I don’t think most American knitters are familiar with Jan Messent. I think that’s a shame. She has a really original view of needlework and supplies a lot of inspiration. I first became acquainted with her book “Have You Any Wool?” which is subtitled “The creative use of yarn.” That gives you a clue that this is not a pure knitting book. The book includes some gorgeous “landscapes” created by wrapping yarn around cardboard and then putting cardboard windows around them. This is a surprisingly good way to showcase beautiful yarns in natural hues. The next chapter introduces knitting – and mixes it in with the wrapped cards at first. Then goes on to a Princess and the Pea scene with many knitted mattresses. Then she throws in crochet. There is a wonderful collection of knit/crocheted fungi. You’ll also find some charming knit sheep, as well as boxes covered in knitting and many other creative projects. This could be a very interesting way to do a little stash-busting! This book is available from Amazon.
I have three other books of hers. All of them share a common character. The books are Knit an Enchanted Castle, Knit the Christmas Story and Knitted Historical Figures. These all have marvelous figures of people and/or animals. The Historical Figures has a great range of costumed characters. The Christmas Story has the figures you’d expect (the holy family, shepherds, wise men and angels) plus the ox and the ass and a sheep or two. The less expected items are the gifts from the wise men and the manger itself. Plus the stable is created with her card wrapping technique – it’s very attractive indeed.
My favorite book of these, though, is Knit an Enchanted Castle. This is no longer available separately, but Amazon sells Knit a Fantasy Story, which according to customer reviews contains not only the castle book, but also Knitted Gnomes and Fairies and a book called The Knitted Farmyard, by Hannelore Wernhard, edited by Ms. Messent in my version. Just the Castle book contains several characters (prince, princess, wizard, witch, knight plus a troll and rumplestiltskin). In addition, there are a horse and a dragon plus a beautiful unicorn. However, much my favorite pieces are the castle itself (looks like a lot of work – but I wish I had it!) and the absolutely amazing ent-like trees. If you like this kind of thing, I’d really recommend checking out Ms. Messent’s work. It’s really interesting.
Just a word of comparison – I recently reviewed Knitted Pirates, Princesses, Witches, Wizards and Fairies by Annette Hefford. Obviously, this work has a lot in common with Ms. Messent’s, but they are actually quite different in feel. Ms. Hefford’s figures are very beautifully dressed and look as though they could and should be dressed in various components of the outfits at different times. Messent’s are permanently clothed and seem more like characters in a scene. And many other components of the scene are available too.
Here is the back of my copy of Knit an Enchanted Castle. It gives you a fair idea of how the castle and the Talking Trees look.