With her love of vintage styling and flattering shapes, Anna Wilkinson is a rising star on the knitting and crochet scene. We get the lowdown on her design story.
At just 28 years old, Anna has already written two brilliant knitting and crochet books. She remains a very busy bee, with new designs flying out of her studio in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire. On our visit, she tells us how she channelled her passion and creativity into a successful business.
Anna designed a Tasselled Bolster Cushion Cover Crochet Pattern exclusively for The Knitting Network.
How did Anna Knits come about?
It’s blossomed on its own, really! After I graduated in 2009, I entered the UKHKA Knitted Textile Awards, and I was overwhelmed to win the gold award.
That led to freelancing with knitwear designers such as Debbie Bliss, and then on to designing for magazines, which created a bit of a name for myself. Then I was approached by publishers, which was exciting but also really scary. It’s all happened quickly – to think I’ve now got a couple of books under my belt is crazy!
How do you keep on top of it all?
I have a couple of elves to help me make garments and a friend of mine helps with laying out patterns – she’s a whizz on the computer! Richard, my partner, is always on hand for a bit of darning-in, but my biggest supporters are my mum and dad – I don’t know what I’d do without them.
Did your parents nourish your creativity when you were little?
Yes! I’m so lucky - my mother had me and my brothers doing all sorts – making birthday cards, drawings, salt-dough sculptures and crazy papier mâché! She always had something awesome up her sleeve to keep us occupied over the holidays. Great memories.
When did you learn to knit?
I’m pretty sure mum taught me to knit when I was around six, and I remember it felt really weird at first. When it finally ‘clicked’ (no pun intended!) I dived straight into scarves, where I stayed for a very long time! It took me ages to build up the confidence to shape things, which seems silly now, because it’s so easy!
I used to watch my mum crocheting and picked up a fair bit from her, but padded it out with online tutorials and books.
Have you ever worked with knitting machines?
I used machines at uni, and although you can create really interesting fabrics with them, hand knitting has more personality. Plus the time and love involved makes the finished item priceless.
Do you do any other crafts? If so, what are you currently making?
I’m trying to force myself through a never-ending pile of mending! I have a few cheeky projects on the go, which have to be put to one side when a deadline looms. I love to bake – fiddly little cakes make me feel totally ‘Bake Off’.
What's your favourite yarn on the market at the moment?
That’s a real toughie – what about all the ones I haven’t found yet?! I love the intense colours of Malabrigo Yarns and Jamieson’s has the most spectacular colour range. I have used CowGirlBlues yarn for a few little cardigans for my son recently, which is so lovely to work with.
What colours do you work with?
I find I’m totally mesmerised by mustard yellows, coral pinks and denim blues. I keep trying to pull myself away and onto pastures new, but I always find myself returning to my fabulous three.
How about making your own yarn, have you ever tried?
Rachael Matthews from Prick Your Finger taught me how to spin. I don’t think I am very good but it’s sooo relaxing. Once you find your rhythm, you slip away and zone out. It’s very addictive.
Where do you get your ideas?
Inspiration can hit me any time; bright flowers when I’m out for a stroll, ceiling tiles when I’m daydreaming, or even the patterned fabrics of train seats! When it comes to shapes, I do love a feminine knit with a vintage feel and quirky details.
Which hand-knitting designers get your juices flowing?
Patricia Roberts is incredible. The playful details make her designs so special. I feel like our generation of knitters grew up with her around us, so it’s hard not to be influenced by her bold and daring style.
Who do you like on Instagram?
@chiliphilly because he’s funny and shows that absolutely anything can be crocheted!
Where do you do your designing?
I’m very lucky – we’ve converted an old stable block, which is connected to the house. It’s lovely to have a space just for work, so I can pop in there and really get stuck into a design. The wifi signal is terrible so there are no distractions! I tend to save my swatching and actual knitting tasks for the evening, when my one-year-old-son Harry is (hopefully) sound asleep. That way I can put my feet up and work in front of the TV. Bliss!
Do you take projects away?
Always – I don’t remember the last time I went away without knitting or crocheting to do. I’ve even had it with me in the tent at a music festival! I always have knitting with me for car journeys longer than 15 minutes. It’s one of the only times Harry can’t reach it and make a mess, so it’s precious time! Sometimes I just grab some yarn hanks that need winding.
How do you organise your studio?
I try to sort yarn by thickness. I did try grouping it by colour, but I soon went back to random – you can find some surprising colour combinations that way!
What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
Work hard and keep creating, even if you have to squeeze it in around another job. Social media makes it so easy now to get your work seen, so find your style and don’t give up – these things take time.
We visited Anna at her Buckinghamshire studio to film her at work. Too see how she creates her designs, watch our video.