The next time you’re in search of a knitting project, ask not what Grandma would have done, but what Sid would have knit. Sid Vicious, that is.
“Pretty in Punk: 25 Punk, Rock and Goth Knitting Projects” is the first book from Alyce Benevides and Jaqueline Milles, New York designers and founders of Knit-Head, a “punk rock knitwear company.” Inspired by their love of ‘80s music, especially British Invasion punk and new wave, Benevides and Milles found success after they presented their signature knitted Mohawk hat to Depeche Mode singer Martin Gore, who wore it throughout the band’s 2006 tour -- and doesn’t seem to have taken it off since.
The hats have ski-bum grunge appeal, knit in bulky yarns and worked in black and mod hot pink or in a stark red-white-and-blue Union Jack design. And if yarn Mohawks aren’t your thing, the book features two dozen other inventive patterns with inspiration drawn from designers such as Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano and styles including Goth, Japanese “Lolita,” and even some fetching retro preppy looks. Throw some military chic and S&M; fetishism and you have a knitting book even Courtney Love could embrace.
But “Pretty in Punk” isn’t just about style: It’s a book with substance too. Clearly written, and filled with concise instructions, a good glossary and handy references, the book blends knowledge of fashion trends with old-school knitting know-how. The photography may be arty and the style allusions avant-garde, but the mechanics are as sturdy as any Elvis Presley-era knitting manual.
This is a nice surprise: Imagine Grandma giving clear, comfortable directions for making that bondage-inspired bum flap.
And unlike many knitting books -- of whatever era -- the patterns don’t lapse into algebraic formulas; they’re simple, direct and easy to read. They’re also practical, letting you know what you’re doing and why.
That said, there are a few sticking points. The main problem is that the patterns call for specific brands of yarn but neglect to give precise yardage. This makes it more difficult than it should be to determine which yarn to choose, and can lead to unnecessary confusion with sizing. It’s therefore even more important than usual to pay attention to the gauge when you work your pattern, and to do a test piece first. This is especially true when working with mohair, which can be nearly impossible to unravel.
Even with a tendency toward atavistic silliness (who wears bum patches, anyway?), most of Benevides and Milles’ designs are fun, easy to make and extremely adaptive. Save the Mohawk hat until the snows start falling at Mammoth, and until then work a fine mohair arm warmer, an adorable camisole or a ribbed corset.
So get out your needles and resurrect your Dead Kennedys LPs. The queen is dead; long live the queen.
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HOW TO MAKE ARM WARMERS
Adapted from “Pretty in Punk: 25 Punk, Rock, and Goth Knitting Projects”
By Alyce Benevides and Jaqueline Milles
Time: About 4 hours
Measurements: 8 inches by 7 inches before seaming
Materials: 1 skein each pink, black and red (or colors of your choice) fingerling-weight mohair, about 138 meters, or 25 grams each skein
Needles: U.S. size 7, or size required to get the correct gauge
Gauge: 18 stitches and 28 rows make a 4-inch square
Stockinette stitch: On the right side, knit all stitches; on the wrong side, purl all stitches
Fair Isle knitting: When the design requires a different color within a row, the yarn is carried across the back of the knitting. Every three stitches, twist the yarn you are carrying behind around yarn you are using.
Make the warmers:
Cast on 31 stitches in pink, and work in stockinette stitch throughout, following the graph. Work 3 rows in pink; these 3 rows plus your cast-on row count as the first 4 rows of the graph. Switch to black and work 4 rows. Switch back to pink and work 4 more rows. Switch back to black and work 2 rows.
On row 15, knit 15 stitches in black. Add the red and knit 1 stitch. Carry the black across and above the red, and knit 15 stitches in black. Follow the graph for rows 16-23. Work 1 row in black. Work 4 rows in pink, alternating with 4 rows of black 4 times. Finish with 2 rows of pink. Bind off the third row in pink. Use your darning needle to weave the loose threads into the back of the knitting.
Fold the warmer in half lengthwise, right sides together, and stitch the seam together with the darning needle and a length of pink yarn. (Start the seam in the second black row from the top, which allows for more give.) Turn the warmer right-side out.
Repeat for the second warmer.