In the summer of 2010 I met Ann Kingstone in Scotland. We spent a wine soaked evening chatting and I thoroughly enjoyed her company! Little did I know that over the next 18 months I was again to meet her several more times. Ann is one of the calmest, most relaxed people I know with truly amazing knitting skills! She is so calm in fact that she happily knits up to the deadline minute without a care in the world. Meanwhile Woolly Wormhead and I were both having nervous breakdowns on her behalf :)
Ann has a very unique, elegant design style and she has put together a collection in Novel Knits that really showcase her knitting ability and design talent. There are a wide variety of knitting techniques and projects in this book with 15 patterns in total. These patterns range from larger sweaters and shawls projects right down to smaller projects like gloves, hats, socks and bags. A full range of skills in covered in the book, touching on cables, lace and stranded colourwork.
Here are a few of my favourites, the first is an very elegant hooded scarf with twisted stitches curving up and around the hood organically.
The next is a beret, Lorien. I’m always fond of the combination of lace and cables! I just love the headband of this hat.
However, Pemberley (below) is probably my favourite. I saw this in person at TNNA last summer and it is just superb. A very clever increase/decrease on the same row created a wandering strand of colour up each side of the front. My love of this jumper is what prompted me to focus my interview with Ann on stranded colourwork. It’s something I’m personally becoming increasingly interested in and wanted to hear everything she had to say!
Knowing you in person, I know that you have superb knitting skills! When did you learn to knit and do you remember who taught you?
My Mum taught me to knit when I was so young that I don’t even remember learning! She is ‘true left-handed’ knitter, and as I’m left-handed that’s how she taught me. I really got into knitting as a teenager though, making many jumpers and cardigans from patterns and books. I think that’s when I had my biggest leap in skills. Then, as a young woman I bought ‘Knitting in the Nordic Tradition’, and learned stranded colour-work from that, and many other skills too. That book is very fragile now!
Do you have a favourite knitting technique?
I have many favourites! And yes, I think stranded colour-work is probably top in my heart. ;o)
Has the type of project you enjoy designing and knitting changed over time?
When I started designing, I mostly did small projects, especially socks. Now I find I want to design larger garments, jumpers and coats. I think it’s because I’m a learning junkie; having mastered socks I needed to move onto the next challenge. So now I’m working to perfect my understanding of jumper shaping to achieve a good fit with standard measurements. I’ve spent an enormous amount of time researching armscye options, especially because I’m very keen to create cleverly seamless garments. I think I’ve finally really got the compound raglan, and now I’ve moved onto circular yokes and ‘simultaneous set-in sleeves’. I’m currently working on some designs with significantly scooped necks above a circular yoke, and am loving the challenge of working this out!
There is a wonderful mixture of project types in the book ‘Novel Knits’ I think that the designs that really stand out for me are the stranded colour-work projects, especially ‘Pemberley’ and ‘Lissuin’. Do you have any personal favourites?
The most popular one in Ravelry is Lanthir Lamath, and as this is my favourite too that doesn’t surprise me. I designed it to have an elvish feel, and to evoke a waterfall, and am really pleased with how the cascade on the scarf tails works. It has perfectly circular drops of water arranged near the bottom, and streams of water criss-crossing above in the lattice patterns. And I am so proud of the celtic knot on the back of the hood!
What is it about designing in multiple colours that appeals to you?
Well, you know Carol that I’m very much a colour-loving person! It brings a big grin to my face when I remember how amused you and Woolly were by the riot of colour that my end of the hanging rail sported when we shared a room in Columbus last summer!
So one thing I love about colour-work is that it satisfies my need to play at combining colour. And I love figurative motifs – hearts and flowers are my favourite. I love folk art for the same reasons, and learned to do decorative painting some years ago. Like my stranded colour-work, most of my painting features hearts and flowers too!
Do you have any advice for knitters when choosing colour combinations for the knits, or pitfalls to avoid?
It’s best to approach it with a conscious knowledge of colour theory. That’s why I wrote a tutorial about using the colour wheel to plan yarn combinations for stranded colour-work. Folk can find that in the ‘Knitting School’ at my website. Although I wrote it with stranded colour-work in mind, it is just as relevant to choosing colour for contrast trims, etc…
The most common pitfall is misuse of dark and light shades. If a flower motif is half knitted in a light colour against a dark background, and half knitted in a dark shade against a light background, then the flower will be very difficult to see. Contrast needs using consistently throughout the motif. So if I use dark red, dark green, dark purple, light blue, light orange and light yellow, I need to use the dark shades as for the motif stitches, and the light shades for the background stitches throughout, or vice versa.
For knitters who have not done stranded knitting before, what is the most common difficulty when getting started? (And how can you avoid it!!)
The hardest thing for most people is tensioning the yarn so that the work is neither puckered nor holey! Because yarn is being carried across the back of the work between sets of stitches, if it is pulled too tight when it is brought back into use, then it puckers the work. If it is instead allowed to hang in loops, then the stitches at each end of the loop will work themselves loose. What I do (and with practice this becomes second nature and doesn’t slow things down any) is make sure the stitches the yarn is stranded behind sit on the needle at normal tension (not all bunched up, and not stretched out), then at each colour change I take care not to pull on the yarn excessively as I get it around my needle.
Stranded knitting is often knit at a small gauge, why is this an advantage?
For one thing, stranded knitting is formed of two layers of yarn, so makes heavier fabric than single colour projects knitted in the same yarn weight. In finer yarns however, stranded knitting has a pleasing drape. Also, at finer gauges the individual stitches are less noticeable. They blur together so that the colour-work motifs appear to have smoother edges, a more painted than stitched appearance. And finer gauges provide a bigger stitch ‘canvas’ for knitting more recognisable motifs. It is much easier to chart a good-looking deer over a 50-stitch wide area than over a 20-stitch wide area!