Friday, 8 February 2013
I Am Not a Knit Wit, But I Have One
One Saturday afternoon in late 2008, while I was happily browsing the racks at Value Village, I found a Knit Wit kit. By which I mean one of the above. The Knit Wit, despite its name, is not a knitting tool, but is rather a sort of small, simple hand loom. Knit Wits used to be advertised on TV when I was little. The commercials showed a woman and her little girl happily making afghans by winding yarn around the pins on the tool and then twisting the handle to make the finished rosette pop dramatically off (there was even a special sound effect). In retrospect, the items the two of them made on the commercials were freaking hideous. But I was the kind of child who always wanted to try my hand at every craft going (actually, that's the kind of adult I am as well), and I clearly remember how much I wanted a Knit Wit. So I bought the Value Village kit. It was only $5 and I was pretty sure I could put it to good use. Plus I got to gratify a childhood desire, which is one adult pleasure I totally recommend.
Then I went home and began doing some research. Knit Wits seem to have been around since the 1950s, and this is one of the former reincarnations of the kit.
In company with a lot of TV-advertised plastic gadgets, they don't work quite as easily as the commercials lead us to believe. This is part of the instruction manual from one of the older kits. Apparently there were also several pages of written instructions to accompany these visual aids.
Looking at the official Knit Wit website that night in 2008 made me laugh until I had tears streaming down my face. The company was using the same images they used in their commercials circa 1981, and offered almost no recent designs or patterns. Unfortunately the Knit Wit web site is not extant anymore, or I could show you horrendous pantsuits and mini-dresses and daisy afghans (such as the one above) that dated from the sixties and seventies. They were offered for sale individually, as if anyone would ever buy them. And as God is my witness, I swear I could hear the yarn screaming.
There aren't too many Knit Wit patterns or examples on the net at all, and most of them are decades old and/or terrible. This, for instance, is one of the pattern books from back in the day. I wish I could page through it, because I'm sure it's a gem of its kind.
Here's another book, with two close ups of the afghans in it. On second thought maybe I don't really want to see the rest of the patterns in these booklets.
This is one of the very few recent designs I could find, and it... leaves something to be desired.
But there aren't any needlework techniques or tools that can't be used for good rather than evil — the failing is usually that of the crafter's taste or skill rather than inherent in the craft itself. And there are a few good examples of Knit Wit items on the net that prove that yes, it is possible to use the Knit Wit tool to make something attractive. I don't care for the pink snowsuit above, but I must admit the cocktail dress is quite something.
Blogger Kathleen Gauthier has written a post on her site about her mother's 50s-era Knit Wit dress, which was made out of purple organza ribbon, and gotten her own daughter to model it for us over a vintage slip (Gauthier's mother wore it over a purple silk sheath). It's lovely.
Martha Stewart has featured a few quite desirable Knit Wit designs on her site. There's certainly nothing wrong with this delicate scarf.
Martha Stewart also offers us some Knit Wit décor ideas: making a cushion from Knit Wit rosettes, or using the rosettes to decorate a plain cushion or throw.
But even so I know I will mostly be on my own as far as Knit Wit designs go. And I am afraid but ready. The Knit Wit tool kit doesn't seem to be in production at present, but if you'd like one of your own, try your luck on eBay, or perhaps make your own with pins and cardboard.
A reader named Karen (thank you Karen!) has helpfully pointed out that there are more Knit Wit designs available on the net. Rather than limiting myself to what's under that one brand name, I should have searched under "daisy loom", "bloom loom", "flower loom", and "square loom".
This is not to say that all the flower loom designs are attractive. A western skunk cabbage by any other name would still smell just as bad. You know how I keep saying some designs are too afghan-like in my magazine issue reviews? This photo must be the ultimate illustration of my principle that though an afghan is a fine thing, you can't wear it.
Here we have an afghan/skirt, and a rather cute little top.
Here we have a collection of atrocious items with one that's actually quite good. As you can see, this little cardigan is a clever hybrid: it's partly flower loomed, and partly knit. If you want to try making wearable items with flower looming, you probably will need to incorporate some knitting into it at some point. I don't know how you'd shape the rosettes into a flattering garment otherwise.
Great photo. This woman actually looks chic. The purse and hat are useable by contemporary standards. I'm going to reserve judgment on the blouse because I can't see enough of it to tell whether it's flattering and attractive. What we can see does look promising.
You can see more pictures of flower loom items here, and check out the many related links here.