Monday, July 6, 2009

Special Guest Review: Vintage Baby Knits

Anyone who has read this blog for more than a few posts knows that I'm not a knitter. I'm just too hot-natured to spend much time handling a bunch of yarn or wearing sweaters. I have to admit, though, that when a copy of Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren showed up on my doorstep, I almost decided to change my views on knitting.

Aaaaaaaand then I thought again. Being realistic, I knew I wasn't about to pick up knitting, and knew I'd need some help giving my readers an educated review of the book. I asked my friend, Melissa Henderson, to do the honors instead, and I'm thrilled that she's giving the first guest review here on Average Jane Crafter.

I know Melissa through a vibrant online mom community here in Austin. We've connected over all things crafty, and I was lucky enough to have her in one of my embroidery classes. I've always admired Melissa's writing and her knitting, so I think she's the perfect person to share her thoughts on Vintage Baby Knits with you. Here's a little bio on Melissa to get you acquainted. I'm really hoping she'll have more to share here for all the knitting faithful AJC readers.

Melissa Henderson is a knitter, writer, editor, wife, and mother, though not necessarily in that order. She learned to crochet at the age of five. Her grandmother unraveled the orange scarf she was making over and over until Melissa's stitches were even enough to warrant the use of the yarn. At seventeen, she taught herself to knit and has been stitching away ever since. She has recently taken up sewing and embroidery as well, causing even more confusion over how to best use her limited time.

And without further ado - here's Melissa's review of Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren.

This book marries three of my favorite things: knitting, vintage clothing, and babies. When the book arrived, I tried to temper my initial excitement before diving in to avoid disappointment. I’ve seen many knitting pattern books that look equally promising at first glance. Somehow, after flipping through the pages, I realize thee books held little in the way of items I’d actually want to knit. How many sparkly shrugs and wool bikinis can a girl use, after all?

I took a deep breath, opened the book with a stack of stickie notes on hand, and began marking each pattern I’d actually want to knit. It was soon clear that this book passed my initial test: The patterns are simply lovely. I marked nearly a dozen on my first flip-through.

I began knitting the Stella Pixie Hat since I had some leftover sock yarn in my stash. The mitered construction intrigued me. And I’ll confess my great knitting weakness: I am lazy about seaming. This little hat has only two simple seams. I knit most of it while watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. There’s something about the process of crafting a cute vintage bonnet that calls for the company of a black-and-white movie.

Since the newest member of our family is in his or her thirty-eighth week of gestation as I write, I enlisted Curious George to model my Stella Pixie Hat, knit out of less than one skein of Knit Picks Essential Sock Yarn in Kettle-Dyed Spruce. The pattern was simple and easy to follow. This little hat is also a perfect on-the-go summer knitting project. You can easily stash it in your purse, and you don’t have to endure the unpleasant sensation of thick wool heating up your lap as the sun shines down on you.

This brings me to another thing I love about Vintage Baby Knits: the wide variety of yarn weights used in the patterns. There are some patterns that call for worsted weight yarn, but most call for double knitting, sport, or fingering weight yarns. Using lighter weight yarns creates gorgeous detail in these wee vintage knits. As wise knitters knew years ago, lightweight yarn paired with small needles means you use less yardage per garment, a great way to save yarn while turning out heirloom-quality items.

The projects in Rengren’s book are so lovely that I’ve already started the Rufus Textured Cardigan in a shameless shade of red wool. Yes, it requires seaming. But these patterns are just so lovely, so simple and stylish, that I will venture back into the land of seams for them. Next on the knitting list is the Betty Lou Lace Cardigan. I’d be knitting it now if I had the right yarn. This beautiful little swing-style jacket is, in fact, a seamless pattern. I have a feeling it will become one of those stand-by knits I make again and again for baby gifts. After that, I have my eye on the Daisy Soaker, or maybe Rupert the Lion and his pal Elmer the Elephant.

You get the picture: This is one knitting book you’ll use again and again. What a delight to find so many gorgeous photos and timeless patterns in one lovely book. I highly recommend taking an afternoon off to close the shades, crank up the AC, and knit one of these ridiculously cute gems while taking in a black-and-white double-feature. That’s what I’ll be doing as I wait for my water to break.


  1. What great patterns! Thanks -- I gave up knitting a few years ago, but this might just entice me back into the game!


  2. This went right onto the old wishlist. I had vowed no new knitting books, but this one just looks too good!

  3. I really enjoyed this knitting post. I feel that knitting andSewing Projects alike relieve stress in a way nothing else can. Thanks!

  4. I love to have this kind of coat.. it feels so warm specially if its winter season


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