Interviewee – Sarah Walworth aka TricotEdit
1) When did you start tech editing and teaching? Could you give us a potted history of your knitty background and what lead you to your career?
I really don’t remember when I first learned how to knit. I am sure my mother taught me sometime in my early childhood, but I wasn’t interested in it. I spent more time crocheting and eventually sewing, not just for myself but also for others. In 2006, I was homeschooling my three young children, which required me to sit and help them with their lessons. I was terribly fidgety, and I started to look for quiet things to do with my hands.
I made a bunch of crochet projects, but it hurt my wrists, so I decided to re-learn to knit. That was also painful, but not physically. I was a terribly inept thrower, and after completing my first sweater (that I seamed on my sewing machine), I decided I needed to learn how to knit better and faster. By watching online videos, I learned how to tension my yarn in my left hand (wait, was I really a leftie?) and then I read every book in the library on knitting. I re-knit the same yarn multiple times into various sweater designs, tweaking the fit to match my measurements, learning valuable lessons in pattern reading, gauge, and yarn choice, all through every mistake I made. My fidgets calmed, I could be patient while teaching, and amazingly, my crippling perfectionist tendencies began to go away.
In 2008, I attended a book signing with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and for the first time I was in a room of more than a hundred laughing people – and everyone was knitting something. I watched in utter amazement as the lady sitting across from me worked the toe of a sock in the short 45 minutes of the book reading. What was this marvelous club and how do I get in? Fortunately, a kind knitter noticed my lonesomeness and incredulity and told me about Ravelry, which began an expansive period of my knitty life.
I began to unravel thrift store sweaters for finer quality yarns, explore seamless knitting and a multitude of constructions and techniques, all while applying all that I already knew about fit and garment construction from years of sewing. The subject has not lost its thrill; I still spend hours reading new knitting books, working on my latest projects, and trying to improve my tension. I haven’t succeeded at that yet, but maybe someday I will not row out!
As my children grew older and more independent in their studies, my husband and I began to consider what I would do next after homeschooling was complete. I had some experience in editing and decided to pursue a copyediting certificate. After three semesters of intense study, copyediting was an unhappy prospect; I am not the type who likes to read medical journals, doctoral dissertations, and white papers. One evening, I came across Joeli Kelly’s website, where she was advertising a knitting technical editing course. Her little questionnaire to determine if you are TE material made my heart jump–that was what I was meant to be! I completed both courses and launched my business officially in the spring of 2016.
About the same time, I found and fell in love with my local yarn shop, Quixotic Fibers, and began teaching there mid-2016. I have also been invited to teach at local hand knitting guilds, which is incredibly fun and very rewarding. Knitters in Texas are an enthusiastic bunch!
Sometimes my only inspiration for my classes is my unfettered thirst for knowledge and creative mastery. I will come across a technique that I want to learn as much as possible about. I dive headlong researching the topic, working multiple projects, and then I often write a class or a presentation on it. I really love sharing all the various things I have stuffed into my head with anyone who wants to listen, and I thoroughly enjoy seeing knitters’ eyes light up when they learn something new.
I started posting Tech Tip Tuesday for knitwear designers after compiling a list of common issues to look for in patterns I edited. I was also inspired by my clients who mentioned they were becoming better designers and pattern writers after working with me. Each time I decide to post, I go to the next line on my tech editing checklist and write a little tip to my followers. Sometimes I get a bee in my bonnet about a topic, like sizing, and write a bunch of informative posts that I am particularly passionate about.
If I am grading a pattern or working for a client who requires a two-editor check, then I will work in tandem with another editor (or two or three). This has been the most rewarding part of my job. Tech editing is inherently a lonesome sport – just me and my computer. Having many opportunities to work with other tech editors on larger projects has not only made me a better editor (I am still learning from my mistakes!) but has reinforced how important community is over competition. I couldn’t do what I do without my colleagues’ help, support, and encouragement.
Stitchmastery was my first business investment after building my website. After doing a little research, I found the functionality and clean look of the finished charts incomparable to other chart builders. It is the software that many other companies I work with use, so it allows me to jump into their workflow seamlessly. Above all, I can provide a better service to my clients who are not chart knitters but want to include charts in their patterns for their customers. What seems intimidating and impossible to them can be done in a few minutes at my computer by just importing their written instructions! It has been one of the most useful tools in my tech editing toolbox; I couldn’t run my business without it.
The feature I have used the most in recent projects is the Output Text. Even though I have edited more than 500 patterns in the last three and half years, I still am terrible at checking written instructions versus charts. I have learned how to not make my eyes cross and I do it standing up and in good light, but even with all that, it does not make the necessary task palatable for me. Enter Stitchmastery! If a client forwards me their chart file with their pattern, I can export the text in their style into my word processing software and use the compare function to highlight differences from their pattern text in layout and the Stitchmastery-generated text. Usually, I can avoid checking line by line for 90% or more of the written directions and focus on the few lines the designer may have re-written or made an error in. It is a fabulous feature.
And, if my client has used the Output Text to write their written instructions, often I can just copyedit the written for copy-paste errors, stitch count errors, style issues, and typos. We both trust the instructions generated in Stitchmastery are accurate, and that is a wonderful feeling when you are on the hunt for hidden errors in a pattern.
There was a time when I wished for more customization possibilities, but your recent updates have met all those needs. Perhaps you could include a function for weaving in ends, tidying the kitchen, and walking the dog?
Over and over, I have been asked to grade patterns into multiple sizes, but I am only able to do so much of that time-consuming work for individual clients. To meet the increased demand for this kind of skill, I recently teamed up with other tech editors to develop an online course on grading knitwear, which will launch shortly. You can find out more about it on The Tech Editor Hub or on their Facebook group.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area not only has some of the best knitters in the world, but also the best fiber event, DFW Fiber Fest, run completely by volunteers. I will be teaching My First Sock on April 3, 2020.
And in other news, I am currently obsessed with knit dresses, especially the kind in vintage patterns from the 1940s-1960s, and I have plans to knit a fabulous version for myself out of my huge stash of mohair-silk laceweight. Exciting times!