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How a Norfolk knitter’s shawls made it to Hollywood’s silver screen

PUBLISHED: 19:41 08 January 2020 | UPDATED: 19:41 08 January 2020

Jenn Monahan of Fibre Workshop at Elsing, with two of the shawls and she has knitted for the new film Little Women. On the mannikin is Beth March's shawl, and Jenn is wearing Jo March's shawl. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Jenn Monahan of Fibre Workshop at Elsing, with two of the shawls and she has knitted for the new film Little Women. On the mannikin is Beth March's shawl, and Jenn is wearing Jo March's shawl. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2020

It is a pastime which a Norfolk knitter began at her grandmother’s home in London but now her wares have made it all the way to Hollywood.

2019 adaption of Little Women. Picture: Sony Pictures Releasing/Out Now2019 adaption of Little Women. Picture: Sony Pictures Releasing/Out Now

Since its release date on Boxing Day, the 2019 film adaptation of Little Women has welcomed audiences to cinemas across the globe.

But for one person in particular, it holds a special place in her heart after items she lovingly spent hours creating made an appearance in the movie.

Jenn Monahan of Elsing, near Dereham, has been a knitter her entire life after learning the craft from her grandmother as a young child.

"My first love is knitting," she said, "and I can't remember a time where I didn't knit. Like most, starting on granny's knitting knees as a small child."

2019 adaption of Little Women. Picture: Sony Pictures Releasing/Out Now2019 adaption of Little Women. Picture: Sony Pictures Releasing/Out Now

Her work is no stranger to the big screen though, as some of her creations have also appeared in the films Churchill and 1917, as well as upcoming BBC drama Small Axe. In Little Women, her pieces include shawls worn by actresses Eliza Scanlon and Saoirse Ronan.

It was a chance encounter however which began a professional relationship between herself and a costume designer, allowing her to be part of some of the biggest films of the decade.

"I was displaying at a craft fair at Felbrigg Hall in north Norfolk.

"I began chatting to a lady. She was looking at my work, which was a knitted lace vintage-patterned shawl, and asked me if I knitted it. She then asked me if I'd be interested in working on a piece with her - and that's how I become involved with Churchill."

Beth March's shawl from the new film Little Women, knitted by Jenn Monahan of Fibre Workshop at Elsing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYBeth March's shawl from the new film Little Women, knitted by Jenn Monahan of Fibre Workshop at Elsing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ms Monahan added that it had been wonderful knitting pieces that she would never have dreamed of doing, as well as being able to do research.

She said: "Wool is a subject and a medium that I find endlessly fascinating and inspirational.

"I love to explore the history of knitting patterns and technique. It's an interest that is satisfied by my professional knitting hat where I specialise in knitting vintage pieces for costume design."

In total, she produced around seven pieces for Little Women, equating to around 400 hours in labour.

Jenn Monahan of Fibre Workshop at Elsing, with two of the shawls and she has knitted for the new film Little Women. On the mannikin is Beth March's shawl, and Jenn is wearing Jo March's shawl. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJenn Monahan of Fibre Workshop at Elsing, with two of the shawls and she has knitted for the new film Little Women. On the mannikin is Beth March's shawl, and Jenn is wearing Jo March's shawl. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ms Monahan typically works with wool from the rare Norfolk Horn - Norfolk's indigenous sheep breed - producing yarn, which she hand dyes and creates with, to raise awareness of British wool.

· A shawl, as worn by Eliza Scanlon in Little Women, is being sold as part of Fibreworkshop's Big Little Women fundraiser to raise money for Barefoot College Solar Mamas. More details can be found at the Just Giving page.

About the 2019 film adaptation of Little Women

You may also want to watch:

Blockbuster Little Women is a 2019 American coming-of-age period drama film.

It is written and directed by Greta Gerwig and is the seventh film adaptation of the 1868 novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott.

Its world premiere took place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on December 7 last year.

So far it has received critical acclaim, and was chosen by both the American Film Institute and Time magazine as one of the top ten films of 2019.

At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, it received two nominations, including Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama for Saoirse Ronan. It was also nominated for five British Academy Film Awards, including Best Actress for Ronan, Best Supporting Actress for Florence Pugh and Best Adapted Screenplay

As well as Ronan and Pugh, the film also stars Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, and Meryl Streep.

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