We’re thrilled to introduce our Best of British collection from Willow & Lark, a wonderful clutch of patterns designed by British designers using their signature range of yarns. Here’s a rare opportunity to meet the designers behind the designs…
Your new best friend: Bathsheba Cardigan by Jennie Atkinson
Who taught you to knit? I was taught to knit by my Mum at age 4.
What was the first item you designed? First item I designed was a Fairisle “Bib Topper ”for Twillies of Stamford when I was at art school in the 60’s.
What has been your biggest knitting disaster (we all have them)?! Biggest disaster was when I was making up a cape for the “Best of British” exhibition at Henri Bendel’s in New York and my 5 year old son squirted a can of sewing machine oil all over it!
What is your favorite biscuit? Dark chocolate digestive.
Classic intarsia: Margot Cardigan, by Sasha Kagan
Amanda Crawford’s stunning contributions to the collection include the delicious Claire Shawl, inspired by woodland streams and the gentle flow of water, and the undulating British landscape. The Holly Cardigan brings these influences to the fore again, using Willow & Lark Plume to reflect softness and romance.
Who taught you to knit? My first memory of knitting was in primary school when both boys and girls where encouraged to knit. Years later when I had a chance meeting with a guy who’d made a career out of putting colours together in his elaborate knitted piece, he cast on and encouraged me to have a go, showing me intarsia and fairies – then it was up to me to work it out. This chap turned out to be Kaffe Fassett.
What was the first item you designed? My first commercial design was published in the Rowan Magazine called “Great Plains”. Then I was called Kaffe Fassett Studio.
What are you most proud of ? Being able to encourage people to open themselves up and discover in them selves that they can do it too.
Eclectic, modern, young – and timeless: Zara by Brandon Mably
Who taught you to knit? I was taught to knit by both my mum and my grandma as I was obsessed with fashion and clothes from a very early age.
What was the first thing you made? I really can’t remember the first thing I made but I do remember some neon Fair Isle in my rave years!
What has been your biggest knitting disaster (we all have them)?! Knitting disasters happen to all of us and they definitely don’t stop when you do it for a living as it’s part of the process. I have definitely gone back to projects after a long break and forgotten where I am and ended up knitting extra sleeves!
Sarah loves a cardigan – and Camilla Cardigan, pictured below, is a stalwartly British cardi that will stand by you in any kind of British weather. A must-knit.
Who taught you to knit? My Mum, when I was about 7 years old. We also knitted at school then too, and I was top of the class!
What was the first thing you made? My first completed item was a long scarf knitted when I was a teenager, using chunky wool on enormous needles.
What are you most proud of? The garments and accessories I designed and knitted for my book A Handknit Romance in 2011. I’m still really pleased with them.
What is your favorite biscuit? I’m not a big biscuit eater, but I can’t resist a Garibaldi!
Vintage chic: Tessa Cardigan by Jennie Atkinson
Who taught you to knit? My lovely Nan taught me to knit when I was young, I really didn’t have the patience for it then, and I didn’t appreciate the skill either, but looking back now they are some of my fondest memories.
What was the first thing you made? Besides dish cloths, because that was all I was allowed to knit when I was learning, my first proper project was a chunky garter stitch snood which I still have now, somewhere.
What was the first item you designed? I guess technically it would be that snood because I didn’t use a pattern, but there wasn’t an awful lot of designing involved. So it would have to be a sleeveless jacket I designed for a competition I entered while I was at University, that I never dreamed I would reach the final of so I would never have to actually knit what I designed, except I did! It was in a super chunky wool, in shades of greys and blues, with faux fur trim woven through the knitted fabric and three dimensional folded panels.
What are you most proud of? Being able to be authentic as a designer and to communicate with knitters and tell a story about the process and inspiration behind my design work, because to me that’s as important as the finished knits.
What is your favourite biscuit? Has to be a classic from my childhood; Jammie Dodgers.
Inspired by classic architecture: Gwendolyn Hat & Cowl
Who taught you to knit? My Mum, who is left-handed like myself, so taught me mirror knitting (opposite direction to righty knitting).
What was the first thing you made? A dress for my Sindy doll. I knitted a square and sewed two edges together to make a tube. I had inadvertently twisted lots of the stitches, and can remember how pretty they looked!
What was the first item you designed? Other than the Sindy doll dress, a fair isle style tank top for my husband. I made it with my own handspun yarn, that I had dyed using natural dyes. I loved it, even though the fabric was so dense that it wasn’t very wearable, and I don’t think he ever did!
What has been your biggest knitting disaster (we all have them)?! When I first knitted the sample for my April sweater, I used the wrong size needles. I had swatched to determine gauge for the pattern numbers, but must have then picked up a different size needle to the ones I swatched with. I knitted the whole jumper without realising my mistake, and it turned out at least two sizes too big. So I had to re-knit the whole thing.
What are you most proud of? My boys of course! But if you mean my proudest knitting achievement, it’s the tree pattern I created for the Woodkirk cardigan in my latest book, Cabled Knits.
What is your favourite biscuit? Lottie Shaw’s Parkin Biscuits. A proper Yorkshire treat!
Who taught you to knit? My nan when I was about 7, she would always cast on and off for me, whilst I just enjoyed the fun bit in the middle! Until I wanted to be able to do it unsupervised!
What was the first thing you made? The first actual things I remember making are two scarves for my two best friends. One was basketweave stitch, and the other was 2×2 rib, both in neon and black acrylic yarn held double.
What has been your biggest knitting disaster (we all have them)?! The one that hurt the most was a jumper destined for my husband. Using beautiful burgundy Merino wool I had saved for, I had designed it with Gansey motifs and colour work to boot, it basically just turned out MASSIVE, ill fitting, and not wearable, currently still waiting to be ripped out and made into something beautiful. I still love the design idea so maybe ill give it another shot.
What are you most proud of? I’m always so proud to have a pattern published, the fact that a magazine or yarn company is willing to support me and my ideas is super exciting. If it’s on the cover it is seriously the icing on the cake and makes my heart burst!
What is your favourite biscuit? My fave biscuit has to be a tea soaked Rich Tea. Dare I say im more of a savoury snacker?
Layers of colour, inspired by British sweeties: Ginnie Jumper by Francesca Hughes
Explore the Willow & Lark Best of British Collection – classic, timeless British design in glorious yarn!
Which one will you knit first?
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