Friday, August 31, 2007

It wouldn't be a trip to the beach without...

an unfortunate Speedo moment. (And isn't just about any Speedo moment unfortunate?) You, sir, are no 1960s Sean Connery.

A closer look for those who are so inclined:

Me -- I don't want to know that much about a man's testicles unless I'm married to him.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More beach time

Of course, my role as chief weirdo magnet continues, with this peculiar image burned into my retinas:

However, scenes like this

make it all worthwhile.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Coming this fall, to a yarn or book shop near you...

Knitted Icons: 25 Celebrity Doll Patterns by Carol Meldrum (who has done some designs for Rowan, although this is not a Rowan book)

Sez the book description:

Sometimes you just want to cuddle up with a handmade doll of Mr. T! With Knitted Icons, you'll find patterns for creating dolls of the world s most beloved personalities: everyone from Madonna and Jackie O to Chairman Mao and Che Guevara. Each doll measures a substantial 10 inches tall suitable for posing on your desk, bookshelf, or other doll display.

Which puzzles me more: the notion of wanting to cuddle up with a handmade doll of Mr. T, or describing Chairman Mao as one of "the world's most beloved personalities"?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On following patterns

Every so often, while reading a blog or message board somewhere, a knitter says: "I never follow patterns any more since I can design my own stuff." Good for you, I think -- but not for me. My knitting reflects various moods that I find myself in. Sometimes I am energized, creative, ambitious; sometimes I am mellow, reflective, even lazy. Sometimes I can think of nothing I'd rather do with my knitting than follow a pattern.

Last week at the beach is a perfect example. I was picking up and putting down my knitting a lot. I didn't want to exert one iota of gray matter if I didn't have to. I had some design projects simmering around, but I couldn't very well tote them along to the sandy, greasy-sunscreeny beach. Instead, following a pattern, a particularly easy pattern, in fact, was exactly what I was in the mood for. I cast on for a little wrap skirt for G. and when I had a couple of spare moments, was able to follow along mindlessly while ogling lifeguards with rippling muscles who were young enough to be my son boy toy in some alternate universe.

Sometimes I follow a pattern because I think someone has already done such a good job that it seems silly to try to reinvent it. Consider this beaut by Veronik Avery, the gray alpaca jacket in the new Vogue. Now I certainly couldn't improve upon that in any way and it's a killer sweater/jacket. Instead, I can enjoy the pleasure of following a well-crafted pattern, with the end result of a beautiful garment.

In addition to occasional laziness, there are other reasons I still like to follow patterns. This'll sound hokey, but since I've been trying to do designs for other people to make, I think it's a good form of "homework" to make other people's written patterns. When I make someone else's design, even a small or easy one, I see things about pattern-writing I didn't before, and I have a new appreciation for the perspective of the knitter. I think this makes me a little bit better at pattern-writing.

But for me, the most important thing about knitting other people's patterns is that it reminds me of the pure pleasure I felt when I first came back to knitting. I remember how wonderful it felt when I managed to parse my way through a pattern and finish, and see an object that looked like it was intended to. How magical it seemed when I followed a Fiber Trends pattern for a sheep, and all the mysterious short rows and odd pieces turned into what was recognizably a sheep. Or how cool it was when cables actually turned out the way they were supposed to in a litttle baby jacket. How satisfied I felt when the sock or hat I was trying to make actually turned into something that could be worn on a foot or a head without embarrassment. (Or at least much embarrassment.)

So if you don't follow patterns, don't even buy them anymore, because you know how to design your own stuff, I say good for you. Sometimes I too will strike out and do my own thing. Other times, it's okay with me to follow for a little while.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Coming attractions...

It's going to be a little frenetic here through Labor Day, but rest assured that once school starts again, my schedule will normalize. And you know what that means? More posts, and more posts about knitting. To whet your appetite, in coming weeks, Go Knit In Your Hat will present to you

  • more No-Bull Book Reviews (I've got some good ones in the queue, including Twisted Sisters' new book, and Veronik Avery's book is on its way to me on a UPS truck even as we speak. Which reminds me: it's now officially on sale;
  • a special guest appearance by Donna Druchunas, author of Arctic Lace and the forthcoming Ethnic Knitting, devoted to the knitting traditions of the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the Andes;
  • the long-awaited tour of the bomb shelter in my backyard;
  • a new GKIYH series of posts on a Topic To Be Announced Soon;
and whatever else my twisted little mind can come up with. In the meantime, see if you can figure out why this lovely memorial to deceased sailors

is attached to a fence that surrounds a filthy dumpster full of stinking garbage. (Every time a tourist throws a salt water taffy wrapper in this dumpster, they say a prayer for those mariners that never made it home to steal the chocolate ones out of the box because nothing's worse than the last stale peach-flavored taffy nobody else wanted...).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


do you think I'm taking too many photos of the children?

P.S. Today, no lie, the chick one blanket over was reading a DIET book.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Guilt Trip

So I'm settled in on the beach, having just polished off a nice hot dog for lunch. Out of the corner of my eye, I see two women walk up carrying . . . barbells?

How clever! I think. They are going to use those barbells to weigh down the edges of their beach blanket! A little unusual, but I get it.

Then an hour-long regimen of calisthenics began. Here's some leg lifts:

Don't forget the abs work, ladies:

Me? I'm gonna have another hot dog.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Play list for driving with a rabbit to the Jersey Shore

1. "White Rabbit" -- Jefferson Airplane
2. Bunny Hop

3. Bunny Wailer Sings the Wailers.
4. "I am getting Loony Toony, touched in the head..." (Anne Marie knows that one, I'm sure)
5. Here Comes Peter Cottontail
6. Eddie Rabbitt Echo and the Bunnymen

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Yesterday, I reached an exciting milestone: I Fed-Exed the last garment I had to design and knit for the book. It's been a frantic few weeks of knitting, but to make this an even more satisfying moment, the last sweater I finished was my favorite. I really, really want to make one for myself.

I've already learned a lot during the course of this project, which I summarize for you before turning to the logistical challenge of taking three children, a neat-freak husband and a fluffy bunny to the beach for a week.

What I've Learned Thus Far About Writing A Knitting Book

1. The set of projects in your proposal may bear only a passing resemblance to the projects which actually appear in the book. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

2. Your finished projects may look a hell of a lot different from your mind's-eye view of how they would look. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

3. No matter how early you start or how detailed your plans, things will not be done as quickly as they ought to be.

4. No matter how early you start or how detailed your plans, there will be unfortunate incidents that set you back.

Corrollary to 3 & 4: Everything will take much, much longer than you think it will.

5. For me, at least, sometimes you just need to see the actual garment in person before you can decide if it looks right, and, if not, what needs to be fixed.

6. Having a tick-borne disease, the primary symptoms of which are fatigue and sore joints, is a cruel cosmic joke when you are trying to write a knitting-design book.

7. A good editor is worth her weight in cashmere.

8. A good test knitter is worth her weight in qiviut.

9. When Ann Budd emails you to say "that sweater is really lovely", it helps to put on a pair of Depends because (a) you're talking to Ann Budd and (b) getting a compliment from her makes you want to pee your pants.

Monday, August 06, 2007

No-Bull Book Review Twofer: Easy Baby Knits & Easy Knits for Little Kids

Okay, I apologize for my brief panic attack the other day. I've blocked sweaters in the round before -- but never for a Book. And I truly appreciate all the excellent suggestions, both in the comments and in private emails. I'm concerned that a wooly board (sp?) won't be as helpful for sweaters that are knit, say, yoke style or with raglan seams, and also that it'll be harder to take into account waist shaping, as much as I love the idea of a beautiful wooden object that has a long history in the Shetland Isles. But enough about me.

Before I do today's review, be sure to check out the kewl article about my favorite cro-shay maven, the silver-tongued Kathy Merrick.

Now on to the main event.

So many books to review! Not nearly enough time! Today I present a No-Bull Book Review Twofer, featuring two books with children's knitting patterns. These two books seemed to naturally go together: they are written by British knitwear designers, they are focused on young children's garments, and they feature the word "Easy" in the title. A match made in heaven.

I should warn you that when it comes to books devoted to knitting for kids, I have a slightly different set of standards. Kids grow fast and unlike an adult sweater, which can be worn indefinitely (barring, say, moths, or a dramatic change in your physique, as the newly-buff Coco Schiaparelli von Furstenburg can attest to), kids' garments tend to last only one, maybe two, seasons. So quick-knitting and easy patterns make sense for kids in ways that don't necessarily apply to adults.

Keeping this in mind, today we take a look at Easy Baby Knits, by Claire Montgomerie (Ryland Peters & Small 2007), and Easy Knits for Little Kids: 20 Great Hand-Knit Designs for Children Aged 3-6, by Catherine Tough (C&T Publishing 2007).

As you might expect, the former contains patterns in sizes for babies from newborn to about 2-3 years, while the latter contains patterns for preschool-aged children.

Easy Baby Knits is written by Claire Montgomerie, a textile designer and teacher in Britain. Montgomerie began knitting and crocheting in earnest at age 18, although she'd learned as a child; she is a weaver as well as a designer for knitwear companies. She has her own line of kids' accessories and toys called "Monty," sold in Great Britain. You may recognize Catherine Tough's name if you are a Rowan fan: she has designed for them in recent years. She is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, has written one previous book and has her own knitwear design company.

The books have a similar feel: they are paperback, about 128 pages, with lots of pictures of fresh-faced tots. Both books feature good photography, including multiple shots of garments, some close-up and some full frontal (if you'll pardon the expression), with backgrounds that aren't busy or distracting. And both are full of simple designs that rely on the use of color changes, a few basic stitch patterns (mainly garter stitch and stockinette, with some moss stitch and a few others), contrasting trim, and uncomplicated lines.

Easy Baby Knits contains patterns for newborns through about two to three years, with finished sweater sizes ranging from 17.5 inches to 28.5 inches, depending on the pattern. (Some are written with younger babies in mind, while others size up all the way to 24 months). A number of the accessories and non-clothing items are written for one size, like the booties. The designs have gauges that range from 5 to 7 stitches per inch, and the items are shown knitted in lovely yarns, Debbie Bliss and Rowan/RYC, mostly.

The book is divided into three sections; first comes a sizeable how-to-knit refresher course, with lots of technical photos. I'm not usually a fan of how-to-knit sections in pattern books, thinking that a newbie is better off buying a more comprehensive reference and instead, letting pattern books contain as many garment designs as possible. Still, this book is definitely made for the beginner knitter (I suppose some folks take up knitting when someone in the family is expecting a baby) or for the person who used to knit a long time ago but is rusty (read: Grandparents). In either case, how-to-knit instructions make more sense.

The book's orientation toward inexperienced knitters is reflected in the patterns as well. There are two pattern sections, one devoted to clothing; the other to toys and accessories. You'll find about eighteen or so designs:
  • a baby scarf (aren't they a strangulation hazard?)
  • a "papoose"
  • 5 sweaters and/or jackets
  • a dress
  • 2 hats
  • 1 set of overalls (very similar to the dress)
  • 2 bootie patterns (one with thumbless "scratch" mittens)
  • 2 blankets
  • soft building blocks
  • a bib and
  • a stuffed rabbit.

Have I mentioned that the patterns are very easy and very simple? For example, the scarf is simply a garter-stitch rectangle done in stripes of two colors. The "papoose" (I'll leave a discussion of the political correctness of the name to the Native American Anti-Defamation League) is a garter-stitch rectangle with the corner sewn down to form a sort of hood. The first sweater in the book consists of two T-shaped pieces knit in -- you guessed it -- garter stitch, while one hat pattern is a simple circular stockinette-stitch cap with alternating colored stripes, knit flat and seamed up the back. Get the idea?

The patterns I liked the most were these Mary Jane-styled booties

and this double-breasted knit coat/sweater.

Perfectly nice and attractive garments, suitable for new or rusty knitters, though nothing particularly creative or eye-catching. An advanced knitter, particularly one who can easily design his/her own patterns, is unlikely to need or want patterns as basic as most of these, so let the buyer beware.

Easy Knits for Little Kids is directed at a slightly older population of kids, those from around three to six years of age. The sweaters, along with a dress and skirt, basically come in small, medium and large sizes, which correspond to ages 3-4 yrs, 4-5 yrs and 5-6 yrs respectively. The actual finished chest measurement of the garments varies from 23.5 inches to a whopping 32 inches in the case of one sweater. Even taking into account extra ease for a comfortable kid fit, the sizing is pretty generous.

There are just over twenty patterns in the book, many of which are single-size items like hats or pillows. Here's the breakdown:
  • 3 sweaters
  • 1 dress
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 hats
  • 1 pr of socks (in his and hers variants)
  • 3 scarves
  • 1 wristwarmers and 1 mittens
  • 2 pillows
  • 1 robe
  • 1 each of miscellaneous non-clothing items, including a large doll (named Fred), a roll-up mat, animal slippers, a patchwork throw, pen and toy holders, a chair pad and bag (in his and hers variants).
Gauges tend to be DK weight and thicker, and all the patterns are shown in lovely Rowan and Jaeger (sniffle) yarns. They would be easy to substitute, however.

The book features color everywhere -- lots of color photos, color on the pages -- giving it a fun and whimsical look. (In contrast, Easy Baby Knits takes a more muted pastel approach.) Sadly, there are no schematics (although I suppose since these are relatively basic patterns, that's less unfortunate than it would otherwise be).

Overall, I found the patterns to be colorful, charming, and cute but not excessively cutesy-poo. I'd love to make the Swing Jacket, the jumper and the skirt for G., for starters, and the His/Hers Frog/Bunny sweaters are cute, too, although my twins may be getting a teeny bit old for the animal motifs. (We'll have to see how jaded they get in kindergarten this fall.) The patterns do look to be basic and fairly quick-knitting. There's nothing exceptionally fancy about the styling -- no fair isle or intricate cabling, although one sweater features big cables -- and so these would be well within the province of a less experienced knitter.

In light of the discussion earlier in the week about the bona fides of knitting-book authors, I feel constrained to point out that the author of Easy Knits for Little Kids identifies herself in the introduction as not being terribly skilled at handknitting. No need for us to rehash that discussion here; you can decide whether that matters to you, and only time -- and the experience of knitters -- will tell us how accurate and user-friendly these patterns are.

To sum up, these are two books with simple, easy items designed for children. They each have a certain charm, the Catherine Tough book appealing more to me than the Claire Montgomerie book, and the patterns are lovingly photographed in high-quality yarns. If you've got a book of kid's knitting patterns by Debbie Bliss or RYC or Louisa Harding, you'll want to think twice about purchasing either book sight unseen. The patterns are cute and sweet -- and did I mention they were easy and simple? -- but you may not find too much that is drastically different from other kid's knitting patterns. On the other hand, if you're looking for fairly mindless patterns that'll knit up quick for a young child you love, or you're an inexperienced knitter without an extensive pattern library, then take a look.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Art show

Frantically finishing the last sweater, and when my fingers need a rest, I've been doing some book reviews. (I'm hoping to post one in the next day or two.) In the meantime, our first photo shoot for the book was yesterday, and we've been told it went really well. (Phew.)

In the meantime, enjoy with me the lovely art of my five-and-a-half year old twins from cubism week at art camp:

Inspired by Erik Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Chagall-inspired mixed media by N.

Picasso-esqure portrait by G.

and Mondrian collage by G.