The International Language of Knits
Note from Sandi: Ever wonder what goes into translating a knitting book from another language? Interweave book editor Anne Merrow has recently finished working on the English version of Feminine Knits, so I asked her to tell us a bit about the process. Here's Anne!
A year and a half ago (which seems like just yesterday on the long-lead schedule of a book editor) I spotted a message in my inbox from Clara Parkes of Knitter’s Review. I always love to hear from Clara, and this was no exception; she’d heard from Lene Holme Samsøe, a Danish knitwear designer and author who was interested in finding an American publisher for her latest book. Thinking that I’d enjoy the book, Clara sent me the title—Feminin Strik—and I went off to investigate. Although the book was available only in Danish and Norwegian at the time, a few intrepid English-speaking knitters had worked through a pattern or two with the help of international friends and on-line dictionaries.
When Lene sent me a copy of the book, I looked through it like any reader would—what do I want to make? It was clear that Lene had created something special: fresh, clever knitting patterns that so many women would love to knit. I could immediately picture myself in the Frost Flowers Jacket, editorial director Tricia Waddell in the Lace Tiered Skirt, and Sandi in the Bolero. I was smitten.
But as an editor deciding to acquire a book, especially for translation, I consider other factors beyond wanting a copy for my own bookshelf: Can we make the directions accessible to our readers? Can our technical editors verify the directions? Will the knitters be able to buy yarns to make the patterns?
Fortunately, Interweave has published several books by Vivian Høxbro and Marianne Isager, so we have experience in translating Danish knitwear patterns. Translator Carol Huebscher Rhoades is accustomed to deciphering Scandinavian knitting directions for us.
With Carol’s translation and Lene’s garments in hand, we set about making the directions accessible to our audience. Knitters may form one community around the world, but there are regional differences to keep in mind. It seems that many Scandinavian knitters grew up with needles in hand and tend to be comfortable discerning the spirit of a pattern and adapting it to fit their needs, while many American knitters prefer their patterns unambiguous and explicit. Danish knitters also tend to be more familiar with crochet, while here the crafts are more distinct. Making sure we’d translated the right words was just the beginning; explaining the patterns clearly was more challenging, and it kept Lene, the technical editors, and me busy in a three-way e-mail conversation.
But what about the yarns? We have wonderful yarns available in North America, as do European knitters… but not necessarily the same wonderful yarns. Even if we could get Danish yarns easily, some of the original yarns have been discontinued. To find suitable yarn options, Lene and I scrutinized yarn databases, shade cards, and the expertise of yarns store owners on both sides of the Atlantic. (All Interweave knitting books include information about the suggested yarn’s weight, fiber composition, and necessary yardage so that knitters can make informed substitutions, but for the knitter looking for just the right yarn, it can be helpful to know whether to go for the tightly-spun multi-ply Merino yarn or the looser Lopi-style yarn when both list the same gauge on the ball band.)
A few months ago, my journey to bring Feminine Knits to Interweave’s readers ended when the book went off to the printer—but the book’s journey has just begun. It's available now, in yarn shops and the Interweave Store, where you can discover the book for yourself. I hope you fall in love with it, too.
— Anne Merrow
Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.
What's on Sandi's needles? Finally! A decision has been made in the what-to-knit-for-Baby-Delaney. I've got the yarn on order for the sweetest baby blanket made of lace stars: Star Light, Star Bright, part of our new free Baby Knits ebook!