This talented designer shares her creative inspirations
THE LONDON BASED
designer Anna Maltz creates patterns that bring smiles to knitters’ faces! Thanks to her playful use of colour and motifs, her modern garment shapes and innovative ways with yarn, Anna’s designs have won many fans.
Who inspired you to take up knitting?
“I learnt to knit when I was five, from my mother and oma (my grandmother in the Netherlands). I started doing it on a daily basis in my mid-teens, when I decided to knit mohair cardigans for myself and my best friend. That was in the 1990s, and mohair was super ’80s.”
Do you have a favourite artist, writer, poet or musician who inspires you?
“Knitting became a focal part of my art practice halfway through the seven years I spent in art school. The work of Elaine Reichek, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the Guerilla Girls and a whole bunch of other 1970s feminist artists were inspirations. They made me feel like I could make work that included knitting, which engaged in debates wider than whether something was art or craft. To me, some knitting is art and some isn’t, just like some painting is and some isn’t. What I knit now is knitting, but it’s influenced by my time making art.”
Which designer has most inspired you?
“I have a large collection of vintage knitting patterns which I look at when I need cheering up. These designs are mostly by unnamed designers, working for now long-defunct yarn companies. I love the garments, but also the staging and the models. I enjoy sweater-spotting when I’m out and about, and imagining how those sweaters, made by unknown designers and makers, were made and could be remade.”
Tell us about the colours, landscapes or architecture that inspire your work.
“Inspiration is seriously everywhere, but I think, if I was locked in a room, I’d do fine too - my head is pretty full of ideas. Now it’s more about prioritising which idea gets to come out and be realised. Colour is really important to me. It’s an intensely personal thing, and I like challenging myself to come up with combinations that are joyous, yet unexpected.”
What is your favourite knitting book?
“I have a large library of knitting books from the last hundred years, in many different languages, but the one I have actually used most is my oma’s copy of the
Mon Tricot 1100 Stitches in Dutch from the late 1970s. It’s in quite a taped-together state at this point, but I still flick through it when I’m thinking through options.
“Finding a first edition of Barbara Walker’s 1972 book Knitting from the Top was a key part in me realising that knitting instructions could be conversational and educational, rather than nd simply following rules presented in a string of coded letters, numbers and symbols. For this I also really love the 1970s series of Hönsestrik books by Kristen Hostäter from Denmark. I can’t read them, but I can follow the pictures.”
What fibres do you love to work with?
I’m drawn to natural fibres: wool, linen, alpaca and nettle, because I enjoy the history of them, can understand how they are made, and know they are biodegradable. I enjoy a little silk here and there, strictly as a luxury. I mostly work with 100% wool. I don’t need it to be super soft - the sturdier stuff generally makes hardier garments, and I like that. I love fibres that are comparatively minimally processed, to keep the environmental impact down. Cotton is complicated for that reason: so much water is used to grow and process it.”
Are there any techniques or styles of knitting you’d like to explore further?
“I’ve really been enjoying developing Marlisle. It’s a combination of ‘Marl’ - sections of two yarns worked together to create a marl - and ‘isle’, as in Fair Isle, where there are sections of stranded colourwork using one or both of the two yarns separately. It’s quite simple, but it opens up so many possibilities. I’m excited that my book Marlisle: A New Direction in
Knitting is inspiring other knitters too.”
1+2 The ‘Ess’ shawl in Anna’s newest pattern book uses her interesting ‘Marlisle’ technique 3 Barbara Walker’s classic Knitting From The Top was an eye-opening book for Anna 4 The ‘Adélie’ hat from Penguin: A Knit Collection 3
‘Trembling’ is a unisex design from Anna’s Marlisle book