Joanna Johnson is one of those women who has a quiet soul, and a fierce mind. Meeting her in person, you would swear you knew her for years, as she is easy to fall into a conversation with over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.
Joanna’s work has been beloved by many for the past few years, both by knitters and families alike. Her first three children’s books, Phoebe’s Sweater, Phoebe’s Birthday, and Freddie’s Overalls combine unique knitting patterns with fascinating and beautifully written adventures no child can resist.
When we first read that Joanna was writing a book of knitting patterns based on the iconic and loved Anne of Green Gables series, we were fascinated to see what it would contain. Once again, she did not disappoint. Creating an entire look based on such special and well loved characters is no easy task, but we think that you will agree that knitting any one of these patterns will bring you right into the pages of the book itself.
Joanna sits down to tell us what it was like to create and publish Green Gables Knits, and gives us a tiny hint on what may be coming next.
This is such a special project. Can you tell us how it began?
Years ago I had an idea for a felted carpet bag for Anne, and the concept took hold then and there. Ideas for other designs inspired by the characters from the story kept flooding in. Around that time, my husband was busy working on the illustrations for our third book, and I must have caught some of that creative energy because the patterns starting coming together very quickly. The book, like all of our others, came to me as a whole idea from the beginning. Afterward, for me, it is really a matter of honing the ideas until they are what I imagined in the very beginning.
What is the process like for a project that centers around something so iconic?
This was something I spent a lot of time working through in my mind — my goal was to respect the tradition of Anne of Green Gables while creating something fresh and new at the same time. We reached out to the Heirs of L.M. Montgomery, to see if they would be supportive of this idea. We did not want to develop this idea without their blessing, as it leans so very much on the passion people have for the Anne stories. I worked very hard to create something that would remind people of Anne, of Prince Edward Island, of the time period and the stories… while at the same time leaving room for everyone’s personal interpretation of the characters and stories to live on in their imaginations, untouched.
You have been such a large part of the independent publishing world. How was this book different for you than your others?
This book was very different for a number of reasons. The main one, though, is that our other three books are created entirely from our imaginations, while this book is based upon the creative work of another person. This is why we loved partnering with L.M. Montgomery’s heirs — having the ability to include the author’s personal photos from P.E.I. and to have their approval of the manuscript was really important to me. My husband Eric did all of the layout and design for the book, so we were able to work together on this as with all of our other books, but not having him do any illustrations was very different. This book was much more focused on the knitting and the photography.
What has been your favorite part of writing and creating this book, and what are you most looking forward to as the book makes its way to shelves?
My very favorite part? Planning the photography! It was like a yearlong game of playing dress up! I found everything I needed in different places and ways over the course of months: shoes from a second hand shop, suspenders on Etsy, odds and ends found in our closets, jewelry at a craft store, Irish flannel shirts my husband bought overseas 25 years ago… some pieces I even custom sewed for the photo shoots. Finding the locations, the models, the props and all of the details, then pulling it together and working with our photographer to shoot the photos was absolutely my favorite part of the book.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind some of your favorite pieces? What were you thinking as you created them, how did you decide on color, texture, etc.?
I designed all of the patterns for this book using yarn from Brown Sheep Company, which has a wide variety of color, texture, and weight in their yarns. For some pieces, I wanted something really traditional, like a fine weight cotton or a bulky single spun wool, but for others, I looked for something outside the box. Anne’s carpet bag would have been made of wool, but woven, not knitted. I found a wool that felts into a really unique texture when worked in a certain style of colorwork patterning, so I applied that technique in a manner that I felt was authentic to the story, while at the same time bringing a unique and modern twist to the collection. I had a definite color palette that I wanted to work with, in order to tie the various themes and textures together.
Your work is so beloved by our readers, and I know that everyone will be curious about future projects. Anything in the works you would like to share?
Thank you! I am not ready to share many details right now… but I can assure our readers that we have several other knitting storybooks in the works, perhaps with another literary pattern collection like Green Gables Knits! This is our fourth book in four years, so I guess it looks like there is a pattern developing…
Green Gables Knits is currently available for pre-order, and includes a free digital e-book when ordered before November 30th. To learn more about Joanna and her publishing company, please visit Slate Falls Press. We hope that you enjoy this gorgeous and timeless knitting book.