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Meet the Maker...Learn to Knit, Love to Knit author Anna Wilkinson

7 Feb 2018 |

At Quadrille Craft we are fortunate enough to work with a fantastic array of talented creatives who have contributed and helped us to make a covetable collection of craft books. As part of a new series, we want to introduce these incredible people to you and reveal a little bit more of what is behind their love of craft. 

To kick things off we are starting with the colourful, multi-talented Anna Wilkinson, author of Learn to Knit, Love to Knit and Learn to Crochet, Love to Crochet.

Why knitting/crochet? Who taught you how to knit/crochet

I don't really remember not being able to knit, I'm really lucky as it's something I learnt to do quite young, my mum taught me when I was about 6 or 7. I do remember feeling very awkward holding the needles and my hands felt incredibly clumsy but with a bit of practise and perseverance it’s been a bit like riding a bike - once you get it, you get it! I'm not the world's fastest knitter (my Grandma tells me I look like I'm struggling - I think that's perhaps just my face) but I generally like to just plod along with my knitting and enjoy the craft. 

The technique really appeals to me because it's so basic and accessible - the tools that you need are so simple, just 2 sticks and a continuous length of yarn, and the possibilities of what you can create are endless. All that you really need to learn is that basic knit stitch and everything else is just a slight variation on that - you can create textural/sculptural fabrics and beautiful colour work. 

It's even quite exciting to design and swatch knitwear - you never quite know how a sample is going to look until you actually get going - sometimes when I swatch fair isles it really surprises me how the colours work together and compliment/clash with each other. 

I learnt to crochet much later on, when I was a teenager, mostly through watching my mum doing it but recently I've relied on YouTube videos if I'm unsure of a particular stitch. It's great to have learnt both techniques (knitting and crochet) as, although similar in some ways, they both lend themselves to creating very different fabrics. With crochet you can, quite simply, create fabric that is open and ornate and beautifully patterned. 

How did the books come about? 

When I graduated from Winchester school of art in 2009 I entered and won the gold award at a competition run by the U.K. Hand Knitting Association which is showcased at the Knitting and Stitching Show each year. It was through entering this competition that I met Debbie Bliss and we went on to work together on some designs for her magazine. And through working with Debbie Bliss I met with Quadrille, who publish a lot of Debbie's books. Although I used knitting machines at university, I always much preferred hand knitting and using traditional techniques updated with fun colourways and so producing a hand knitting book was something I'd always wanted to do! 

Who are your craft influences or idols?

I love Patricia Roberts' work - it's exciting, vibrant and fun. Every time I look at knitwear by her it reminds me never to make something just for the sake of it and never to design something lazily. Every stitch in one of her garments is so considered and so important to the look of the finished piece. Hand knitting is so slow and laborious (at times) that you might as well make each stitch count and make something spectacular rather than just making something that could be bought.  

For design inspiration I keep an eye on what the fashion trends are and what big fashion houses like Prada, Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs are up to - however I don't want to make garments that are too trend driven as they've got to appeal to someone as much when they cast off and sew buttons on as they did when they bought yarn and cast on. I also love looking at vintage garments/knitting patterns for unique details/shapes/patterns that you just wouldn't find on the high street today, everything is far too rushed and the design of garments isn't considered quite enough...

What is your favourite make?

There are a few garments that I'm really pleased with - sometimes everything seems to work and things turn out as you'd planned - the Randall Sweater (which I'm yet to publish); Briolette which is a jumper I designed for Pom Pom Quarterly; and I love the Fan Stitch Cardigan in Learn to Crochet Love to Crochet

How do you tackle creative block?

Because hand knitting is so slow and is such a labour of love, my head definitely works much faster than my hands so I have lots of ideas for garments, most of which will never get made - there just aren't enough hours in the day to create every little thought that springs into your mind! The most frustrating and disappointing thing is when you have an idea that you're swatching for and can't get the yarns/colours to look as you'd like and it just seems like nothing is working! I find the best thing to do is to just put it down and work on something else just so I don't feel like I'm wasting time, and then come back to the other project the next day with fresh eyes. I like to have a few projects on the go to dip into - it's definitely good to have some projects on the go that don't require much thinking to plod on with while watching TV - I'm not very good at keeping still so it's best to keep doing something creative. 

If you weren’t crafting you would be…?

Hopefully still doing something creative, maybe baking...or teaching the piano...

What are the 3 essentials we can find in your bag?

Tape measure, paper/pencil, favourite tapestry needle for sewing in ends/sewing up seams.

Who should we all be following on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / blogs?

I use Instagram much more than other social media mostly because it's visual and I hope that "a picture speaks a thousand words" so I don't have to - I still haven't mastered the art of using the hashtag! I find the most interesting accounts to follow are people who are passionate and interested in a variety of things and I like a dry sense of humour.  @sweaterspotter is always snapping colourful and inspiring knitwear and other things and I just love @chiliphilly for crazy crochet!

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start a creative career?

It's important to work out what makes your work unique and special and then to go with that while you keep learning/practising your craft. Also, make sure you make use of social media! When I graduated in 2009 it wasn't as important but it's really picked up since then and it's such a brilliant (and inexpensive) way to showcase your work, build a following and direct people to your website. 

What’s next?

I'm having a short break at the moment after the birth of my second son, who's now 2 months old, but have been mulling over lots of knitwear ideas in my mind! I've been working on quite a mix - I'm hoping to create some fun children's knitting patterns this year! 

Find out more about Anna by visiting her website


Order Learn to Knit, Love to Knit here


Order Learn to Crochet, Love to Crochet here