add to the look and feel of the book. He was totally right, the matt paper feels wonderful (and as an added bonus smells really good as well!).
Here’s the printing in action:
The final step then was to ship the books out to you all, Kay and I spent several days stuffing envelopes and there were only a few paper cuts! We got a great workout hauling bags and boxes in and out of cars.
You might like a peek at my version of Newgrange that I finished a few weeks ago in the Broken Tiles colourway. I kind of love how it turned out, the colours all just pop!
Being my first collaborative project this was a very, very steep learning curve. I’ve learned lots of lessons along the way, and while I was swearing I’d never do it again over the last few months I’m already finding myself planning on how to improve the process. I discovered that collaboration is definitely bigger than the sum of the parts and allows everyone to shine. Next time I’ll give myself more time for each step of the process and I need to figure out a really good way of working editing control. It gets very, very confusing when 4 different people are working on edits at the same time and figuring out which is the master one. More time would make this a linear process with only one person working on it at a time.
If you’re coming to Dublin for the book launch at This Is Knit on Saturday (1st of September) I’ll make sure to have the shawl with me so you can get a closer look!