Friday 27 January 2012

12 women in 12: Jen Arnall-Culliford

In my bloggerly and professional world I have found a theme growing this week: attention to detail. I have come to realise that the designers I respect the most are those that are as exacting in their patterns as they are creative in their designing. This level of professionalism is one I have huge admiration for and want to celebrate the kind of attention to detail that means audiences pay for patterns that are hugely fun to knit but also easy to follow and understand. 

Enter technical editing, my focus for the first woman in my '12 women in 12' series. I invited Jen Arnall-Culliford to share her experiences and bring a profession that many people might not even be aware of, to the forefront where it can be celebrated for all that it brings to the knitting world.

Jen in a Wooly Wormhead wonder
Jen works as a freelance technical editor which means that she works for a range of different people and companies who publish knitting patterns. Jen's job is to check, and correct the instructions to ensure that they will produce the same thing as the photographed sample. This involves checking that the tension (gauge), and number of stitches and rows will make the right sized pieces, and that those pieces will fit together to make a garment or accessory of the correct dimensions. This is not a job for the faint hearted or mathmatically challenged. 

Jen will also rewrite instructions to make them clearer and/or to fit them to a house style of pattern instructions. When knitters work regularly from a company's patterns, they should become familiar with the style of pattern wording. This makes it easier as the style is comfortable and known. As I described above, this is what really makes me fall for a designer and most importantly, stick with a designer as I know what to expect.

The work of a technical editor may also include re-drawing knitting charts and blocking diagrams, and grading patterns. Grading is the process of taking the first pattern (written in the sample size) and adding instructions to make the design available in a range of sizes. 
In something I can only describe as detective work, Jen will also occasionally pattern-write from scratch. In this situation, the designer only provides a schematic or fabric toile to give the shape of the desired garment, as well as a knitted swatch of fabric. Jen is then required to write a full set of knitting instructions, so that a sample knitter can create the sample garment, ready for photography.

Talking to Jen I was really struck by both her professionalism and her commitment to getting it right. One of the questions I asked, 'If I could do it all again, I would be.....' resulted in a fervent answer that she loved what she is doing. Jen describes her work colleagues as being her personal heroes and this dedication really does show through.

One of Jen's proudest moments (and there could be many, she struggled to be pinned to just one) was the Fyberspates first pattern collection, 'The Scrumptious Collection: Volume 1'.  Jen says, 'I think that Fyberspates wins by a whisker, because I was responsible for so much of the project' and goes on to describe the moment when she first saw the copies come back from the printer:

The Scrumptious Collection, (c) Fyberspates
"I could have burst with pride"

The Scrumptious Collection was the first big project that Jen worked on as a freelancer and helped Jeni from Fyberspates with almost every aspect of the book, from commissioning through to the styling for the photoshoot which she admits was out of her comfort zone. As well as the editing, the book also involved a few of Jen's own designs which she also does from time to time. 
It is Jen's final word's on the project that makes me really appreciate the importance of her role. Jen finishes talking about the project by reflecting that 'Seeing how well the book has gone down with knitters at shows just makes all of the hard work so worthwhile'. It is commiting to both the knitters and the designers that makes the job of technical editors so important.

Congratulations to Jen for being such an inspiration for knitters and knit professionals alike. If you're wondering where you might see Jen, you might spot her in future projects with Susan Crawford, Kate Davies, Kyoko Nakayoshi, The Knitter, Simply Knitting, Fyberspates and Jamieson & Smith. Alas, she cannot reveal details as the importance of confidentiality on creative projects is high. Instead, follow her antics on twitter, JenACKnitwear or her own blog.

Cover of Knit Real Shetland, Jamieson & Smith (c)
Stay tuned for more 12 women in 12 and please do join in to show your appreciation for technical editing by tweeting along on twitter (#12womenin12) or sharing your feelings about well written patterns on your own blog. Be sure to let me know/ link us in, we'd love to know what you think!


Kyoko said...

Jen is a super cool woman with so much passion for knitting. Her attention to detail and precision is something that not many people can achieve. I am so happy to see her featured :D Thank you for the post.
Happy weekend!

Maria said...

Wow, this lady should try doing more things out of her comfort zone if it results in something as lovely as "The Scrumptious Collection". It's good to see someone focused on the technical aspects featured - it makes all the difference to follow a good pattern that's been carefully reviewed.

PixelatedMushroom said...

Great article! I've always wanted to know more about this ^_^