No-Bull Book Review: Green Gables Knits, by Joanna Johnson

Although I was a voracious reader as a child, and thought I’d read just about every children’s classic book that our library had, I never stumbled across Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. This shocks me, as the charming story of orphan Anne Shirley, who is sent to live with an older couple on Prince Edward Island, is one of those books that is loved by nearly everyone who reads it. Strangely enough, it was a friend in law school who told me about the book and insisted that I read it. She was right.  I raced through the original and all the sequels, and consider them (or at least the earlier ones) among my all-time favorites.

Joanna Johnson–author of the charming picture books starring Phoebe the Mouse–obviously loves the Anne of Green Gables characters too; so much so, that she was inspired to create a knitting book full of patterns devoted to them. Green Gables Knits (Slate Falls Press; paperback; 46 pages; color; MSRP $14.95, available for $11.76 via the link at the time of this writing) was published late last fall, with the cooperation and approval of the Heirs of L. M. Montgomery.

Green Gables cover

I spoke with Joanna Johnson last fall, since I wrote a brief article about the book for Yarn Market News magazine. I learned a lot of interesting things about the book; for example, that the current heirs of Montgomery are very careful about what projects they will approve and not approve, and that they are the actual grandchildren of Montgomery. One of the benefits of working with Montgomery’s heirs was that Johnson was permitted to publish several photographs from the archives at a Canadian university–cool! (You can see, for example, a photo of Lucy Maud Montgomery at age fourteen; a photograph of Montgomery’s room in her grandparents’ home; and the pond which became immortalized as “the Lake of Shining Waters” in the Anne Shirley books.)

But the heart of the book is the patterns, and they are lovely, accessible and wearable patterns that really capture the essence of the characters. You’ll find eight patterns, each inspired by a specific character from the books; each pattern is accompanied by a quote from the book, and is worn by a model who captures the personality of the character (at least as I imagined them!).

Let’s start with Anne Shirley, the red-headed orphan whose ebullient personality is the lynchpin of the series. This is the Anne Cardigan

johnson annes

and its elegant lines, emerald green color and pockets (to hold all sorts of treasures) seem very Anne-like to me. Note the beautiful model, Johnson’s daughter, who exactly the right age to be a stand-in for Anne Shirley.

Matthew’s vest

johnson vest

features a classic cable that divides into the neckline, while Marilla’s apron

johnson apron

has a lovely lace bottom with elegantly-shaped decreases.

Miss Stacy gets a pretty shawl

johsnon shawl

while Gilbert gets a manly scarf:

johnson scarf

In addition, there are patterns for Diana’s slouchy hat, a table runner, and a carpet bag. Many of the patterns are knit in the round for minimal finishing. The vest and sweater are sized generously, with measurements in inches from the low 30s to mid-50s, so that teens and grown-ups can find a size that fits. Yarns are heavy worsted to fingering weight, depending on the project. Schematics are provided for the garments; lace patterns are charted and written out.

It’s always tricky to use a beloved piece of literature as a jumping-off point for a creative endeavor; people tend to have very strong opinions about the heroes of their childhood and get cranky if your vision and theirs differ too greatly. So I was pleasantly surprised at how perfectly Joanna Johnson’s vision of the Green Gables characters matched mine. I’d love to cast on any of these good-looking, classic and elegant projects, preferably while re-reading my favorite passages from “Anne of Green Gables.”


Photographs used for review purposes with permission; images copyright 2013 by Joanna Johnson. L.M. Montgomery is a trademark of Heirs of L.M. Montgomery Inc.; “Anne of Green Gables” and other indicia are trademarks.

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