Q&A with Vintage Baby Knits Author Kristen Rengren
How did you learn to knit and what do you remember about the experience?
I learned to knit almost fifteen years ago in Lithuania, where I had gone to visit a friend in the dead of winter. She had just learned to knit and decided to teach me, too, since it was far too cold and dark to go outside. My first projects were a pair of fair isle gloves and a steeked baby sweater—we didn’t know that projects like that were hard, so we just dove in and muddled through them.
Which project in Vintage Baby Knits was the most fun to work on and why?
I enjoyed working on all the projects, but I have a special soft spot for the Liza Sideways Sacque. It was unusual to find a side-to-side sweater construction amongst the vintage patterns I collected, and it was great fun to knit the colorful stripes and the picot hem.
Which project in Vintage Baby Knits was the most challenging to work on and why?
The toy patterns were probably the most challenging patterns. The original directions were like a puzzle—one pattern used the phrase "at the same time" twelve times in one very long sentence!
Which project do you think is the cutest?
I think my hands-down favorite is the Stella Pixie Hat. Because the ribbing stretches so much, it can be successfully worn by anyone from a six-month-old to a ten-year-old, and it looks adorable on everyone who puts it on!
Do you like to make modern baby knits, too? Or are you a vintage purist?
I'm constantly designing new pieces, although all my original work is definitely inspired by vintage designs. I love looking at other people's new work, too, as there are so many innovations to see.
What was the most challenging part of working on Vintage Baby Knits? The most rewarding?
The biggest challenge was choosing the patterns to include from so many amazing options. I could write another whole book on the same subject and never repeat a single idea. Another challenging aspect was rewriting the patterns for the modern knitters; some needed extensive revisions, and others had to be created from scratch with just a picture and some bare-bones instructions. Once the patterns were selected and written, it was all smooth sailing.
I would say that the most rewarding aspect was in knowing that these designs were being saved from the proverbial dustbin of history. I love them, and it makes me very happy to think that a fresh batch of people will be knitting them again after all these years.
If you could use only one adjective to describe your book, what would it be?
When you were a child, what did you imagine you would be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a horse-racing jockey until I turned out to be the tallest kindergartner in my class. After that, my first job choice was always artist, so I guess I've gotten to fulfill that childhood dream!
If you could spend an afternoon knitting with one person in history, who would it be?
Without a doubt, it would be Eleanor Roosevelt. She has always been a heroine to me, even before I learned to knit. In addition to her amazing contributions to society and her championship for the poor and disaffected, she led enormous efforts to recruit knitters for charity drives and for knitting to support the military. She changed the world not only through her actions and words but through her needles, too, and I have enormous respect for that.
What are you making now?
I like to have a lot of different projects on the needles at once. I'm working on one vintage project (an adult version of the Pearl Shrug in Vintage Baby Knits, which was initially part of a matching mother-daughter set) and on two adult sweaters of my own design (a sportweight cardigan with staghorn cables, and a lacy cardigan made from sock yarn). The cardigans will both take me forever, but I just love the finished product when you work with fine, soft yarns. I'm also working on a Madeira lace baby dress in a lovely silk-wool blend.