I became aware of Anna Wilkinson after seeing one of her beautiful fair isle designs on the front of a Debbie Bliss knitting magazine back in 2010. The unusual colour choices paired with a traditional pattern caught my eye straight away, and of course, I bought the magazine.
I discovered that, upon graduating from Winchester School of Art, Anna won first prize in the 2009 Knitted Textile Student Awards, and then went on to have her work exhibited at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. Impressive stuff! (The interview is, incidentally, also where I first heard about Grey Gardens, and now I’m a huge fan, so thanks Anna!) I didn’t forget about Anna and her talent for design, so last Autumn I was not at all surprised to hear that she was about to have her very first book published. Hooray! I immediately ordered a copy for the library where I work, and after an agonising month-long wait, finally got my hands on Learn to Knit, Love to Knit.
And boy, I really wasn’t disappointed. It’s a beautiful book, with thorough instructions and bright, clear photographs explaining the very basics of knitting through to all the more complicated bits – cabling, knitting buttonholes and duplicate embroidery.
Learn to Knit, Love to Knit also employs a very novel approach, with the first section (Learn to Knit) containing ten projects for those just starting out, and the second (Love to Knit) detailing ten projects for more experienced knitters. But this doesn’t mean that beginners can simply play it safe – oh no, the very first project of the book involves knitting mittens, and stripes. And another thing I love: this book is not about sensible homeware – it’s all about garments and accessories. For you! Although I am quite happy to knit myself garments, I know others who feel like they should be making more, well, useful items. After seeing some of the patterns in this book, you won’t be able to stop imagining them hanging in your wardrobe.
The first section of the book includes very non-beginner garments and accessories such as a delicate lace collar, the colourful arm warmers featured on the book’s cover, a perfectly feminine lace top and a knitted collar and matching muff! The round-necked raglan and random striped sweaters are both beautiful as they are, but also provide the perfect basis for designing your own patterned jumpers. Of course, stylish and pretty photography always helps in a knitting book, and Anna and her team have definitely got this pegged.
I love that Anna doesn’t let the beginner knitter shy away from these projects, which I know would seem daunting to some of my knitter friends. But as I always tell them, if you can knit, purl and decrease, you can knit a jumper! Anna certainly seems to share this view, and her book is marvellous at encouraging less experienced knitters into having a go at something more challenging, and, dare I say it, interesting than a scarf.
Anna’s penchant for bright, bold and often surprising colour choices is still very much a trademark of her work. The second section, containing the more advanced patterns, certainly explores this further. The ‘Love to Knit’ section contains a preppy college-style cardigan, a fair isle tank top (added to my to-do list), polka dot socks (also on the list), a cabled tam and snood and a stunning embroidered cardigan which two friends immediately requested for their birthdays.
The final pattern in the book is one I may have to move straight onto after I’ve finished my current project. Anna teams deep mustard with dark turquoise and a pop of bright pink in a beautiful little tweed cape. Perfect for the transition into spring, so I should really get knitting…
My first project from this book, however, is the the short-sleeved fair isle sweater, knitted in that fuschia pink and mustard yellow. I would never have put these two colours together, but when Anna suggests it, it works. I’ve been knitting the jumper on and off since last Autumn, and it turns out that bright pink and deep yellow are the perfect antidotes to wintery weather.
It’s clear that I love this book, and I am excited to see what the future holds for Anna. You can follow her work on Facebook and Twitter, and if you ever get stuck with one of her patterns, rest assured you can contact her for help. I emailed her recently when I got in a pickle with the fair isle sweater, and she wrote back straight away. Yes, I am firmly in Camp Anna. And if you treat yourself to this lovely book, I have no doubt that you will be too.