Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

Interview: Anne Blayney, AnnieBee Knits


Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Anne Blayney of AnnieBee Knits. Anne is another local designer and friend and we were all amazed by her stunning early design – the Chawton Mittens. Being published by Interweave for one of your first designs is quite an accomplishment!

Anne Blayney, modeling Brightness and Contrast.

Anne Blayney, modeling Brightness and Contrast.
Photo by Meredith Sexton

How did you get started designing?
My first substantial design was the Chawton Mittens that were published in Interweave’s inaugural issue of Jane Austen Knits back in 2011. (I just recently re-released them with updated notes and under my own branding.) Quite honestly, I submitted the design on a whim — with the encouragement of my local knitting group, but never really thinking that it would be accepted. I saw the call for submissions and the idea for the mittens sprang to mind quite fully formed. The technical details of quite how to realize that idea took longer, of course, but I was incredibly lucky to have such a start! Having the professional team behind the magazine showing me the way certainly set the standard high for my own independent designs — now I wouldn’t dream of releasing a pattern without a tech editor’s help, for instance.

What inspires your designs?
I tend to be inspired by techniques, or ways of resolving a certain issue. In the Chawton Mittens, it was about how to bend the cables around the cameo, and how to handle the long floats in the cameo. In my newest shawl pattern, Brightness and Contrast, it was about how to deal with really wildly coloured handpainted yarns — those yarns that are so exquisite in the skein, but so chaotic (and often muddy) when knit up. In one of my earliest designs, the Umami Cowl, it was about playing with different yarn bases in the same colourway, one superwash and one feltable, to experiment with the texture. In a new design I’m working on, for a pair of mittens, it’s a new construction, working in an entirely different direction than most mittens! The focus on techniques and problem-solving means that my designs may have very different styles from one piece to the next, but it also means that I’m never bored — and neither is my tech editor!

Chawton Mitts

Chawton Mitts

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Sometimes the yarn IS the inspiration, as with Brightness and Contrast or the Umami Cowl. Other times, it’s definitely a case of having a design in mind and seeking out the yarn that will best realize the vision. (Yarn inspires me in general — it makes me want to knit! — but it doesn’t always insist on a certain design.)

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Is it a cliche to say that I only design things that I’d be happy to wear? I want my patterns to be approachable and clear, and my designs to be pieces that make the wearer feel warm and beautiful (or handsome, I suppose).

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’m most comfortable with accessories — because that’s what I knit most for myself! I love shawlettes and probably have enough to wear a different one every day for three weeks, or much longer if I reclaimed ones that I’ve knit as gifts. I love the flexibility of accessories, and the ability to reinvent basic wardrobe staples with a splash of colour and special yarn!

Hue and Value

Hue and Value

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Oh goodness, I can’t possibly choose. It would almost certainly be fingering weight, wool (maybe with silk or cashmere) with no nylon content — I love to make everything from sweaters to shawls to gloves to blankets in fine yarn like that. But asking me to pick one dyer would be like asking a painter to pick only one tube of paint!

Mitred Square Blanket

Mitred Square Blanket

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I’ve been knitting squares for a mitered-square blanket for myself for several years now. Well, truth be told, I knitted squares for one, then my sister got engaged and I ended up giving her the blanket as a wedding present. I started another one for myself immediately! I knit the squares separately, so they’re modular and portable, and I can rearrange the colours as I add new yarns. I’ve finally hit 170 of these 4″ fingering-weight squares for the new blanket, so now I just (just!) need to weave in the ends and seam it up, then add a border. Not having my little bag of squares with me at all times is making me twitchy, though; I need to find another portable project so I always have something easy to grab! I know you, too, are very familiar with the allure of the mitered square…

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Probably the Umami Cowl — though I can understand why its appeal has limits. The yarn company (Waterloo Wools) has closed, and it’s not always easy to find coordinating yarns in superwash and non-superwash versions, particularly in heavier yarns. I think I may work up a fingering-weight version, because lots of dyers offer superwash sock yarn and non-superwash shawl yarn. Then again, there are always new things to knit, so my older designs languish without as much attention as I might intend to give them!

Umami Cowl, Photography by Lindsey Ligett/Waterloo Wools

Umami Cowl, Photo by Lindsey Ligett/Waterloo Wools

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I’ve already made a little Anticipation sweater for a friend’s baby, due next month. I’ve also cast on an Airstream hat to coordinate with it. (Shhh!) I’ve also nearly finished a Cross Stitch Cowl, for myself.

Continental or English?

English. I’ve never learned Continental, much to my chagrin!

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I call it ‘productive fidgeting.’ I’m really not that good at sitting still, without something to occupy my hands.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
No matter how complicated the design, the thing about knitting is it’s always just one stitch at a time. Breathe deeply, and make that next stitch.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My local knit group is coordinating a Stashdown event for 2015, so you can bet that knitting from stash is on my list! (I may be guilty of wanting to buy ALL THE YARN now so that I can count it as stash come January…)

View all of Anne’s patterns here. All photos, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Anne Blayney. All images used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

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Audrey II

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Don't Ask Y

Cantilevering Leaves

Amplification Stole

Combs Cowl

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