Hannah Woodhead is the UK-based designer behind Yarnia Designs, as well as the host of the truly fabulous Tales of Yarnia podcast on YouTube, where she shares all things knitting and spinning (with the occasional appearance from Jonah the mischievous labrador). We caught up with Hannah at her home in Cheltenham to find out more about her adventures in yarn.
What are you currently knitting?
I have two main projects on the go, which are both my own designs. I also have lots of ‘vanilla’ socks, which I am using for travel projects and emergency knitting!
One of the designs on my needles is a fingering weight shawl, which also features sections using mohair silk laceweight. I am using a combination of Lay Family Yarn and Mr B’s Yarn in pinks and neutrals so it has quite a delicate and pretty feel to it.
I have also just cast on a new sweater design using Woolly Mammoth Fibres BFL/Gotland 4 ply. I am really excited about this one as the idea has been living in my head for over a year.
How did your yarn story begin?
My mum taught me to knit when I was about 16, but I only managed to make a lumpy and uneven garter-stitch scarf at that point. Inspired by her and looking for a hobby, I got back into fibre arts when I was around 24. As I no longer lived near her, I learned to crochet using YouTube videos and articles I discovered on Pinterest. It wasn’t long until I became enticed by the knitted creations I discovered and so I learned how to knit in the same way, using YouTube videos.
How would you describe the look of your designs?
I’m not sure my aesthetic always fits into one category, as it often changes with my mood and the seasons! Sometimes I love to knit with soft delicate colours and knit pretty, ethereal designs, and other times I gravitate towards bold bright colours. I think the one constant is that I need to create something that brings me comfort and is cosy to wear. If I had to pick a few words to describe my style they would be ‘modern and whimsical with a botanical twist’.
Do you have a favourite yarn to work with?
I really enjoy experimenting with wool from different breeds and love to explore the different textures of fibres. One of my favourite yarns I have used was a merino, possum and silk blend by Touch Yarns, which I picked up when visiting New Zealand. I used it to knit my Soiree Sweater (by Emily Foden) and it hasn’t pilled at all even though it’s one of my most worn sweaters! It is definitely one of the softest and warmest yarns I have used.
Can you tell us a little about why you decided to start Yarnia Designs?
I started off with my first design about two years ago, as I just wanted to challenge myself to create something new. I’ve always had a drive to keep learning and stepping outside of my comfort zone, and designing my own knitted creations felt like a wonderful but terrifying challenge to take on. It turns out I loved the process and it has just continued from there.
How do you start designing your projects?
Sometimes I will be inspired by a particular yarn, and other times I will have a picture in my head of what I would like to design, and I find a yarn to work with the design. I usually start by drawing a sketch and then I play around with the yarn, swatching with different needle sizes to find the gauge I like and trying out different stitch patterns. Designs don’t always remain true to the original sketch, and often evolve as I knit the sample. I really enjoy the design process, working with numbers and problem-solving, so sometimes it’s like an interesting puzzle to solve!
Are there any knitting techniques you are yet to conquer?
I have never used beads in my knitting, but I would love to try it at some point! The double knitting technique also fascinates me and is definitely on my list of things to try.
If you had to pick a favourite among your own designs, which ones would you choose?
My favourite shawl so far is the Pear Blossom Shawl, and for socks it’s a tie between the Akern Socks and the Cottage Garden Socks.
What and who influences your designs?
My main influences come from natural beauty I find in the world, in particular I love drawing inspiration from plants and my garden.
If I had to pick a few favourite designers, I would have to say Joji Locatelli, Helen Stewart and Nadia Crétin-Léchenne all create absolutely beautiful designs, which are both fun to knit and lovely to wear.
Can you tell us more about your podcast?
I started Tales of Yarnia on YouTube as I didn’t belong to any local knitting groups or have many connections with other knitters and crafters. I love watching other knitting podcasts and really wanted to join in with the community and discuss what we’re all knitting. My yellow labrador Jonah has such a big personality and also insisted on becoming a part of the podcast; he always likes to distract me from the knitting with his antics!
The podcast represents a community where we can join together and share our makes in knit-a-longs, share inspiration and connect with like-minded souls around the world. I am so thankful I started the show as I have made so many friends who I would not have met otherwise!
What's next for Yarnia Designs and Tales of Yarnia?
I have lots of new designs in the works and have just released my Akern Hat pattern (matching the Akern socks!). I’ve also created more hat designs, which I enjoy as quiet autumn/winter projects.
I designed my first garment earlier in 2019, and now that I have mastered the pattern grading once I hope to continue and design many more garments in the future. I will also be releasing my first colourwork sweater design towards the end of the year, which will be a really exciting personal milestone!