Henry Hoovers and Starry-Eyed Bees: Annie Hall’s weird and wonderful knitwear

Annie Hall has certainly carved out a unique practice, sitting within a warm, weird, and wonderful sweet spot nestled between disciplines. In doing so, she challenges the distinction and expectations of art and craft – embracing the latter's associations, imperfection, and tactility and making something utterly her own.

From starry-eyed bees and king snakes to suspicious clouds and Henry Hoovers, Annie's jumpers and vests are bursting at the seams with a hilarious and sincere notion that you can't help but want to have emblazoned on your chest.

Having originally studied illustration, the Leeds-based creative tells us, "Since graduating, I'd describe myself as more of a knitwear designer/maker than an illustrator," a job title she has obviously been building up to her whole life. "I've been hand knitting since I was a kid," she recalls, "and then in my second year at uni, I got inducted onto a knitting machine," an introduction to the methods and machinery she still uses today. Perhaps this underlying association with her childhood and subsequent kindred wonder makes Annie's work so enticing and, above all, fundamentally playful.

"I'd say playfulness is pretty important," Annie explains, "all of my favourite knits have made me laugh a little at the first sketch," she adds, something that helps her stay interested in the work she makes. This intimacy between the art and artist is undeniably unique about Annie's knitwear as if there is a sentiment and emotional thread interwoven between the wool. Starting to make clothes initially for her own wardrobe, Annie explains, "Now that I don't keep most of the clothes I make, I feel like the best part has been making them for loved ones," noting Christmas jumpers for her family and partner as recent favourites.

"It's just a really nice feeling to knit someone you love a jumper," Annie adds, "it's a little bit cheesy, but it makes me think of the Joni Mitchell song 'All I Want' where she says she wants to knit someone a sweater/write them a love letter." Looking to find the time to knit a jumper for all her nearest and dearest over the coming years, we can see the importance of tactility in her work and the significance of her illustrations physically existing instead of being digitally drawn. "It seems a bit more like a treasured object," Annie summarises.

This charming combination of playfulness, physicality, cheesiness and intimacy is what directs the beautifully uncanny and almost ineffable feel of Annie's work. It's knitted poetry, capturing a tone wholly unique to her. A sentiment capturing something nostalgic, familiar and warming through the use of bizarrely comforting anthropomorphic creatures, objects and faces. A sense of something long gone but immortalised in wool – something inescapably old-fashioned but intensely contemporary.

With this in mind, Annie notes childhood favourites Elmer the Elephant and the TV show Towser as significant influences, explaining "they still really appeal to me, and are works that I'd like to emulate in my own stuff," manifesting in childish mark-making, stylised characters and colour choices. Her inspiration at points goes beyond her own childhood, finding herself also captivated by the crazy knitting patterns of the 1970s and 1980s. "There's a really good book called 'Wit Knits' by George Hostler," Annie notes, "that has loads of funny and amazing jumpers in."

Combined, the mix of 1970s patterns and 1990s children's entertainment makes for jumpers as you've never seen before, forming an unmistakable signature style of starry-eyed characters and cheeky grins. "I also normally work with just a few colours," she tells us, "as I find it easier when the choices are limited," maintaining visual consistency across her work. "I probably use the lime green a little too much, though," Annie adds.

Consistency came into play recently with the creation of Annie's first line of jumpers, having previously only made one-off commissions. "I've got ten jumpers going off to America to be sold through a super nice online shop," Annie concludes, "It's really nice to see them all coming together."


Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly