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Book Review of Novel Knits & Interview with Anne Kingstone

Novel Knits, Anne Kingstone, self published, 2011, 105pp.

Anne Kingstone’s lovely collection, Novel Knits, is available as a PDF, in print in the UK and soon to be available in print from Cooperative Press. 15 designs, ranging from beginner to intermediate plus in complexity, are included, ranging from accessories to sweaters.  Some of these have been published before — if you’ve purchased one of the pdfs through Ravelry, you get a credit towards the Ravelry pdf of the book.

The book is divided into three sections:  patterns inspired by Jane Austen;  by J R R Tolkein; and by J K Rowling.  Each section includes a variety of patterns:  sweaters, cowls, shawls, arm warmers, socks, fingerless mitts — even an Austen-inspired lap blanket.  Techniques include lace, beading, Bavarian twisted stitches, stranding and duplicate stitch.

Lanthir Lamath © AnnKingstone

Of the patterns, Pemberley, a stunning stranded sweater, is one of my favorites.  It’s generously sized in 2″ increments from 32″ to 50″ (as is the other pullover, Lissuin).

Lanthir Lamath, the hooded scarf with graceful twisted stitches, is also gorgeous.

Both of these are complex patterns, showing great attention to detail.

But also lovely is Mansfield, the simple beaded shawl in Kidsilk Haze that utilizes that yarn’s properties beautifully (see picture further down).

To sum up:

  • 2 womens pullovers, both stranded
  • 2 shawls
  • 1 hooded scarf
  • 1 wimple
  • 1 blanket
  • 3 gloves/mitts
  • 3 socks
  • 1 beret
  • 1 tote

Check out Anne’s website for her blog, further information on patterns, and more!

Thank you, Anne, for graciously anwering the following questions!

Stephannie: What were the most fun — and most onerous — parts of putting together the book?

Lissuin © Ann Kingstone

Anne: As my absolute passion is designing the most fun part was planning and knitting the designs. I love putting working up a design idea from my original concepts to the finished item.

Hmm, was anything actually onerous? I guess writing up the patterns – the painstaking business of translating charts into line-by-line written instructions. I know from chatting with other knitters that even those who almost exclusively work from charts like to have the written instructions to check back against.

Do you have a personal favorite of the patterns?  Which & why?

It’s really is hard to choose a number one favourite – they are all special to me in some way.

If I had to plump for one I’d say Lissuin. I love the way the background colours create an almost luminous effect around the motifs and I’m very proud of the neckline shaping.

Pemberley © AnnKingstone

I noticed some of the patterns have been released before;  which are new to the collection?

Pemberley, Mansfield, Kellynch and Unbreakable Vow are all new. The first two are now published as individual patterns, but Kellynch and Unbreakable Vow are still only available in the book. I will publish even these as stand-alone patterns at some point though, all that’s stopping me is time…

How did you choose the yarn support for the book?

Mostly I have a design idea and then I go looking for the ‘perfect’ yarn for it. I particularly like to work with yarn from Indie dyers. Also I have various knitter friends that give me great advice about yarn choice, one of whom has a yarn shop and told me I must do some designs in Kidsilk Haze as it is such a popular yarn. So Mansfield was designed specifically for that yarn.

Do you have a formal business plan?  Does it incorporate design goals & plans as well?  What did you include?  If you don’t have one, now that I’ve asked, are you thinking about it?

I wrote a business plan at the beginning of this year. My main purpose in doing so was to support myself to be focused and methodical. I tend to be very spontaneous and can lose sight of the ball by following current urges instead of following a carefully planned route.

The plan describes my main aims and key functions, and sets out a series of goals for 2011, including design goals.  I check it from time to time to see how I’m doing and to keep myself focused.

I’m happy to say I have already achieved many of the goals I set for this year, including publishing Novel Knits and visiting the TNNA show in Columbus.

What’s your favorite thing about designing?  Least favorite?  I’m including all things ancillary to actual designing & knitting as well – so feel free to address pattern layout, marketing, website design, etc, etc.

I love the whole process of creating a design concept that fits my needs regarding themes.

Usually I start with an idea of a basic item I want to create – socks, gloves, coat, cowl, etc.. and then work on how to make it fit my theme – stitch pattern, colour, construction.

I love working up my own sitch patterns, such as the lace edging for Hartfield.  I get really excited when I create a new way of doing something, such as the centered double increase and the method for short row shaping in reverse stocking stitch that are used in Lanthir Lamath.

Basically I love problem-solving, and essentially designing is just one long stream of problems to solve!

Mansfield © AnnKingstone

Do you use a tech editor?  Test knitters? Sample knitters?

I have used all of them at one time or another. Earlier this year I established a formal tech editing relationship with a British knitter, Karen Butler. She is fantastic to work with, very pedantic (which is essential!) and very warm and patient with me.

My sister often does sample knitting for me. I have also used test knitters for many of my designs, though with a good technical editor this is less vital.

Do you have a space set aside for working on your designs (or, lucky you if you do, a studio)?

I have my ‘knitting room’, which is really just a spare bedroom in our house. We do have plans to convert it to a proper studio so it doesn’t feel so much like a bedroom that I knit in! At the moment it still contains a bed for guests, and definitely needs a facelift.

Do you have any future books planned?

I’m hoping to follow up with at least one more ‘Novel Knits’ book, this time basing my designs on the work of the Bronte sisters (very local to me in West Yorkshire), CS Lewis, and Terry Pratchett. So ‘Cair Paravel’ and ‘Where’s My Cow?’ will feature in it. I’m also currently working on a coat design, a shawl, and a cowl for this next book.

What is your advice to new designers?

Persevere! I had a discussion with a fellow designer recently about how difficult it is to make design work financially rewarding. We agreed that the most important quality for designers is sheer stubborness!

Thank you Anne!

Disclaimer:  I received my review copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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