Review: Vintage Baby Knits [and a contest]

I’ve been blogging for nearly six years now, I think. And it’s been interesting to see how the knitblog has evolved over the years. One thing I used to love was all the banter about books and magazines; the detailed reviews made it easy to decide what I might want to order or grab at the library. But those reviews seem to have dwindled off. Maybe because there are so many new knitting books out there, it’s not as exciting every time a new one comes out. Maybe it’s because more knitters are turning to online patterns rather than the books.  Then there are so many knitting, sewing and general crafting books out there now and it can be tough to sort through it all. I mean really, how many sock books will appear out there? And which one is worth your hard earned money? The reviews I run across are few and far between or just don’t give me enough information.

My point? I’d like to try to fill that void a bit. I’m blessed with a killer library system here in the Twin Cities and I’m usually picking up at least one or two knitting books a week. And after  flipping through them I find I want to tell someone about them, and well… the Skeptic is just not interested. My plan is to give you readers a useful review so you’ll have a better idea of what books you might want to purchase. I’ll review a new book every other week and keep track of them here on the blog. I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. Is this useful for you? Is the Amazon review system good enough or is there more you’d like to know about a book before you buy it? Is there someone else already writing great reviews that I’m just missing? (That would save me some work! 🙂

The contest, you ask? It’s been ages since I’ve had one here and it’s about time. Read through the rules and then enjoy the review.

Contest rules:

1. Review a knitting, sewing, spinning….any kind of craft book really, on your blog. It doesn’t have to be as detailed as the one here but do take some time to give us a few points think would be helpful. Short and sweet is fine. Maybe a couple of patterns you think are great. Is it a book worth buying? What about the photography?

2. Leave a comment here directing us all to your review.

3. Post a link in your review that links back to the contest here at the blog. That way your readers will be able to read the comments section here and get their hands on all of the great reviews; they’ll also have a chance to participate.

4. That’s it! I’ll leave the contest open until the end of the month. On November 1st (hey, that’s our anniversary!) we’ll draw a random entry to win a prize. The winner will have a choice of either a project bag or a needle roll, your choice of fabric colors. I’ll throw in a few surprise goodies as well. Be sure to complete all three sections and have fun! (If you’re blogless feel free to post your review here in the comments section.)

5. If you’re not planning on entering the contest please feel free to just drop a comment and let me know what you think.

And now the review. Just a note, the header links to the actual book and author website where you can see hte general gallery. Patterns that I highlight will link to Ravelry.

Review #1: Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren.

There is a reason that this book sparked a need for me to tell everyone about it. I have to admit, after having three babies, being surrounded by friends having babies, and knitting massive amounts of baby stuff I had become rather fatigued by baby knitting books. They all started to look the same, especially the boy stuff. Then I checked out Kristen Rengren’s book yesterday and all I can say is I wish Spinner was brand spankin’ new again just so I had more time to knit baby stuff for him.

I always love a book that includes more than patterns, and this books meets that criteria. Kristen gives an interesting history of how she got into vintage knits as well as the challenges of modernizing these patterns. She gives a nice little history of knitting in the 20’s through the 50’s throughout the book, along with some tips on tools and choosing yarns. You’ll know what types of yarns were typically used in vintage patterns, what modern ones would work, and what yarns are good choices for babies. Her resource section is fabulous. Should you feel the need to tackle those old vintage patterns you inherited from your great-grandma, you’ll have the know-how from this book. (I know I’ve got a large stack of them upstairs!)

There are no basic knitting instructions in this book, and I’d say most patterns are not for total beginners. This is an advanced beginner to advanced knitter book. There is a basic glossary that seems to cover the few odd directions you may not know from memory (kitchener stitch anyone?) but you will need to have some skills to knit the patterns. If you don’t know what psso means you’ll need some extra help.

The patterns? Where do I even start?Forty plus,  they cover the usual gamut of baby garb: sweaters, blankets, toys, booties. But she expands on the usual by adding in soakers, a onsie, a christening gown and other styles that you just don’t come across.

It’s boy friendly, which I love. As a mother of three boys I’m always jealous of the huge lot of fancy baby girl outfits while the boys just get the usual cabled cardigan. With this book I’m not sure where to start. The Archie vest or Otto pullover  perhaps, with their lovely fair isle patterns? Or maybe the Harry sailor sweater? The Floyd pullover? Or maybe I pull out all the stops and knit the Felix suit with it’s kitty intarsia on the front and it’s classic green color. (Although the Skeptic did say he wasn’t sure he could leave the house with us if I dressed Spinner in that. But personally, I think it’s adorable.)

The girls don’t lose out either. There are sweaters galore and the Pearl shrug would be a quick little knit, perfect for a gift. The Avery christening gown can be made into a beautiful dress and the Hazel cape is so sweet. The Daisy soakers make me want a baby girl to knit for. There is also plenty for the gender neutral knitting as well. The Stella hat would make an excellent shower gift, as would the Bunny Blanket with it’s unique applique.

As would be expected with patterns based on vintage knits, the yarns tend to be finer. Most pattens call for needles sized 2-3. The largest I came across was a size 8, but when you remember you’re knitting for small people the fine yarns really aren’t that daunting.

There are schematics for all the patterns and charts as well. There are a few one piece patterns but there is quite a bit of seaming to do with many of the patterns.

There was really only one downer for me and that was the limited range of sizes. Babies grow so fast, and I like a baby book that gives sizes from 3 months to 3 years. The sizing in this book is a bit wonky. One sweater might have three or four sizes available, one sweater might only have one or two. Most patterns are sized from 6m-18m. Quite a few go up to 24m and there is one pattern that goes up to a size three. But it was disappointing that the Otto Short Sleeved Pullover is only sized up to 12m, too small for my baby who already wears 18-24m. I know I could do the math, or just use a  bigger needle size but I do wonder why more size options were not included.

Overall I would put this book in my “one to purchase category.” The patterns are unique, beautiful and of course, timeless. Kristen Rengren did an amazing job of transforming these old vintage patterns into something knitters can use today.

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “Review: Vintage Baby Knits [and a contest]

  1. Great review! It sounds like an interesting book. I really miss the Hennepin County library system — Chicago’s is just terrible.

    Carol at Go Knit in Your Hat posts “No-Bull Book Reviews”: http://goknitinyourhat.blogspot.com

    I appreciate that she doesn’t just gush over things, but rather discusses the upsides and downsides.

    P.S. I find Amazon book reviews pretty useless.

  2. No need to enter me – but I’ll post this on my blog. Are you familiar with the Knitting Scholar blog? Lots of knitting book reviews there.

  3. I love love love your idea and am really looking forward to your book reviews. You hit the nail on the head with trying to find a good book, there is so many out there. I just borrowed one from my neighbor, maybe I will share about that one.
    Great contest and great idea, very useful!
    -Sarah

  4. P.S
    This book looks great, I am on the search for baby knits at the moment. Thanks!

  5. EJ

    I am a blogless one, but would love to enter the contest, and since I don’t sew at all (or rather hate doing it) I’d love to win a project bag.

    Often one reads a review of a book you are familiar with, and this is particularly true for knitting books I think, and you scratch your head and say … what? How can they think this about that book? But I’ve come to understand that a knitting book is often good or bad in a context or rather depending on the knitter’s experience level, the types of projects they enjoy, how willing they are to take risks, and, of course, personal taste.

    So some context for me. I have been knitting for a very large number of years. I mostly knit sweaters, although I’ve knit just about anything you can think of from socks to hats and everything in between, wall hangings, purses, you name it, I’ve knit it. I very very rarely follow a pattern. I look at Vogue Knits or Interweave and generally cannot find a single project in the magazine that excites or even interests me. But I am always looking for knitting books and sometimes find ones that I think are terrific. What makes them terrific? Well, they inspire me. They give me ideas that lead to my creativity.

    One such book is Module Magic by Ginger Luters. Now the truth be told, I doubt that I will ever knit any of the patterns in the book, but I come back to it over and over again for sparks of inspiration. Oh wow – look at how she put those mitered squares together. Or wait, she used triangles there rather than squares. Or jeez, I’m a mathematician and yet never thought of the fact that 6 triangles can be assembled into a hexagon. Hello! Or I know what I can do with all of the different hand painted sock yarns I have accumulated, I can put them together in strips and get something fabulous.

    Of course if you are at the stage where you need a basic prescription, then this might not be the book for you, or if you are not into color, you might want to pass too.

    Now I’m going to put in a little magic here to remind you to pick me. 🙂

  6. I don’t really review books very well… plenty of that in college… okay, too much of that in college. Some recent books I bought that I really like because of their variety: Joy of Sox, The Knitters Book of Wool, Weekend Knits. 🙂

    I am not too selective about what books I buy, I have no kids and therefore, plenty of expendable income. But those are three books I am very glad I bought, Vintage Baby Knits was another one I liked. Highly recommend Joy of Sox… cool patterns.

  7. Jersey Jessie

    There’s a new book out “Swing, Swagger, Drape” by Jane Slicer-Smith. You either love her designs or hate them. Me, I just love them. I do not yet actually OWN a copy which I MUST have. A friend got an advanced copy somehow (maybe at Stitches) and I got to peak at it once I had carefully washed my hands.

    This is not the book for a beginner. All of her designs use interesting engineering and multiple colors. In fact that is the focus of Slicer-Smith’s designs – color. And flare. It may be a bit over the top for most.

    Her designs are all impeccably finished with detailed instructions for everything (this book is no exception to that and in a sense, it is perfect for even a very adventuresome beginner).

    The book contains swing coats, vests, capes, jackets, and more. Each is a visual masterpiece which she shows in multiple choices of colors etc.

    Like Kaffe Fassett, this one will make a wonderful coffee table book when you are not knitting from it.

  8. To me, the ultimate knitting book Kaffe Fassett’s book, Glorious Knitting. Funny that someone else mentioned it in their review. It’s more than 20 years old but I still look at it over and over again. It is THE one that has stood the test of time for me. Color galore, beautiful photography, simple shapes. Definitely NOT for the beginner or intermediate though – very sketchy instructions and LOTS of different colors at once. Still, I love it.

  9. Pingback: Stumbling Over Chaos :: Super Fantastic Mega Bookity Linkity!

  10. That’s for writing this review. And what a fun contest!

    I’ve posted reviews of several knitting books in the past, but these days I don’t do much more than skim knitting books at the library. It’s not that there aren’t some great books being published these days, but my to-knit is already a mile long with stuff I’m eager to do, and I just don’t want to add to it! 🙂

  11. Yikes! The first sentence of the comment I just posted sounds so hostile! “THAT’S for writing this review!” Heh. I meant “thanks,” of course. 🙂

    (THAT’S what I get for not proofreading before posting!)

  12. Rachel O

    Oh, what a great idea. Let me suggest Knits from a Painter’s Palette: Modular Masterpieces in Handpainted Yarns by Maie Landra. I think the subtitle of this book should be modular meets color. The designs are all made in Koigu (making it very expensive)and they are just gorgeous. Even though they look very complex, they are in fact rather simple because they are all made modularly using a basic technique.

  13. Sylvia

    Getting Started Knitting Socks is a great basic book. It is aimed at someone who has not yet knit socks but wants to and it accomplishes exactly that. Good clear instructions, good clear pics. What more could you ask for?

  14. I tend to buy craft books in a hit or miss kind of way so I enjoy reading reviews. I reviewed “Two at a time Socks” over at my blog because I was desperate to get out the “second sock” syndrome. So far, it’s working!

  15. Ok, I have scheduled a blog post for this to be published my time 8:35 AM on Oct. 29th. I am reviewing Glamour Knits by Erika Knight. The link is below but won’t be active until 8:35 Hawaiian time.

    http://christcoffeeandknittingneedles.blogspot.com/2009/10/glamour-knits-book-review.html

  16. Becca,
    I am putting a post up on Friday. Three of my favorite knitting for baby books.
    -Sarah

  17. Carla

    I’d like to recommend Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle. This is not a new book, but it is a wonderful one. There are rectangular, triangular and square shawls, all beautifully photographed and modeled.

    Many have directions for sport yarn (making it accessible to the non-experienced lace knitter) but she also does give instructions for how to knit it in other weights.

    If you want a great start in shawl knitting, this book is it in my opinion.

  18. What a great idea!
    I really like at the moment “A fine fleece”
    by Lisa Lloyd. I think the patterens are clear and easy to read and the sizing works really well. She adds a neat thing- for the patterns she shows the knitted item in a homemade handspun yarn and one in a “store bought” yarn.

  19. purple

    I just got a new book for a present. It’s called Socks, Socks, Socks. I generally don’t knit socks, but this book looks terrific. 70 different projects. Everyone was a winner so each is unique with some new technique to learn and understand. Really nice pictures that make you WANT to use your beautiful sock yarn to knit socks, and so far it looks like it has very good instructions.

  20. I just realized that I didn’t link back to you on my blog! Silly me, it is fixed now!

  21. Pingback: Twelve Years « Knittymama

  22. TJ

    I’d like to propose Shadow Knitting by Vivian Hoxbro. I love this book because the technique is so interesting. I actually doubt that I would make or wear any of the things with the possible exception of some of the smaller items, but it is certainly fun to ponder how it works.

    And happy anniversary!

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