Recent graduate from Leeds Arts Uni, Annie Hall is a knitwear designer and illustrator, specialising in jumpers and sweater vests which caught our eye on Instagram. Originally from a tiny village in Cambridgeshire, Annie has lived in Leeds for the last 4 years. We got in touch to find out more about her process and knitting rediscovery.
First of all, how did you get into illustration?
My mum’s an artist (a basket maker), but she did an MA in illustration when me and my sister were little, so I’ve always been surrounded by great illustrated books and was encouraged to be creative from an early age. I mainly chose to study illustration as I thought it looked like fun.
Have you always knitted? When did you start incorporating that into your work?
My granny taught me to knit when I was about 5, and it’s always something I’ve done as a hobby. Last year I started to combine knitting with my university work, and ended up buying a knitting machine in April of this year! Since then I’ve been able to sell work as it’s sped up the whole process so much.
How do you go about starting a piece of work? Does it start as a pencil drawing? What is your process?
I start out the process of making a jumper with drawings in my sketchbook, which I then plot out on a graph on Photoshop (each square represents a stitch). When the design is ready, I’ll start to knit on my knitting machine. I usually begin with the back, as it’s plain and speedy. I’ll then do the front of the piece (with the design) which normally takes 1 or 2 days. It’s definitely the most time consuming part. When the front and back are done I sew in all the ends, iron them and then sew them together along one shoulder so that I can do the neck across both pieces. I pick up stitches along the edge of the body to knit the sleeves, and then sew it all together!
How did lockdown affect your work?
Lockdown happened during my last semester of university. I was lucky enough to be able to move back home with my parents, and because of this I saved enough money to buy the knitting machine that I use to make most of my work. While I found it really hard to be away from my friends and the studios at uni, lockdown was good in the sense that it freed up a lot of my time, meaning I could spend it on my craft.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on quite a few commissions from people who’ve found me on Instagram, which has been super nice. It’s still a fairly new experience for me to be making and selling work to people I don’t know personally – my first commission was from someone in the US which kind of blew my mind! I’m also in the process of organising a photoshoot of a few of the pieces with my friend who’s a fashion photographer, which I’m super stoked about.
Tell us about a typical working day.
At the moment I’m working part time at a health food shop, but I try to fit in as much knitting on my days off as possible. On one of these days I’ll spend the majority of it knitting, normally listening to podcasts or audiobooks. My favourite podcast is No Such Thing as a Fish, which is done by researchers from QI, and journalism podcasts like This American Life. On the days I’m working at the shop I try to use the evenings to reply to messages, sew up the garments and edit piccys for Instagram.
Who’s work do you admire and why?
I love Annie Lee Larson’s knitwear. Hers were some of the first machine knitted garments that I obsessed over, kick-starting my research into knitting machines, and eventually inspiring me to buy one for myself. I also (perhaps narcissistically?) like that she’s called Annie as well.
Does music influence your work at all?
Not a huge amount, I feel like it used to more than it does now, although I do always listen to music when I’m sketching up the designs for the jumpers/vests. But yeah, I mainly listen to audiobooks or podcasts when I’m knitting.
Who’s your favourite new band?
I’ve been listening to Michael Kiwanuka’s latest album on repeat! And Joy Crookes has been a fairly recent discovery for me. She’s amazing.
The clothing you make is incredible, what do you hope to do with that aspect of your work?
Thanks! Ideally I’d like to be making knitwear full time and quit my part time job. I don’t see this happening for a while (so that I can pay my bills/still get free vegan food), but the prospect of being self-employed is really exciting. Apart from that I’m just really excited about the photoshoot, as I don’t have any pictures of the clothes being worn.
The new issue of So Young is out now. Its sold out in print but you can read the digital edition below.