I received a copy of the fantastic knitting book, Stitch London for Christmas from my darling husband. The book was like any other knitting book I have ever received, it is full of the most wonderful and unique little patterns celebrating London. From the “Cooey Pigeon” to Big Ben, author Lauren O’Farrell covered it all. O’Farrell is also a graffiti knitter and has knitted her craft all over London. My favorite of her “graffiti” is Plarchie, her giant knitted squid which you can see pictures of on her website.
Happily, Lauren O’Farrell was kind enough to allow us an interview. Below is the questions we got to pose to the amazingly talented author, and knitter. Enjoy!
How did you start knitting?
I was taught to knit at the first ever meeting of Stitch London, the group I started with two friends back in 2006. I was having treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the time (a type of blood cancer). The needles and yarn helped take my mind of the needles in my arms. I now knit for a living, write about knitting in my books and run the UK’s biggest stitching group, Stitch London, (we have over 12000 members in 52 countries worldwide). Not too shabby for someone who still hasn’t knit a jumper and has only knit one sock (I much prefer knitting quick things).
Do you have a favorite knit shop?
To be honest I don’t! There are loads of good ones in London and it would be tough to choose. I do have huge respect for the ladies who run Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green though, and All the Fun of the Fair in central London have supported Stitch London every chance they can.
What inspired your previous 2 books?
As I said I’ve been involved in London knitting since 2006. It took over my life as I recovered from cancer and I wanted to give something back for all the fun times knitting has given me. So I decided to put my love of London and of knitting into one book, and Stitch London the book was born. I’m a writer at heart so when Stitch London’s publishers asked me if I’d like to write a book how could I refuse? Stitch London is for those who love London but also those who live here. You can knit Big Ben, a rather cute London pigeon called Cooey (there’s a kit to make her in the front of every book), or more practical stuff like a picnic blanket made from plastic bags (to combat that post-rain damp grass). Also some of the sale of every book goes to a cancer charity. So I’m fighting cancer every time one is sold. That idea makes me very happy.
The other book, Knit the City: A Whodunnknit Set in London is written by my graffiti knitting Deadly Knitshade side. That was inspired by a sneakier love of London and knitting. A bit of woolly mischief can inspire people to think about the world differently. So I decided to share the sneaky stitching love. It was published in German first, when a German editor fell in love with our website. I’m so pleased it came out in the UK too. It’s more of an art book with a bit of storytelling. But there are two patterns to get your started in your own knitting graffiti.
Do you have a favorite pattern?
Of my own? I love my Finger-fighting Stitched Squid. He’s really easy to make and he’s a tenacious ten-tentacled fighter. I’m also very fond of my various mouse patterns. I use them a lot as you might see from my Whodunnknit blog.
How do you develop your patterns?
I’m not really sure. I generally just have a vague idea and then dive into my extensive yarn stash. There’s then what looks like an epic battle with yarn flying, needles clicking, paper being screwed up and thrown away and mild swearing. I usually emerge with something odd but lovable.
Do you have a favorite type of yarn or brand of knitting needles you prefer? If so why?
I’m currently in love with my Hiyahiya interchangeable needles. They make them in teeny size (0.7mm!!!) and they have a supercool finish. In my needle roll they look like bullets when they’re all lined up and unscrewed from the cords. Woolly weapons of crafty war. As for yarn I don’t really have favourites. I love mad bright colours. Cygnet do some eye-popping neon stuff I use a lot. Also Bramwell yarns do great acrylic 4-ply for my tiny knits, in some good colours. But mainly I’ll use anything I can get my hand on. Even nasty old eyelash yarn.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on patterns for my next book, Stitch New York. It’s the second book in a whole series so expect other countries and cities afterwards. I’ve been watching all manner of NY films while I’ve been knitting. I kind of feel like I live there, right next door to Woody Allen, Seinfeld and Tiffany’s.
I also just finished a free charity pattern for Battersea Dogs Home, which some very good friends of mine are knitting up. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. It’s the first time I’ve made a pattern and not knit it myself. I knit almost single thing in my Stitch London book myself (except for two projects I tested and then passed on to trusted knitters – one of whom was my mum.
And there will be more graffiti this year. I have a very interesting idea. But if I told you I’d have to kill you…
What advice to you have for new knitters?
Practice, practice, practice. Have a look at a few patterns and then throw away the rules and do crazy stuff. Think of your yarn as your paint, and your needles as your paintbrush. Go wild with your wool and create the unexpected.
Where is your favorite place to knit?
I love knitting on the London underground tube train. People can’t help staring. It’s great finishing a project on there too. Especially if it’s a creature and you can turn it round to stare back at them when it’s done.
Do you have any favorite knitting websites?
I love love love Mochimochi Land I was a great admirer of Anna’s for ages, her knits are ever so cute and kooky. I have met her both in NY and when she came to the UK, and am pleased to say she’s as great in person as her knits lead you to believe. Our work is definitely wandering about the same world, I think. My other favourite is Woo Work. Howie is an amazing crochet crafter and is work is always hilarious. It’s also often heartfelt. He’s a big inspiration.
Do you have an all time favorite project?
If I don’t say Plarchie, my 8-metre giant knitted squid that I made from 160 plastic bags, then he’d sulk at me and possibly eat me. He’s very temperamental. Plarchie is the only graffiti I couldn’t leave. He now appears at events I go to and people have their photo taken with him. He’s even got his own blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. I swear he gets an average of one marriage proposal a month. The ladies love Plarchie.
Lauren also recommended these awesome knitting links:
You can also follow Lauren on Twitter!
If you would like to buy a copy of Stitch London: