Interviewee – Amelia Hodsdon
1) When did you start tech editing? Could you give us a potted history of your knitty background and how you got into your career?
In late 2015, I was leafing through a copy of The Knitter, and stopped at the credits page. What was this job “technical editor”? Was this the new direction I should take?
Knitting was part of my childhood in as much as I would ask my mother for a jumper with very precise requirements (Britpop-themed stripes; something that didn’t flout school uniform guidelines enough to get in trouble but that also signalled mild rebellion, etc) and some while later one would appear. It wasn’t until a weekend in 2007 when my flatmates and boyfriend were away that I set myself the challenge of learning to knit. Somehow I had found the My So Called Scarf (by Alison Isaacs) online and fixated on it.
Luckily for me, Loop was then (in its Cross Street days) around the corner from my flat, so I equipped myself with a learn-to-knit book, yarn and needles, and spent that weekend totally failing at knitting a scarf. Things stayed pretty casual, though ambitious, on the knitting front until friends started having babies, and I got into sourcing woolly yarn from their local areas to knit together into haps (the Tweed Baby Blanket by Jared Flood – whatever became of him?! 😉 )
Ravelry was my go-to website whenever work got slow, and I set up a lunchtime knitting group (Woolly Liberals, later ScarfAce). In 2015, I had to take a long time off work because of stress and depression, and a couple of local knitting friends invited me on a trip to a new yarn shop. Walking into Wild and Woolly that March was a turning point in my life – not only did Anna’s warm welcome and wall of colourful yarns ignite a fire that I thought had gone out, the community of crafters, dyers and designers provided support, friendship and later work opportunities.
Back to this job, “technical editor”. I’d decided to leave the Guardian, where I had been working as a magazine production editor and co-editing the style guide, in search of a more flexible and autonomous work life. Technical editing looked as though it could be the answer: I had the professional skills, but no qualifications, however. I took Joeli Kelly’s tech-editing course, and attended a workshop by the wonderful Kate Atherley, and began editing patterns for designers I knew through Wild and Woolly, or had met at knitting events.
I had made a great friend in Helen Reed (aka The Wool Kitchen), and I helped her to produce designs with her beautiful yarn. Working on Helen’s busy stall at a couple of Edinburgh Yarn Festivals gave me the chance to meet many famous designers and other wool industry people, and word of mouth (thank you, lovely recommenders!) has brought me many fascinating projects since then, with clients from London to New Zealand, and back via the US and Scotland.
Exactly a year ago, keen to be able to take on really hefty commissions, and to have someone to talk to while doing so (freelance life can be a bit lonely), I co-founded Light Work Collective with Rosee Woodland, another experienced editor (you can read more about her in the Stitchmastery interview she did a year ago: https://www.stitchmastery.com/interview-series-4-rosee-woodland/). Her background is in magazines, and she specialises in writing and/or grading patterns for top-level designers, so our skills are really complementary and it’s lovely having a colleague to dream big with and bounce ideas off. We provide services for publishing houses and designers, and have worked on two major books now, with a string of regular clients who value our grading + editing skillset. Rosee is brilliant on construction and fit; I love the meticulous process of checking every last instruction and making a pattern user-friendly and consistent, both internally and within a collection. Really love it.
My work at the Guardian was always about finding the truth within words, and upholding that for the benefit of readers – which is why I now always ask designers to be really clear about what kind of “ssk” they recommend the knitter uses. The knitter can then choose to go their own way, but at least they know what the designer truly meant.