5 Facts About Cinthia Vallet & Her Knitted Animals
One of Laine’s most delightful books this year is Mouche & Friends, a collection of knitted animals by the French designer Cinthia Vallet. Learn how Cinthia became a toy-maker, and what is unique about her characters.
Cinthia Vallet is a French designer living with her family in Nantes, France. Cinthia’s debut book Mouche & Friends: Seamless Toys to Knit and Love is a unique hybrid of knitwear patterns and fairytales. It features knitting instructions for 12 different animal characters and their clothing and accessories, alongside a small story about each of them.
Cinthia develops her characters like an illustrator, but instead of drawing or painting them, she makes three-dimensional versions using needles and yarn. We gathered five interesting facts about Cinthia, her animals and their inspiration:
1. Cinthia is self-taught
Before becoming a designer, Cinthia studied history, and she has worked in a publishing house, in the children’s department of a bookshop and at a primary school, where she worked as a teacher. Cinthia first learnt to knit as a child from her grandmother, but it wasn’t until her youngest child was born that she truly became a knitter. She had always wanted to pursue a creative career, and knitting turned out to be the missing piece in the puzzle.
“I used to think I wasn’t up to it, because I hadn’t done any studies in art or design. But now I feel I can make use of everything I’ve learnt and it’s all come together.”
2. Her techniques are unique
When it comes to toy-making, crocheting is a much more common technique than knitting. Also, knitted toys are usually assembled from separate pieces, but Cinthia’s method is seamless. You begin at the nose and proceed toward the feet, so that the character grows quite naturally as you go.
“This all comes from my own experience: I find it really hard to finish a project unless it is worked in one piece. I like a flowing process.”
3. She is inspired by children’s literature
Cinthia’s aesthetic is rooted in her passion for children’s literature. Beatrix Potter, Kitty Crowther and Jon Klassen are a few of the illustrators she admires. When designing her characters, Cinthia tries to recall how the different animals have been depicted in cartoons and children’s literature. In addition, she studies and observes the real-life anatomy of the animals.
“With Tino the Wolf, for example, I tried to think what wolves are like in nature: like large, wild dogs with a distinctive tail and ears. On the other hand, wolves are often drawn with a great big mouth, which is also what I gave Tino.”
4. She aims for a smooth experience
As a designer, Cinthia thinks first and foremost about the knitter. She is always considering how to make the knitting experience as pleasant as possible and how to bring about a feeling of success. This shows in her patterns, which encourage the readers and give them detailed step-by-step instructions on how to proceed.
“I want people to know that they really will be able to complete the project. That’s important.”
5. She encourages adults to be playful
Cinthia’s animals are often knitted as gifts to children, but adults also make them for themselves as mascots, comforting companions or tokens of childhood. Some people feel they need an adult reason for knitting them, such as making a gift for a newborn, but Cinthia says knitting toys can be a source of joy, much like watching cartoons. Knitting toys gives adults the licence to be playful and present.
“Knitting toys is not a serious undertaking, it’s an easy way to wind down.”
Text: Maija Kangasluoma
Photos: Heli Sorjonen
Read more about Cinthia and her toys in Laine issue 17, out on May 5th 2023.
Mouche & Friends by Cinthia Vallet