Over the past month, I’ve allowed the Socks for Mary to languish while I healed. They’re still where we last left them.
Despite my inability to knit, I can still chat and I have been chatting with Joanna Johnson, the designer of the socks and writer of Sherlock Knits. Joanna works with her husband and together they have created Slate Falls Press, an independent publishing house printing their own knitting books. Along with two pattern books for adults, their list includes several charming illustrated children’s knitting books which are a must for any dear little child in your life. They are located in Loveland, Colorado (I love the Colorado connection!).
What inspired you to write Sherlock Knits?
One of my favorite things about our books is their multi-generational appeal. When we first started out, I expected to see mothers knitting for babies, and aunties knitting for young children, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that very often this sharing crossed another generation to the grandparents as well. I am fascinated by the way books and handcrafts can be shared across three generations. A few years ago I was struck by the broad appeal of the Sherlock Holmes character when I realized he was equally fascinating to our teenaged daughter and her peers, my mother, my father-in-law, my sister and her teenaged son, and me. I knew it was the perfect theme for my next literary collection when I couldn’t stop thinking of ideas for locations, models, and the knitted designs themselves.
What’s your favorite pattern from the book? Why?
My favorite pattern in the book is Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Cozy. It takes me right to the upstairs rooms at 221B Baker Street, and seems the quintessential British knit. Also, on a personal note, the design experience for that particular piece was very gratifying. It came at a point in the book-writing process when I really thought I wasn’t going to make my timeline, and it came together so beautifully and is actually just really an enjoyable knit to create!
What is your favorite type of knitwear/accessory/home decor to design? Why?
My favorite things to design happen to change over the years, but I will say Socks for Mary is my first sock design and I have fallen in love with designing socks. My handknit socks are the pieces I wear more than any of my other items that I have knit. You can definitely expect to see more socks from me in the near future!
You’ve also written a book of patterns based on Anne of Green Gables. (Green Gables Knits: Patterns for Kindred Spirits) What prompted you to write pattern books inspired by literary figures?
That is a great question! I find it much more fun to design patterns based around the richness of a character from a favorite book. There is so much more to think and imagine about when making “Marilla’s Apron” rather than just “Lily Lace Apron”, do you agree? I also really enjoy costumes, theater and dress-up, so designing a piece around a character from a specific setting adds another challenge to the design process which I really enjoy.
Slate Falls Press is your own company. How did you decide to start your own publishing house?
There is a long answer and a short answer to that question! I will try the short answer, which is basically that neither the craft book or the children’s book publishers were interested in our work, but we still felt that there was an audience for what we were creating. After a season of reflection, research and recharging we decided to strike out on our own. My husband and I wear a lot of hats when we work together as a team, and I could never imagine doing this without him. The decision largely came out of a strong sense that we needed to write our books and that if no one else wanted to take the risk, we needed to find a way to do it on our own.
What were the benefits of that decision? Is there a downside?
There are so many benefits to publishing on our own: complete creative freedom is likely the biggest benefit. We aren’t restricted by the timelines, style or pressure of a larger company. Also, in the long run, there are benefits to maintaining all of the rights to our work. That is becoming more and more important as the way people enjoy media has changed so much just in the last decade. Of course there are also pluses and minuses with any decision- I would say the downside for doing things this way is that we are taking the entire financial risk on ourselves. We are just a regular family with three kids and a dog ;)… so choosing to invest in printing books instead of taking vacations or getting a better car can feel risky sometimes. But we have no regrets! It has been an amazing journey and we are eager to see what is in store for us next!
Well, I have to agree with Joanna. Slate Falls Press seems to be moving right along, and I can’t wait to see what shows up! My experience with Sherlock Knits (so far) has been as thoroughly enjoyable as this interview. The only thing I might change would to be able to sit down personally and have a tea party with that beautiful tea cozy covering the pot. Thanks for sharing, Joanna!
Sherlock Knits is available for purchase on Ravelry or in your local yarn shop.
(Full disclosure: I did receive a complimentary electronic review copy of Sherlock Knits from Joanna.)