Knitters You Should Know: The Ageing Young Rebel

After an unduly long hiatus, the Interrobang has returned!  Please remember to send in an email if you would like to be featured on the blog- we are always looking for new folk to feature.  Email!

Anu Koski is the type of person who is enviably good at a spectrum of crafty outlets.  This Helsinki native has sharp, chic beauty that fits perfectly into a pompommed hat, a knack for on-the fly, whimsical crocheted pieces, and a flair with her camera that makes the world around her look icily beautiful.  Anu can be found at her website, the ageing young rebel, on twitter, etsy, and ravelry.

How did you get into knitting?
When I was a kid, all girls here in Finland were taught to knit at elementary school, so I learned it when I was 10. We knitted scarves, mittens, socks and sweaters – the first sweater I ever made was my first own design. I’ve been knitting ever since, and for the last ten years or so I’ve designed everything I’ve made. I had some problems at first because I’m left-handed. Neither I nor my teacher understood that I was knitting in the “wrong” direction, so it was difficult to read patterns or get help from the teacher. Later I learned to knit in both directions, but usually I still knit from left to right. I’m still wondering how I actually got into knitting and learned so well after all. Crocheting I learned even earlier, at pre-school. First I crocheted granny square blankets, potholders, bags and cardigans. I designed my first crocheted plush in 1999, and my first amigurumi doll in 2006.

Do you have a ʻreal worldʼ job other than knitting and knitwear design? If so, what do you do?
I’m an IT professional, a web designer, but currently I’m on a study leave. I’m majoring in new media.

Where are you from? 
I grew up in Turku, a relatively big city (in Finnish standards) in the south-western coast of Finland. Nowadays I live in the capital city, Helsinki. Finland is a country of silence and strong contrasts – the lightness and warmth of summer and the darkness and coldness of winter. The winter is long, so we need our knitting skills to keep ourselves warm.

What is your favorite knitting spot? Do you have an ʻartistic processʼ when it comes to knitting and design, or do you
tote the needles wherever you go?
I have my “home office” on the corner of our sofa – that means my laptop, my knitting bag, a basket of supplies (hooks, needles, etc.) and a pile of books about crafts, fashion, character design and street art. I take my needles along when I go out only if I know I have to spend time in boring places like public transport.

Tell me about your favorite project.
I think it might be the “Jazz-birds“, the first collection of amigurumis I made for sale. They were inspired by some of my favorite things: New York, Leonard Cohen’s song “Famous Blue Raincoat” and the beat generation.

Do you have a favorite quote?
I don’t know if I can call this quote my favorite, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s from Björk’s song “Hunter”: “I thought I could organize freedom, how Scandinavian of me”. Like the other Scandinavians, we Finns are often very organized, we want to do things like we have always done and we like to follow rules (and patterns!). To be able to design my works the way I want, more freeform and artistic, I must learn not to always try to organize my freedom. This quote in a way helped me see it.

If you could have one splurge knitting purchase and project, what would it be?

I have already made several splurge knitting projects… good quality yarns are so expensive here in Finland that every sweater can be a splurge. If I could do whatever I like, I would create a HUGE amigurumi, the same size as Florentijn Hofman’s plushes in his exhibition called “Dushi,” and place it on my balcony. It would take more time, space and patience than money, I guess.

Who is your favorite knitwear designer and why?
I like to learn from the best: Issey Miyake has been my favorite designer since the 90’s. He has taught me to focus on the form of the whole garment and the way it interacts with the body instead of concentrating on the details first. This way of thinking also works when designing amigurumis. Lately I’ve been inspired by Royal Academy of Antwerp graduate Nathalie Fordeyn’s surreal and dreamlike Master of Arts collection “A drummer in a tree” and the chunky knitted sculpture-like clothes of Johan Ku.

Do you have any hobbies other than knitting?
I make occasional photographic experiments, both analog and digital. I’m also interested in character design, unconventional arts (eg. street art and fiber art) and urban culture – they are very important sources of inspiration for me.

What is in your knitting bag right now?
At the moment it’s actually not a knitting bag but a crocheting bag – I’m working on a black crocheted sweater with asymmetrical double, treble and double treble stripes and a grey double crochet cardigan. I don’t have a finished pattern for either of those, I just crochet and see what comes.

Do you have any advice for new knitters trying to refine their craft, or trying to start designing? Any tips about self publication?
The most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have to exceed myself every time I design something new. In other words, even though I am a skilled knitter, I don’t have to show everything I know and even more in every design. It’s more important to create something that looks good, works the way it should (if it is a garment, it should be wearable etc.) and is fun to make. When publishing your works, think about the pictures. They are the first thing people will notice and they will give them a strong impression both about your works and you as a designer. Buy or make a light tent, so it’s easier to take good product pictures.

What is your favorite item to design?
Circular things – that includes cowls, hats and amigurumis. I like three-dimensional, geometric forms and textures.

Do you think the internet is changing knitting and knitwear design? If so, how?
The internet and the use of computer in general have changed my way of doing and thinking completely. The internet-related things I have done for living, web design and computer graphics, have very much in common with crafts techniques like knitting, needlepoint, ryijy and even mosaic – they all consist of pixels. You can call them loops, stithes or tiles, but they’re all small square dots in different colors. This similarity can lead to some very interesting crossovers, like the QR-3D project, where crafters are experimenting with different tehniques and materials trying to create working textile versions of QR codes, and sharing the results with other participants by publishing photographs of their works in a Flickr pool. And of course the internet is an endless source of inspiration and knowledge and a great way to communicate and share things globally.

What role, if any, do you think knitting will have in your life in ten years?
More artistic. I’m trying to break the boundaries between handcrafts and art and create unique artworks instead of just ordinary scarves and cardigans. I will also continue experimenting with techniques and ideas that come outside of the craft world.

3 Responses to “Knitters You Should Know: The Ageing Young Rebel”
  1. Erin-Kate says:

    Wow, beautiful! I love how cute & fun her things are. The pictures are so clean and pleasing as well!

  2. Connie says:

    I really enjoy your blog and am very happy to have you back after your absence!!!

  3. Julie says:

    What a great post! I’ll be following this very interesting theme for sure.

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