Out of the Cookies and Into the Yarn

by B. T. Kimbrough, Salem, Oregon

Davey Hulse has plenty to occupy his mind. As CEO of Braille Plus, Inc., he is a supervisor of ten skilled employees and a provider of braille and other accessible materials to governmental agencies and local school districts. Evidently, his hands are full as well, but with something else entirely. This is the story of how Hulse’s busy hands have drawn the rest of him into challenges, adventures, and enough writing success to write home about.

It was just about three years ago that Davey Hulse decided to try knitting as a possible hobby. “I had to have something to keep my hands busy; they just kept straying into the bag of chips or the cookie jar–and that was a bad thing,” Hulse told me during a telephone interview. “I’m the kind of guy who’s got to have something going on even when I’m sitting reading on the computer.”

He had tried making hooked rugs but gave it up because it required too much sighted intervention. “You’ve got to label your bundles of yarn, and somebody’s got to read you the patterns. I like to be as independent as possible.”

It was that possible independence which attracted him to knitting. Knitting patterns are readily available via the Internet, and all the supplies for a particular project can be readily labeled and organized in advance.

The next question was how to learn. Was there a good set of step-by-step instructions out there for a blind beginner who wanted to learn to knit from the ground up? “My wife went out on the web and found some ‘learn-to-knit’ instructions. There wasn’t any real guidance in terms of what kind of yarn to use for your first project–needle sizes or lengths–all that kind of advice wasn’t around that I could find.”

“I fought my way through it, and also found a blind knitters’ group where I could ask questions. But I swore up and down that once I learned how to knit I was going to write it down in a way that was so concrete that anybody could learn it–even children.”

Hulse became so frustrated by the learning challenges with those inadequate instructions that he nearly gave in to the temptation to throw those big needles and twisted balls of yarn into the trash and walk away. But he persisted, eventually progressing to the point where he could keep that pledge to write it all down.

“A lot of the kits that are out there start people out with a scarf. Well, if it’s four inches wide and about six feet long, which is about the size of a usual scarf, that’s about eighteen or nineteen thousand stitches. That’s a long project; and to my way of thinking that was too big a project to start people on. I decided that I’d start writing down the instructions, and I would put in very short, simple one- or two-hour projects that somebody could do, feel a sense of success, and go show it off.”

Hulse explained that his goal was to craft a simple but multilevel teaching guide. “If they only took the first two or three lessons of the thing they could knit for the rest of their lives and do simple stuff–scarves, baby blankets, and all kinds of stuff. But I also wanted the book to be comprehensive enough that you could make your way through pretty much advanced beginner kinds of patterns on the Internet and you’d also know pretty much how to pick your knitting needles. I have a pretty good sized chapter just on knitting needles, because they are made out of just about anything you can imagine that’s hard–acrylic, wood, bamboo, glass and metal of various kinds–and they all have different characteristics.

“And then what kind of yarn? Anything that has a long fiber can be turned into yarn–and that’s everything from the regular wool to acrylic to steel. And so there are discussions about that.

“In the book (entitled TOUCH OF YARN) I start people with big needles and big yarn. That way, they can feel exactly what they’re doing, and they can see exactly what they’re doing whether they’re low vision or not.”

One specifically blind/low vision friendly feature of TOUCH OF YARN is an appendix containing suggestions for organizing knitting work without vision, plus a description of gadgets and gizmos which might prove helpful. In a further attempt to make it inclusive, Hulse prepared both a large print PDF version and a braille-ready BRF version of the finished book.

Members of the stitchers’ Internet group helped with fact checking and provided lots of positive feedback. One of the group’s members happened to be Nancy Miracle, the webmaster for Lion Brand yarn. She was so impressed with the book that she asked if she could show it to her boss and pursue the possibility that the company might sell it as an instant download from the Lion Brand Yarn website.

“Her boss, the lady in charge of the sales and marketing effort, said ‘Oh, this is good. I hate knitting but I could even do this.'”

After a suspenseful ten days during which the lawyers and the company president had the final say-so, Nancy Miracle phoned Davey Hulse with some amazing news. The files were posted and waiting for him to check out using his screen reading software. “It worked perfectly; and I said, ‘does this mean that it’s going live soon?’ She said, ‘It’s live right now!’ If I’d have gone and tried to sell the idea to Lion Brand that they needed to do this, the chances are I’d have still been talking to them.”

Before long, one of Hulse’s employees heard the remarkable TOUCH OF YARN story, and volunteered to set up an interview with the local newspaper, the Salem, Oregon, STATESMAN JOURNAL. Although the new author understood about the importance of marketing and publicity, he wasn’t so sure he was ready for all that. “I’m not a self-promoter; I don’t necessarily want to be in the spotlight. But my wife and I talked about it and I decided if there’s a couple of people out there who, whether they decide to knit or they decide to take on a project they were kind of hesitant to, as a result of publicity about me and the book, then I guess it’s worth it. I’ll put up with dealing with reporters and all that kind of stuff.”

Hulse realizes the phenomenal extent of his good fortune as a new writer to have his first book offered for sale, not as a self-published work, but as a recommended title through a highly reputable entity. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that he is already hard at work on a second book–even though that means sacrificing some extremely valuable knitting time.

TOUCH OF YARN by Davey Hulse may be ordered directly from the websitewww.lionbrandyarn.com, or it may be ordered directly from the author. The price for either the large print PDF or the braille-ready BRF file is $19.95. Those who want a full transcription in hard copy braille should contact the author directly for pricing of the two braille volumes. Contact Davey Hulse by e-mail, davey@brailleplus.net, or by regular mail at PO Box 3686, Salem, OR 97302.