Archives were shut, yesterday, for some reason or other so I had to content myself with the Reference Library instead. Ended up spending some time in the company of Robert Sharp; a shepherd’s son who became schoolmaster at North Cave, East Riding of Yorkshire, from 1804 to 1842.
To entertain his grown up son, who worked away in London, Robert kept a diary of everyday life in North Cave. His extant letters to his son and the diaries that survive, are in print. Sharp was a radical, politically-inclined, mischievous man with a dry sense of humour and great fun to spend some time with, yesterday, as I scoured his diary and letters for clothing references.
Not clothing, this, it was just so random and silly I thought other fans of Georgian England would enjoy it:
Wednesday 20th January, 1830
I was at Old Willy’s one night smoking a pipe, and his Cat set on the Table , and the old Gentleman in a sort of half Doze, when I blew a quiff♥ up the cat’s nose – which made her jump clean over his head on the Flour bin, and then off again, in a crazy sort of way. Bless me he says how my Cat jumps about, it must be a sign of bad weather.
♥ “QUIFF” meant “a curl”.
The Diary of Robert Sharp of South Cave. Life in a Yorkshire Village 1812- 1837,
Eds. Janice E Crowther and Peter A Crowther, Oxford University Press, 1997.
Errata are the bane of the designer’s life. I’m thinking about it because of the Edwardian gloves pattern which has resurfaced, and needed my attention this week just as I was hoping for a few days of no knitting. But also because, alongside writing the next book, I am fixing the errata in the last.
I don’t think of myself as a designer. More an historian who simply renders historical designs of long forgotten folk; I’m more of a writer, less of an artist.
As a Yorkshireperson, I’m culturally obliged to speak my (tiny) mind. And on some matters I have managed to keep silent a long time, maybe rightly so. Today I have to put up some errata for a little, and now rather old, glove pattern so thought I’d write a little about the nature of errata.
What follows is not a criticism of the publisher concerned – just of myself.
‘River Ganseys’ was dogged with errata – some my fault; some unaccountable. (So yes, still my fault). But at the end of the day, all my fault, as it had my name on it. And there were things I hated about its layout and things I had no control over and things which seemed to shift between the last time I saw it and the time it appeared in print – which brought me to the conclusion that I would rather self-publish books, in future, than use publishers, on the whole. No reflection on that particular publisher – just seems to be a common experience, talking to other writers, particularly in the field of knit design, who don’t self publish, that they wish they had…
In retrospect, I wish I’d held RG back as it suddenly, finally, became A Thing in the weeks after my dear friend who had ridden shotgun with me on some of the research, died, and I wasn’t able to concentrate on it, at all.
I hate excuses. And that is still an excuse but I shared it in the interests of full (well nearly full) disclosure. It wasn’t the time for me to publish – it became a necessity during the worst few weeks of the past few years it could have become a necessity. But of course, you are beholden to other people’s possibly perfectly reasonable schedules. Launch Book A at Show C. No-one is going to listen to you mithering one of your dearest friends just died, and you need more time. Especially when you’ve had loads of time, already. If you want the brutal truth: I’d got to the point I assumed the book would never see the light of day – so I hadn’t re-visited it since I hit ‘send’ on it, long since. “Many a slip twixt cup and lip” but somehow, errata happen in that lost space, between a thing being ‘done’ and a thing being ‘out’. I’d had some exchanges that made me feel whatever I did was wrong, or creating too much extra work – so I had sort of written it off as a piece of work which was too sprawling, and difficult despite the text being pretty interesting and had, in the spirit of pragmatism which is all I really know, written it off.
There was much more under the surface with that book, that made me unhappy about it, as well as with it. Including the mysterious loss of what I felt to be the key chapter (indeed, covering something referred to in the book’s sub-title, that made no sense without the relevant chapter). As a writer, I never look at my work once published. That’s it, it’s gone and I’m already mentally on the next thing or the thing after the next thing. I don’t care how it is edited. I am not precious about my words. I don’t usually care what is cut because I’m not reading it once it’s out; I’ll never know. I can’t bear to look at anything I’ve written, even though the name on it isn’t my real life one.
I used to edit, many years ago for a national charity and knew from practice that experienced writers and widely published experts are curiously blase about their work. The inexperienced ones are and can make an editor’s life hell whinging about various cuts, even the slightest thing. Yet international names in the field? Totally not precious about their words. I learned from that. I always give more words than word count precisely so there is plenty to cut. And I don’t give a monkey’s what is cut. Cutting is good. You can tell that just from reading my unedited stuff here, right?
In all my years writing under different names, in different fields, I had never cared one jot what ended up on the cutting room floor. Except just once in my writing life – for this entire, crucial (and happened to be my favourite) chapter, unaccountably vanished. I’d understand if it was badly written. Or irrelevant. Or self indulgent. I didn’t feel it was.
That book had languished too long between my final full stop and going into print. By which time, I’d forgotten too much of it and this is indeed, the nature of errata, sometimes; that we have longeurs, during which things fall down the cracks in the floorboards. I went to the kind of university where you did everything at breakneck speed, and the only way to survive, academically, was to dump everything in your mind and move on to the next thing, and the next, and it has left me with that mind-set. Macbeth one week; Ben Johnson the next, Romantic poets the next…. I can pick up info quickly but also seem to move on from it quickly. A definite downside but it is how certain British universities worked an the only way I know how to research and write.
So revisiting errata doesn’t come naturally. (Obviously, duty to your readers over-rides any natural tendencies to constantly move on or avoid looking at your own published stuff).
I had researched the story of the writers of ‘The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales’ – and that book too, languished several years on the publisher’s desk before seeing the light of day. Whilst the publisher brought out “vital” books on pig breeding, etc. Writing straightforward history is different to writing patterns, of course.
A kind of similar experience Elizabeth Zimmerman had with her work, in print. Not that I’m putting myself in such august company. But she came to a similar conclusion, having seen a design or two butchered by magazines. Although my experience of magazines has been much more positive and I have no intention of not publishing articles and short pieces and the occasional pattern as widely as possible, for certain favourite magazine editors as the tech editors, sub editors and editors of magazines I have worked with, have usually caught my glaring errors before they saw the light of day.
I wrote the Edwardian gloves pattern long before I had great experience of publishing knitting patterns, of course. I have since learned so much from magazine writing that there is no way I’d ever want to stop that learning curve.
More of book woes further down the line, when the second edition of ‘River Ganseys’ is about to come out. Don’t get me wrong. It was a labour of love. I still feel it is a good read and written with real passion; all the errors (apart from the loss of an entire chapter between the last draft I recall and the published thing), confined to the patterns where they got chopped around too much presumably to fit in with book formatting. (All my charts were complete, not chopped up into separate motifs. Now I’m aware that re-jigging them I face the same challenge in terms of page layout, the publisher did). The history of Yorkshire knitting, the text itself, is fine and I stand by it. I will feel better about it when that book is truly “mine” but at least I have back the rights.
Some of my early concerns were dismissed by a sub-editor was “first time writer’s jitters” which I found intensely patronising. I guess she wasn’t to know I had written in other fields, under other names, and my first time writer’s jitters were back around 1990… But the things that upset me about the book, as published, were not put right, and concerns I raised were, apparently, just my misguided naivete. Never mind the person who emailed me this was probably in primary school the first time I published a book, and maybe not born the first time I wrote an article that made it into print… You can’t blame people for what they don’t know. But that was patronising and would have been, if I had been a first time writer.
Anyone with a first edition of ‘River Ganseys’ will be able to access the new version, gratis, of course, and more of that when it happens. Which I intend to bring out simultaneously with my new, shiny, and rather exciting, if gothic, book. There will be patterns, a few well chosen ones, amongst the stories and seams of historical ore I’ve been mining for some time.
At wool fairs, I have often been asked if there are any books on Yorkshire ganseys. I stayed silent that I’d written one, as I knew, for many months, I had the chance of getting back the rights. If you want to read it and didn’t yet get it – hold on. I’ll trumpet here, when it’s out.
I love writing for magazines, and work hard with tech and sub editors to catch the glitches in the machine. For the most part, we succeed. The Edwardian Fingerless Gloves pattern finally (apparently – I hadn’t noticed) came down from the Blacker Yarns site where it had been a free download for a few years.
These were test knitted by others, at the time, and I made at least two pairs which I wore constantly, through several winters, when feeding/mucking out my angora bunnies. So the originals I had (not the ones pictured) may still exist but wouldn’t be worth photoing.
Although I made them using the lovely Blacker Yarns DK (it would work with any of their DKs), you can of course, use leftover oddments of DK or even leftovers of 5 ply guernsey yarn. Results may vary and a tension sample might be wise, but not vital.
I would add – feel free to swap out the Flags for a small guernsey motif you prefer, if knitting these. Structurally, they are the same as some Edwardian glove patterns I found at the time, and the motif itself came from an Edwardian jersey, IIRC but there are a few variants of flag patterns in guernsey knittings – and most more sophisticated than this. Gloves are a small canvas, and require the simplest version of a motif, sometimes.
Over Christmas, I got a request to put this now ancient pattern up myself, online. And I did but the pattern was so old, it was written in a way I felt was not very clear so I did a drastic re-write. But I don’t have the will to test knit it again after all these years, when I have so much more ‘deadline knitting’ on hand, I just can’t. As a result, I added in some errors. Not egregious ones, and the sort any knitter with a little common sense could spot and deal with, but still…
When it comes to my readers, I have always agreed with Jane Austen who once remarked:
“I do not write for such dull Elves
As have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.”
But that does not mean I’d gloss over errata or have no sympathy for anyone dealing with my errors. This will be several months of putting right errata as well as trying to avoid them in the new book. They are not totally unavoidable but I’ll give it my best shot – this time, in control of the parts of the process I wasn’t able to control, before. So the odds are favourable.
I’m wresting back control. Moral of this story? Never re-visit an 8 year old pattern, with re-writes, in the middle of Christmas! Thing is, if I hadn’t dealt with it instantly, I’d have forgotten, having a lot of more current work in the pipeline.
In early summer, look out for a totally revised and corrected version of ‘River Ganseys’ as I now have the rights back and can publish it myself, so put right all the things that were annoying me about it. (More on that very soon). I also have a fair few articles/patterns coming out in magazines, more distant pieces are beginning to come together, and on top of all of that, the new book – this time I will be in control of it, so any egregious errors will be my fault entirely. That involves some large projects (Shetland lace, new gansey pattern or two, and some really cool stuff base on historical knitting). So this was me being ‘efficient’, today – thinking about the nature of being inefficient.
You can download Edwardian Gloves for free, here (scroll down for link):
Anyway. To conclude. The nature of errata is that we learn from our mistakes.
I hope this is it for the cursed-seeming Edwardian Gloves. But of course, there will still be the possibility of… errata.
I need to link to errata on the Edwardian Gloves’ Ravelry pattern page, so here’s the errata. I re-wrote the entire section, so it is easier to follow:
Work this finger on first 7 sts of Needle 1, and last 7 sts of Needle 3. (ie: side of hand centred roughly over those final 2 plain knit sts, you worked at end of rnds. Place rest of sts (leave sts 7- 36 on waste yarn). Knit these 14 sts, M 4 sts [18 sts]. Knit round on these 18 sts for 5 rounds or for as long as seems good to you. Cast off loosely.
Take 6 sts from one end of waste yarn, and 5 from the other and put 6 on one needle, and 5 on another needle (ie: next to where you just made Finger 1). K 6, M 3 sts, K5, M3 sts [17 sts].
Knit round on these 17 sts for 5 rounds or for as long as seems good to you. Cast off loosely.
Work as Finger 2.
Knit across remaining 11 sts, M 4 [15 sts], K 5 rounds or as many as you fancy, then cast off loosely.
NB: One trick to avoid gaps, when picking up sts between fingers, is to pick up twice as many sts as required (eg: for Finger 2, P.U 6 st on a spare needle, then work immediately across them, K 2 tog so you end up with 3 sts, where you just picked up 6).