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Interview with JC Briar

With the release of Charts Made Simple, JC Briar has given the knitting community an incredibly valuable resource.  You can learn more about Charts Made Simple here, and more about JC herself here.

Steph:  Most print books and magazines, I’ve noticed, only have charts if charts are appropriate. What do you think about the growing trend in providing both charts and line by line instructions in self published patterns and  digital-only patterns? Are we (speaking as a self-publishing designer) enabling our non-chart reading customers and doing them a disservice?

JC: No, I don’t think that providing stitch pattern instructions in both charted and written form does a disservice to anyone. Think of it this way: if a knitter doesn’t read charts, would they buy a pattern that only had charted instructions? Probably not. But if a pattern included both, they’d have the option–with a little encouragement–of comparing the written and charted and instructions, and possibly, at some point, following the charted instructions exclusively.

From conception to publication, how long did the book actually take?

Years. 🙂 How many years depends on which conception we’re talking about. The original idea was for a much, much larger book covering chart writing and stitch pattern manipulation as well. Once I figured out that only a small, focused book had any chance of getting completed in my lifetime, and what the focus ought to be, then the book took about a year to complete.

Why did you choose to self-publish?

Well, I’ve known a number of successful self-publishing authors. Their experiences told me that self-publishing would be more work, but would result in a greater pay-off than the royalties offered by traditional publishers. Also, by self-publishing I’d retain control over the project’s schedule… which was important, as I struggled with the book’s focus.

Did you do Cat Bordhi’s Visionary retreat ?

Yup. And I used to tech-edit for Janet Szabo. So, like I said, I know a fair number of self-publishing authors.

Can you share if another book is in the works? Details?

Yes, more books are in the works! No, no details yet–I’m still figuring it all out–but chart writing is likely to be the major theme.

You wear many hats: teacher, author, designer, tech editor. Is that diversity by choice, or a necessity of the being in knitting-related  business, or both?

It’s pretty much a necessity in this field, I think. Yes, it would be possible to earn a living wearing just one hat, but it would be tough. Most knitting professionals wear at least two: to have multiple income streams, to keep their name “out there” and fresh in knitters’ minds, and to have some variety in their work lives.

For me, wearing the teacher hat is a way to get out of the house, to connect with other knitters and understand their concerns. Writing Charts Made Simple was, in a way, another sort of teaching. And designing is just plain fun, of course. Tech editing, though, had to be put on hiatus, to give me the time I needed to finish writing Charts Made Simple.

And how did you get into this business?

In the dot-com bust that followed 9/11, I got laid off–and not a minute too soon! I had tired of the corporate world. Knitting offered a more fulfilling–if more arduous and less profitable–way of life.

You describe yourself as a ‘technique freak and a skill junkie’. When you design, do you tend to design around a technique, or do you search for techniques to work in the design?(I guess it’s a chicken or egg scenario  – what comes first, the design or the technique?)

No surprise here: what often comes first for me is the stitch pattern. Then it’s choosing yarn and, essentially, designing a fabric. From the fabric, I figure out what shape the garment ought to have.

That said, I like having a variety of techniques at my fingertips, as it lets me choose between them at every step of the process: What sort of stitch pattern do I want to play with? What sort of sleeve/body join would give me the right garment style? Do I want to knit bottom up, top down, or some combination? Which cast-on will give the right effect? And so on. Technique permeates everything, in other words.

Thanks so much JC!

3 comments… add one
  • KnitSteve March 16, 2011, 8:55 am

    Excellent interview 🙂

  • Rose March 16, 2011, 5:40 pm

    Ooh, great questions! My copy is currently on its way, but I would have bought it earlier if I’d realized JC Briar self-published it – that’s great! Great interview, thank you, I’m so excited to get my copy (tomorrow maybe!)

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