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Interview: Anniken Allis

Interview: Anniken Allis

We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with the queen of lace herself, Anniken Allis. She assures us she’s also a fan of cabling and colourwork, but what makes her royalty in our eyes is the beautiful lace shawls she designs.

The Early Years
My mum taught me to knit when I was very young; I don’t remember learning to knit, but I knew how to knit before I started primary school. I also don’t remember the first thing I knitted, maybe I didn’t finish anything? I do remember knitting socks in a scratchy red and white marl yarn at secondary school.

Knitting Style
Growing up in Norway, I learnt to knit the continental way, but I do Norwegian purl instead of the regular continental purl. I thought that’s how everyone knitted until I moved to England. In my first job here, I used to knit in my lunch break and I kept getting comments about how I was, “knitting the wrong way”.

Norwegian Knitting
We always had a yarn shop in the small town where I grew up. The lady who ran it used to knit Norwegian stranded ski sweaters. As a teenager in the eighties, I knitted several of these although I regret that I didn’t keep any of them.

I’d never ‘knitted in English’ before and found English patterns hard to understand. The problem with knitting patterns in any language is the abbreviations and terminology. It’s like a different language. I ended up giving up knitting for a few years. When I got back into it I joined a couple of online forums (this was pre-Ravelry) and the members helped me to read English knitting patterns.

Professional Knitter
After I started blogging I decided to try writing up my patterns. My first few self-published ones were awful; I’ve learnt and improved so much since then. My first published pattern was a sock pattern for an online magazine (which no longer exists), this led to two lace shawls being published in a print magazine. And once I started designing garments, I started having my work in several British knitting magazines.

Lace Knitting
It was only after I got back into knitting that I decided to try lace knitting but struggled to understand the yarn forward/yarn over instruction. Finally I found a website that showed how to do it continental style. Soon after that I was given Jane Sowerby’s ‘Victorian Lace Today’ and that was the book that got me hooked on lace knitting. I have only knitted two items from that book but I love flicking through it for inspiration.

I taught myself lace knitting (and cables) by using online videos, books and magazines. I quickly realised that it was much easier to knit from charts, so I put some effort into learning how to read lace charts. Now I struggle to knit lace from written instructions and prefer to chart stitch patterns out before I knit.

Dyeing yarn
I discovered hand-dyed yarn soon after I discovered the online knitting community. The first hand-dyed yarn I bought was from the Natural Dye Studio and Fyberspates. I loved the colours. I bought some un-dyed sock yarn in a local craft shop and dyed it using food colourings. I then started experimenting with acid dyes which I bought from a local craft shop. Very soon I ended up with too much yarn so I sold some through my blog. I used that money to place my first wholesale order for un-dyed yarn.

Anniken’s Top Knitting Tips
1. Learn to knit continental style. It’s much quicker and more efficient for the average knitter.
2. Use stitch markers to help keep track of stitch patterns and shaping.
3. Use lifelines to help avoid disaster when you have to rip back.
4. Have a crochet hook handy to help pick up dropped stitches.
5. Learn to knit from charts, it’s so much easier.

Looking forward
At the moment I’m working on my first book. The deadline is fast approaching so that’s my main focus right now. I’d also like to self-publish a seasonal collection in early autumn using the Lotus Yarns I stock. I’m also talking to a couple of yarn companies about designing for them.

I’ll be at Woolfest in June and Yarndale in September, and I’m currently working on my workshop programme for the autumn months. This summer I will be teaching at Spin A Yarn and Social Fabric in Devon, Sitting Knitting in Birmingham and Blacker Yarns/The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall.

For more from Anniken Allis, check out her website

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