Do you admire colorful hand-knit sweaters but swoon with boredom when you pick up a pattern book for knits? "Glorious Knits," a gorgeous sweater design book (Clarkson N. Potter Inc., $19.95), may have saved us from monochrome shetlands forever. It's the most inspirational how-to book to come along since Martha Stewart's "Entertaining" and is the creation of Kaffe Fassett, a Californian who emigrated to England to paint and wound up knitting. His very first sweater in 1968 was discovered by an editor at British Vogue, who eventually sent Fassett off to design for Missoni.
After designing for Missoni and Bill Gibb, Fassett went on his own, creating custom coats, sweaters and jackets, sometimes selling them for thousands of dollars. And his infectious infatuation with color continued. "I want to change the face of the sweater forever and encourage people to play with yarn as if it were paint," said Fassett, in Washington for the opening of his sweater exhibition, which hangs in the Textile Museum until Jan. 31.
And for the lazy, but ambitious, there's hope in the form of kits, paint-by-numbers for the sweater set, sold at the Textile Museum Shop for $60 to $110, with Fassett's choice wools and clear instructions. His first kit sold out -- 7,000 in the British Isles -- even though it had 20 different colors of yarn. "It made me realize people were hungry for using lots of color." A reassuring Fassett continues, "Have confidence. These are for anyone who can knit and purl."
"England's a country of knitters," says a less encouraging Lilo Markrich, museum shop executive. "His designs are for anyone who can knit argyle socks, I'd say. But, they're very flexible, so mistakes are never a tragedy."
Don't fret: For one of these sweaters, one wouldn't mind a little drama.