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Jane Austen Knits

Jane Austen, born in 1775, has touched countless lives through her novels.  She wrote about things and people familiar to her.  She gives a taste of what living in 18th century England would have been like, with all of the formalities and rules of the time.

Sadly, I was not introduced to Jane’s work until I became an adult, but have tried to make up for lost time by reading all of her books, and then watching every movie made to represent them.  I must admit, the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice featuring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, is my absolute favorite.

I was thrilled when Interweave published Jane Austen Knits recently.  It features 31 knitting patterns inspired by Jane Austen’s descriptions of clothing in her books.  Three of these patterns feature Brown Sheep Company yarn, so I wanted to give special attention to them by giving a short interview with the designers.  The patterns are for Damask Mittens, The Cottage Tea Cozy, and A Most Sensible Bonnet.  Meet the designers….

Maria from Elegant Economy, Damask Mittenselegant economy knitwear designs-elegant economy-0227 640x427

When did you first discover your love for Jane Austen?

I've loved Jane Austen and really all Regency-ish era books, authors and movie adaptations since I was a young teenager. I remember when the epic 5 hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice entered our home in the form of taped VHS borrowed from a friend. I immediately fell in love with the costumes, the subtle character development, and the gorgeous British scenery. Hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago.

 What would you enjoy about living life in her time period?

It's hard to say. Her novels deal primarily with the wealthier class, so there's a lot of things about that lifestyle that are quite appealing. The free time, the trips to London for "the season", the clothing. But assuming I was in a similar working-type class then as I am now, there's a little less appealing about the era. But I would love the dancing. That seemed to be a cultural institution across all classes. I really long for the days when knowing how to dance was the norm, and not the niche hobby it seems to have become these days.

What prompted you to design “Damask Mittens”? damask mittens

Damask fabrics and prints became popular a couple years ago, and I've been obsessed. I've also been casually trolling the internet for a good colorwork mitten pattern for years. I finally merged the concepts into the "Damask Mittens" you see in this magazine.

 How did you choose to use Brown Sheep yarn?

Colorwork is a fabulous technique in that it shows off a knitters skill very well while requiring only a basic wool fiber to look good. Brown Sheep's Nature Spun line is fabulous for this application. It has a wide range of colors, it's soft, it's high quality, and it's very affordable, allowing me to stroke my ego and budget at the same time with the same project. A rare combination.

 What other patterns in this publication to you especially like?

I adore the "Cottage Tea Cozy". I grew up doing tea parties with my Mom and sister, so this would make a darling addition to my tea table for tea parties with my little girl when she's old enough. I also really like the Beaded Summer Spencer.


Joanna Johnson, The Cottage Tea Cozyjoanna johnson 469x640

When did you first discover your love for Jane Austen?
Although I was a voracious reader as a girl, I never read anything by Jane Austen until I was in college, where I majored in British Literature. My first Austen novel was Persuasion, (which I confess is now my least favorite of her books), and have greatly enjoyed reading her other novels in the years since. Jane's natural writing style, humor and wit are delightful. Her insight into human nature and society are timeless. I think my favorite of all of her books is Emma.

What would you enjoy about living life in her time period?
The simplicity. Modern life can be overwhelming at times, and I think the simplicity of Jane's time is what is so appealing to today's readers. I love the idea of spending an afternoon with friends or neighbors around a tea table, or walking miles to visit a neighbor. I also love how much time they spent out of doors enjoying nature, whether walking, riding in a carriage, enjoying a picnic, it just seems so pure and simple. Although I am sure it would take me a long time to learn all of the rules and expectations of that society!

What prompted you to design this tea cozy?
In trying to think of a quintessentially quaint theme for a tea cozy, I couldn't stop thinking of the idea of a little cottage. I thought it would be really fun to create a pattern that people could personalize by knitting it in the colors of a friend or relative's home, or the colors of a favorite vacation or getaway place. Also, the "roof" of the cozy lifts off just like the lid of a tea pot, so it is very practical for filling the tea pot. Something that I love about this project is how it ties in with the article about "tea time" in Jane's era. My very dear friend Bonnie-Lynn Nadzeika is a historian and wrote a wonderful article about tea for this magazine, so I especially love how my cozy and her article "paired up" in this publication.

How did you choose to use Brown Sheep yarn?cottage tea cozy
Brown Sheep's Shepherd's Shades is a great felting yarn, so I knew I wanted to use it for the cottage and roof. It has great shape and form after it is felted, so it works very well for this type of project. Also, it is a great match for the Waverly Wool, Brown Sheep's needlepoint yarn, which comes in literally hundreds of colors. The little skeins of Waverly are so inspiring, they are little colorful dainties just waiting to be made into something special. I recently started doing wool embroidery and it is a very fun and addictive hobby!

What other patterns in this publication to you especially like?
I adore the Damask mittens. Full disclosure, though- they are modeled by our daughter, so I am sure I am somewhat biased! They are worked in two contrasting colors of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Fingering, and are just stunning. My knitting group is thinking of making them as a Knitalong this winter, we are all smitten with those mittens!

Theressa Silver, A Most Sensible Bonnettheressa silver

When did you first discover your love for Jane Austen?

I first read Jane Austen in high school.  Somehow I go onto a gothic romance kick and simply worked my way across that shelf at the school library, reading Austen, Bronte, Alcott, etc.  As an adult my reading tasted have changed but I'm still a total sucker for period pieces on TV.  I have eagerly watched all of the BBC's Jane Austen productions, more for their visual appeal than anything else, soaking up the costumes and scenery.  (Besides, who doesn't like a little Colin Firth once in a while?)

 What would you enjoy about living life in her time period?

Honestly, not much.  We tend to romanticize the past, overlooking the hardships that people actually endured.  However, I do love the aesthetic of the period and the idea that one "dressed" rather than just throwing something on.  I like playing with ways of incorporating both historical fashion and attitudes about fashion into my everyday wardrobe as well as my design work.

 What prompted you to design A Most Sensible Bonnet?

I have been working for a while now on designing knit hats that look like traditional millinery.  I had just finished up the patterns for my book, Hat Couture, when the call for submissions for this magazine came out.  It was a logical step to take the techniques I had been using for the book and use them to create a period appropriate bonnet.

How did you choose to use Brown Sheep yarn?a most sensible bonnet

Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride is really the perfect yarn for the tight knitting technique I use to create these structured hats.  Both the worsted and the bulky, when knit on smaller needles, produce the thick, stiff fabric needed for the hat to hold its shape and stand up on its own.  The little bit of mohair gives the yarn a fuzziness that seems to help lock all the stitches together a bit.  Lamb's Pride was one of the first yarns I knit with when I was learning and it remains one of my favorites.

What other patterns in this publication to you especially like?

Everything about the Beaded Summer Spencer by Eileen Casey, the design, the color, the styling, the photography, is simple perfection.  The Northanger Pelisse by Karin Wilmoth really has me wishing I had the time to take on a project of that size for myself - swoon!

 Now that you’ve had a chance to meet some of the designers from Jane Austen Knits, pick up your own copy of the magazine, or emagazine today and happy knitting!