What I mean when I say Kung Fu Knits is “for boys”

I’ve spent many years trying to figure out what men and boys want in knitwear. Do they want soft? baggy? close-fitting? neutrally colored? what everyone else is wearing? something different?

When I first dreamed up the idea for Kung Fu Knits, my goal was to try a different approach. If boys are reluctant to wear hand-knit garments, maybe we need to think instead about what they DO want, and knit THAT. My son had been studying kung fu for a little more than a year at that point—he’s now nearly a black belt—so that seemed like a great theme to hang this idea on.

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As I began to work out the designs—a whole kung-fu outfit! oooooh! nunchuks! throwing stars!—it dawned on me that this wasn’t really just a book for boys. Lots of girls I know would love this stuff, too. Heck, would have loved this stuff as a kid. For that matter, not all boys are into kung-fu fighting. I began to talk about the book as a book of kids’ knits rather than boys’ knits.

And that’s when my lovely tech editor, Joeli, intervened. There are so few knits for boys, she said; why try to hedge your bets? Just call it what it is: it’s a book for boys. The girls who are interested will find it anyway. (Or words to that effect.)

She had a point. I knew I didn’t agree with her entirely, but I’ve been thinking about what she said ever since. She’s right that boys need more patterns, and that the whole ethos of this book is going to appeal to more boys than girls.

But, as I say, there are lot of girls who love this kind of stuff, and I was one of them.

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That’s me at age nine, circa 1980, rocking my Dorothy Hamill haircut and my favorite outfit—including my Mork suspenders, which just makes me sad all over again about Robin Williams. (I have no idea what the pin said. And yes, that is a VW van—our neighbors’.)

My point is that this is not the face of a girly girl. All of my friends at this point were boys. I found it so confusing that there were girls in my grade who liked to wear makeup and do cartwheels during recess just to impress boys. Foursquare (the game, not the app) and riding bikes were MUCH more interesting.

You may have noticed from the other photo above that my son doesn’t fall into easy masculine categories either. His hair is even longer now than it was when we did the photo shoot for Kung Fu Knits. And not all of Liam’s tastes run toward smashing and crashing and tearing things up.

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Here he is a few weeks ago about to blend up some strawberry mousse, which he learned how to make during a five-hour cooking class while we were in Italy. Because that and a pasta maker were what he wanted for his tenth birthday.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think boys and girls are simple, and I don’t think there are or should be clear boundaries of acceptable behavior or dress for either one. You knit what you want to knit, and you wear what you want to wear. I’m going to call Kung Fu Knits a book of boys’ knits as shorthand, but it’s really a book for any kid who wants adventure.


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Kung Fu Knits is now available for preorder at Cooperative Press and on Ravelry. The book will be released on or before September 15 and is available either as a digital download ($9.95) or in paperback ($15.95), which also comes with the digital download.

 

Kung Fu Knits preorders are live!

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So excited to share with you that my knitting pattern collection / comic book Kung Fu Knits just went up for preorders!

The book will be released on September 15, 2014, and is available in two formats:

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The book includes six patterns: a kung fu jacket, pants, and belt, nunchuks, throwing stars, and a backpack to carry cool stuff in. The hilarious comic book storyline will make your kid plead with you to knit ALL THE THINGS!

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DMK Podcast, Episode 14: Taking Stock

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WATCH NOW: http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/ep-14-taking-stock_24665

We’ve pretty much all been there: for a while you keep careful track of your stash—probably on Ravelry—and then slowly it slips away from you, and you have no idea what you’ve got anymore. I just re-cataloged my entire stash, and in this episode talk about what I learned from it.

For the technique segment at the end, I explain several ways to measure and keep track of partial skeins.

Mentioned in this episode:

Boys’ knitting roundup #5

Time to check in with what’s new and awesome in the world of boys’ knitting patterns!


My jaw dropped when I spotted this sweater from Danish designer Nanna Gudmand-Høyer.

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This design is appropriately named Robotto, and the pattern is available for free in English, Danish, and German (Ravelry link). Sizes are 6–12. The colorwork is so brilliantly designed, and I love the designer’s suggestion to have the wearer help you pick out the colors. For best results, just make sure to choose a set of colors that ranges from pretty dark to very light.


If Robotto looks a little (or a lot) past your current knitting skill set, check out Lori Versaci’s Basic Kid Pattern.

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Sized for 2–14 year olds (there’s also a separate baby pattern), this classic crew neck comes with instructions for either a pullover or cardigan version. Imagine how much use you could get out of this one pattern! The shaping is simple (modified drop shoulders look good on kids but are easy to knit), and I know from firsthand experience how well-written Lori’s patterns are. If you’ve not tried knitting a sweater before, what better way to start than with a smaller canvas!


If it’s still warm where you are (it’ll be 102 degrees here today) or if your kid isn’t so much into sweaters, why not check into some cool new crocheted toys? Megan Kreiner’s new book Bathtime Buddies is a riot of original sea creatures and people (Ravelry link). If you’ve not done any/much crocheting before, these fun and simple animals would make the perfect way to cut your teeth.

How about this sweet-faced otter trying to break open a clam? Or a swarm of jellyfish?

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There are 20 patterns in all (narwhal, manatee, octopus, lobsters deep-sea diver…) that perfectly straddle that line between realism and cuteness. The book even comes with a digital download so you can view it on your tablet or computer.


And let’s not leave out the older guys—for you, I’d point out a new handsome scarf-shaped shawl, Descent into Madness, by Josh Ryks.

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So many knitters love making these sideways shawls—they knit up quickly and you can use up all of that luscious hand-dyed skein—and it’s great to see one modeled here by a young man to make visually clear just how gender-spanning this style of shawl really is.

This looks like a really fun knit, as you can see from this closeup of the varied stitch patterns, knit with two coordinating colors of fingering-weight yarn. The pattern is available either for individual sale or as part of a collection of three geometric shawls.

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Finally, I can’t resist mentioning that I’ve got a six-pattern collection for boys coming out very soon from Cooperative Press—September 15, to be specific. It’s a comic book and pattern collection in one: the comic-book storyline designed to entice your favorite kid into DESPERATELY wanting the hand knits. (Because we all know what a tough sell that can be sometimes.) The book will be available both in PDF-only (for $9.95) and paperback + PDF (for $15.95). I’ll let you know when the preorder page goes up!

Here’s a photo from the book that I haven’t released yet…

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Shown here are the three pieces in the kung fu uniform (gi): the jacket, pants, and belt, all knit in Berroco Vintage. My son, Liam, did the modeling for the book, and he couldn’t have been a better sport. It’s rarely very cold here in Texas, so he got a bit toasty shooting this, but never broke a sweat, as it were. I love his tough-guy expressions in some of these shots, too.

DMK Podcast, Episode 13: Yarn Over

WATCH NOW: http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/ep-13-yarn-over_23628

Yarn overs: they are both the intentional holes we put in our knitting in order to create lace—and the mistakes we make when we’re new knitters or just not paying attention. This week’s episode focuses on mistakes, and particularly when mistakes matter and when they don’t. It’s a fine, holey line, friends.

This episode’s technique tip: a trick for making better yarn overs, and how to deal with a double yarn over.

Mentioned in this episode:

Kung Fu Knits book launch and prize giveaway

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Today I have very exciting news to share with you: on September 15, I’ll be releasing my first-ever knitting book, Kung Fu Knits, published by Cooperative Press.

Read on for more info about the book and how you can win a copy (and other prizes) in my pre-launch giveaway.

The book features six kung-fu-themed patterns for kids’ sizes 4–12 and a comic book story designed to light up your kid’s imagination and make them want ALL THE THINGS. (Honey, I knit for boys. I feel your pain. You have to make them want it, and this book will make them want it.)

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The patterns are:

  • an entire kung-fu uniform (gi): jacket, pants, and belt (shown in photo above)
  • nunchuks (also shown in photo above)
  • throwing stars
  • a backpack to hold all the things

I’ll share more photos and information about how you can get a copy soon. For now, though, I want to tell you about my Kung Fu Knits pre-launch prize giveaway!

From now (August 7) through September 11, 2014, enter to win prizes by posting your favorite photograph of a child wearing one of your knitted or crocheted creations. Doesn’t have to be your child; can be a baby, or even your own child grown up. I just want to see your favorite photo of a kid wearing something you knitted or crocheted.

Post the photo in any of the following ways:

You may post one entry per social media site. (For example, you can post once on Ravelry, Facebook, and Instagram—you just can’t post twice on Ravelry.) I’ll draw for prizes from all the entries on September 12.

Here’s what you can win:

  • Grand prize: Signed paperback copy of Kung Fu Knits (which also comes with the digital download in your Ravelry library) and four skeins of Berroco Vintage (the yarn used for the patterns)
  • 3 digital/PDF copies of Kung Fu Knits
  • fantastic ninja project bag from Kicks and Giggles
  • equally fantastic ninja stitch markers from Bead Passion

Good luck—let’s see those photos!

Men’s knitting roundup #5

It’s hotter than blazes here in central Texas, and it will be for a while. Still, we knitters have to knit into the future, don’t we? This year, I’d really like to be that knitter who has made the mittens before they’re needed.

In that spirit, let’s take a look at some of the newer men’s sweater patterns for this fall….


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Ann Budd is a master of the classic design, and her new Goat Herder Pullover showcases that talent perfectly. There’s just enough texture here to please the knitter, while still maintaining an unfussy look that will appeal to many men.

I also appreciate how well fitted this sweater appears to be around the shoulders. (On both men and women, sweaters are much more flattering if they fit snugly but not tightly across the shoulders.)

This is originally worked in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, but you could readily substitute a less costly worsted-weight wool if you wished.

Plus: hello, adorable floppy mohawk. Good to see some variety in the modeling.


Speaking of a well-fitted garment: look at what happens when you make the ease on a men’s sweater 1″ instead of the standard 4″ …

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Meow, that’s what. This is Ann Weaver’s James Dean Verdant Pullover, published in the recent collection Silver Screen Knits: Volume Two, edited by Kathleen Lawton-Trask. The book includes 11 other luscious designs—two more for men and nine for women—all inspired by classic film stars.

The genius of Ann’s pullover is all in the details. The shaping is impeccable, with an emphasis on PEC. If you’re knitting for someone with a muscular chest—perhaps it’s yourself?—this will look fantastic. The fitted sleeves and not-too-deep V-neck also emphasize a muscular shape. Some nice twisted ribbing details at the cuff and hem elevate the design further. You’d want to take the wearer’s measurements carefully before knitting this, because fit is everything here.


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I have a new sweater pattern for men out as well! This one, called the Colonel Henley (Ravelry link), was commissioned by the lovely people at Spud & Chloe, and designed with Sweater, a cozy blend of wool and cotton that’s perfect both for transitional weather and for the warmer internal temperatures that men often have.

I’m especially proud of the construction on this garment: it starts at the neck, building out the saddle shoulders and working down from there in one piece. The instructions include some waist shaping, and the overall effect is slimming. I was going for a kind of “updated retro” look. Finished chest sizes range from 35–55.5 inches.