Ann Franklin designed this amazing knitted and felted cacti in issue 150 of Simply Knitting (click here to download a digital edition or order your print copy). So we sat down for a chat, to find out about more of her knitting:
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love knitting in the round for two reasons: firstly I’m quite an uneven knitter, and it means I can just knit, and not worry about the tension on my purl and knit rows being different, and secondly because non-knitters are always amazed by how you can use so many knitting needles at once! It can cause quite a stir on the bus!
English or continental, and why?
English, because that’s how I learned to knit and it works for me. However, I’ve just tried Portuguese knitting, which is fun (I just need to get a hang of the tensioning now), and I want to go on to learn ‘backwards’ knitting.
What is your desert island yarn?
To be honest I don’t really have a ‘desert island yarn’, there are so many lovely yarns about now that it’s impossible to choose just one favourite. Mind you, I would find it very hard to be on a desert island without something to knit with!
How did you learn to knit?
My Mum taught me to knit, sew and crochet when I was very young – I was certainly knitting at four or five.
What inspires you?
Inspiration can come from anywhere – it’s usually a case of something catching my eye, and my thinking “Could I make that in wool?” For toys, I’m often inspired by stories or nursery rhymes.
Tell us about your favourite knitting project.
I have a really soft spot for my ‘Crawley Caterpillar’ design as it was the very first to be published, and also for ‘Geoffrey Giraffe’, which has been very popular (click the links for free downloads of both patterns).
In terms of knitting rather than designing, it would be whatever the latest project I’m knitting or crocheting for either my grandson or granddaughter – it’s always nice to be knitting love in with every stitch.
What is your biggest knitting ambition?
I don’t really have any knitting ambitions – they were fulfilled when I had my first pattern published – so anything now is a bonus.
Which notion/gadget can't you live without?
Pins! Large-headed pins are vital for any project – from marking out a tension square, to partitioning for when you need to ‘pick up and knit’, for sewing up and for blocking your finished item. I couldn’t knit without them.
Tell us your tips for knitting toys.
I love knitting toys – mostly because you don’t really have to worry about tension, and because they’re knitted in small pieces, so you don’t have chance to get bored!
My best tip for making toys is the same as I’d give for any knitting – the secret is in the sewing up and finishing: It’s important to take your time and make sure that you sew toys very neatly and (most importantly) very securely.
I always pin the pieces that need to be sewn together, making sure they are correctly positioned and then back sew seams to make sure they’re secure. For smaller pieces that could potentially come loose, I like to sew with the knitting yarn twice, and then sew again with sewing thread: I then always test by pulling any smaller sewn-on parts as hard as I can: if I can’t pull it loose, then I’m happy it’s safe. (I always recommend that you do this pull test from time to time to make sure smaller parts don’t come loose).
I also always use good quality toy stuffing; it’s important that it’s soft, safe and machine washable – knitted toys should ideally be machine washable / tumble dryable – for the sake of practicality. Poor quality stuffing has a tendency to ‘clump’, and makes the initial stuffing more difficult to shape, and can fail to keep its shape long term.
What is your worst knitting habit?
I think my worst habit is starting projects, and then not getting (or taking) the chance to complete them. I know I’ve got a couple of things put away that have been waiting for me to pick them up again for at least a couple of years! I will get round to them eventually – I only hope I haven’t done what I have done occasionally in the past and that’s to forget to write down which pattern / size I’m doing – very frustrating!
If you'd like to knit Ann's Geoffrey Giraffe toy, click here for the free pattern.