CAAMFest 36, May 10-24

Just Two Sticks and String

Designer and blogger Euny Jang debuts as editor in chief for Interweave Knits magazine

January 1, 2008

THE POST-DOT-COM fairly tale may well be the blogger with a book deal. From snarky political commentary to salacious "memoirs" that flirt with both fact and fiction, scores of bloggers have gotten the book deal boon-with mixed results at the register. Among those who have benefited is handknits designer Eunny Jang, whose subject is decidedly lo-fi for the tech medium. But her blog didn't just land her a book deal. It landed her at the top of a national print magazine masthead.

Taught by her grandmother at the precocious age of 4, Jang's first project was a blanket for her Barbie doll. Despite the kitsch beginning, her work since then has been anything but. A true craftsperson, Jang has continually honed her knowledge and skill, voraciously reading Victorian knitting manuals and beefing up on Norwegian knitting methods. "I had always read a lot about [knitting], but it was always just a hobby bordering on the obsession territory," she half-jokingly admits. Her knitwear design revitalizes traditional techniques that fluidly blend the timeworn and novel, the classic with sleekly foxy.

"A big part of it is rallying against a disposable culture," says Jang. "When you bring up trendy clothing, or clothing that's meant to be worn for one season and then put away, it's important to me to find ways to offset that. Which is not to say that I don't buy tons . of stuff from H&M ... But it's important to me to have things that have a sense of permanence, a sense of history behind them."

For Jang, the act of knitting is a connection to our material cultural past. "When you knit something, you're not the only ingredient in that equation. There are these centuries of people who developed techniques and perfected techniques, and didn't do it for fun. When you make something, there are all these other times and places that are in it."

Now as Interweave Knits' editor in chief, it is evident that her time spent deciphering old tracts has paid off in ways she hadn't predicted. "I think we're in a time and place where textiles are a leisure activity, rather than an industry that is typical to the economy of the nation. And I feel that a lot of the time it's not taken as seriously as it has been in the past and in other places," Jang says. "I mean, I never thought that you could make money knitting or writing about knitting, or that kind of thing. It never really occurred to me until I kind of fell into it."

Jang studied journalism in college and worked as a freelance technical writer, as well as a crafts and food writer, before launching her immensely popular blog, see Eunny Knit! (www. eunnyjang.com), in 2005. Loaded with knitting history, generously in-depth tutorials and updates on the progress of her intricate designs, her entries have become a regular craving for many, from established designers to eager beginners. Her witty and elegant prose is enough to impress and hook non-knitters.

The great success of her blog led to a book deal (slated for spring 2009) with the Interweave Press books division early last year, and she became a regular contributor to Interweave Knits, the leading magazine in the needlecraft industry. This spring, just a year after her book deal, she was offered the position as editor.

At the time of Jang's hire, the blog averaged about 10,000 unique visitors per day, and her post announcing the new job received over 800 gushing comments. Jang's blog transferred to Knits' site to coincide with her newsstand debut. Her first issue, the fall issue, sold out after a month.

And although knitting has turned into a career, one thing is unwavering: Jang's passion for the craft is undeniably present. "I think there is a feeling in the non-knitting population, you know, 'Why would you do that?,' where that doesn't happen in general about making your own whatever-making and canning your own salsa, making your own pie dough ... There's sort of a puzzlement about it," she says.

"I've always been of the opinion that making something beautiful is sort of worthwhile for its own sake. I mean, already, just the idea of building something with your own hands is compelling enough for me to do it, to just go ahead and make something from scratch ... On a very practical level, you get functional items out of this particular craft. On a larger level, I think it's very fulfilling. It's satisfying in a way that very little else in our lives is right now."

Writers Eunice Lee and Rebecca Klassen

Eunice Lee is a writer based in San Francisco.

 

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