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With the release of Catherine Arnfield's brilliant brand new book, Felted Animal Knits, we thought that it was the ideal time to have a chat with Catherine about herself, her crafting, her book and her upcoming projects!

First of all, how are you Catherine and how are you coping with the COVID-19 situation?

I’m really well thanks!

Social isolation has been a mixed bag to say the least! I am missing the face-to-face contact that we all enjoy. I’m especially missing the interaction that I have at my workshops and at the various woolly shows that I exhibit at throughout the year. However, the amazing creative people that I am happy to call my friends and allies have been thinking outside of the box and have done a fantastic job creating “virtual wool shows” and various social media events which have been a lovely lifeline and something that I hope can continue to complement the new normal when we can get out and about again.

But every cloud has a silver lining so they say and with the gift of a little more time, I have been able to concentrate on some new design ideas, learn some new techniques and even had chance to do some painting.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I think I was born to be a crafter and was brought up surrounded by creative people. Everyone in my family would be either making, mending or inventing something! Grandad would be making clocks or candles in his shed, Mum would be potting in the greenhouse while Dad would be in the cellar making something that he claims was revolutionary to wood working! My grandma was a life-long knitter and encouraged me and my sister to knit from an early age with a bucket load of patience. After finishing school I went on to study Textile Design at Manchester Metropolitan university, but I didn’t specialize in knitting, it was the painting and the printing that inspired me at the time, which led to an Art and Design teaching career.

At the age of 40 I picked up my knitting needles again. My girls were growing up and I found a new wave of enthusiasm that just kept growing. Eventually I began to write my own patterns and developed different quirky ideas to try to make my knitted animals look more realistic and that was where the idea of combining the knitting with felting came from.

Catherine knitting

Three years later, I had gained a bit of interest from others in what I was creating and in 2017 it felt like the right time to take the plunge, step out of the classroom and have a go at building my own business… Knit2Felt.

Wow… Scary.

But I had so much support and encouragement from my family. Starting the business was the hardest work I've ever had to do but I absolutely loved what I was doing, it felt special and it felt right. I was focused and determined to prove what I was doing could be enjoyed by many, and Knit2Felt started to grow.

How did Search Press discover you?

When I first began designing my own patterns my first dream was to write a book, but I had no idea how to get started or who to contact so continued to concentrate on building my portfolio of designs and promoting them through social media, knitting magazines and exhibiting at different woolly shows and craft fairs.I had also contacted Hochanda TV to see if they would be interested in showing my designs on their channel, not thinking that they would be interested, but what did I have to lose? So when they got back to me and asked if I would be available to go for a meeting I was stunned and very excited. I travelled down to Peterborough and met with the buyer. She loved my designs and asked me if I had considered writing a book. I told her that it was my first idea but I had no idea how to get into it, and she handed me the 'golden ticket' so to speak and gave me the phone number for James, the UK & Ireland Sales Manager at Search Press.

James was lovely when I called him, and he asked me to send him a brief outline of what I had in mind for the book and the concept of knitting and felting. From this, he passed my information on to the Katie French, Search Press's Editorial Director, and after a few months I had the most amazing email to tell me that my book had been accepted and we were going to go ahead!

How does it feel to publish your first book?

It really is like a dream come true!

It still feels unreal! I suppose because we are still effectively in lockdown, it’s been more of a challenge to gauge the responses of people as I have not been able to show anyone face-to-face. The online response has been amazing though, and I have had so many lovely messages and pre-release orders for the book, the support has been phenomenal.

Why combine felt with knitting?

I believe that by combining knitting with felting it can give you the best of both elements, especially for animal designs. When I began on this journey I wanted to achieve a more realistic finished look for my knitted animals and so tried adding intricate details using needle felting techniques. By wet felting the knitted bodies, the stitches fuse together creating a smoother and denser surface on which to work, which actually can achieve a fully-needle felted effect.

So why not just needle felt?

Well, the beauty of knitting first is that it eliminates the guesswork of creating the initial shape, often a stumbling block for the beginner needle felter.

Knitting Wet felting

By following the knitting pattern the shape can be easily achieved giving you confidence to tackle what could initially have been a daunting project. By creating a knitted form you are also able to make much larger animals than you normally would with just needle felting and without the need for metal wire armatures.

Do you have any tips for beginners?

I am asked this question quite regularly and my main piece advice is always, “dont be scared!” These projects are genuinely much easier than they look. If you are a beginner knitter then start off with any of the projects but a great starting point would be the little mice or the piglets to ease you in, grow your confidence and enable you to move on to the next project.

Peanut & Crunch the Mice  Truffle the Pig &  Jellybean the piglet

Don’t worry about needing to buy lots of expensive equipment, there is lots out there but in the book you will find tips and advice about affordable alternatives and tools that you will already have at home.

What’s your favourite piece from the book and why?

To be honest they are all my babies! But I do have a real soft spot for the koala, I had just finished designing Twiglet when the bush fires in Australia broke out in 2019 and felt a real affinity with the plight of the wildlife there, moreso as a result of spending so much time studying these beautiful creatures. I also love the way that Ember the Fox has turned out with his knowing eyes and fluffy face.

Twiglet the Koala Ember the Fox

Where do you get your inspiration?

I gather bits of inspiration from all over the place, whether it's while I’m out walking here in the Peak District, in my garden or watching television. I will often ask someone if I can take a photograph of their dog if they have a beautiful tail, a stunning coat or quirky look about them. They think I’m a bit crackers at first but when I explain about my designs they are always happy to allow me.

My own pets have been an inspiration as have those owned by my friends and family, from cats and dogs to guinea pigs and rabbits.

I have a lot of requests from customers or people who have found Knit2Felt online and are looking for that special kit or custom made pet, so designs are often born from someone else’s request. The strangest request so far has been for a bat!

Tell us a bit about your company Knit2Felt?

I started Knit2felt in June 2017 in a very small way with just five designs of knitting and felting kits on my website and a handful of Facebook posts. I had never had my own business before and it was a steep learning curve.

Knit2Felt is primarily an online shop that specializes in knitting and felting kits, needle felting kits, felted soap and now a lovely book!
Knit2Felt website

My lucky break, if you like, was when I managed to secure a place at my first wool show, Bakewell Wool Gathering in October 2017. My collection of kits was growing, and by the time that we went to the show I had around 15 different animals that people could knit and felt for themselves.

From here on the collection of kits has now grown to around 50, to accommodate the beginner to the more experienced, the knitter and the felter.

I love exhibiting at the shows and craft fairs and running workshops has tapped in to the teacher part of me beautifully.

Knit2Felt’s full collection can be found on my website or on Etsy. I update regularly on Facebook and Instagram and I have a YouTube channel where techniques and tutorials are shared.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a panda design and am experimenting with alternative materials to see if I can create a similar look with plant-based fibres after many requests from vegan crafters.

Catherine's book, Felted Animal Knits, is available from the Search Press website, RRP £14.99.

Felted Animal Knits Cover

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