Perhaps I was a bit hard on babies, some of them are quite nice to look at really, and puppies and kittens are a bit ugly and squirmy when first born. The most attractive very young animals are herbivores, foals, calves, fawns, lambs etc, since they have to be able to get up onto their beautiful long wobbly legs right away.
One such beautiful human baby was Princeling, who was much remarked on at the time for his prettiness and lack of crinkly red squawkiness. (This may have been in part because he didn't really want to be born when he was, but the Obstetric Powers that Be insisted he had to. His response to this, rather than to get cross, was to come quietly, looking smooth and unruffled, and continue to sleep the sleep of the just in utero until his due date, when he woke up.)
He is also, in common with Tom, a most knitworthy male. At first he didn't really have much choice about it, but now he is still a most appreciative knitting recipient. He has probably acquired this in part from his mum, who is slim and gorgeous and enjoys her clothes, likes a good woolly and loves to see him such a garment, giving him lots of fuss and cuddles when he's wearing one, but he clearly is drawn to colour and texture and nice stuff himself, despite being a normally active, ruffianish small boy. When I saw them at the end of August, Iso asked what I was knitting, and I said in passing I might get something done for his seventh birthday in October. I didn't think he was taking much notice but later when we parted I said 'See you soon', and he replied 'With my jumper?'
Well, as one of my Ravelry contacts said, any seven year old boy who likes handknits needs all the encouragement you can give him. Iso said a sleeveless one would be great, as they suit him and he'd just grown out of his last one, and as I'd vowed to use up some of my existing stash before buying any new yarn (a pledge I have only partially managed to stick to, since I keep seeing orange wool around the place), and as I'd been collecting rather a lot of Fair Isle charts, I thought I'd try to do something stranded and colourful with a number of odd balls and bits of wool mix double-knitting weight I had around, some of which I'd unravelled from another unsuccessful project, so I had quite a lot of useful sized mini-balls.
Initially, animals seemed like a good theme, but then the whales took up so much room it didn't seem as though there'd be much for the rest of the animal kingdom, so I decided I'd stick to a sea-based scheme instead. The resulting effort I called 'Red Sails in the Sunset'.
This is the back; it's a bit lumpy and uneven, as Fair-Isle tends to be unless you use very fine wool and are good at it. But the stranding does make for a thick warm fabric, which I suppose must have been one of the purposes of it up in the chilly northern places where they techniques were developed - in the Scottish islands of course but also all across the northernmost reaches of Europe from Iceland to the Baltic - as well as for decoration. One or two of my Quessquitricote friends, while admiring of the whales in particular, looked a bit askance at the riot of colour involved in it (le mauvais goût anglais, they don't care what they put together you know...), but I put my trust in knowing my friends' likes and dislikes, tagged it with a birthday card bookmark with a lighthouse on it, and posted it off.
I had a very thrilled e-mail from Iso, who reassured me that her own taste was clearly not so conservative as some, and she said that when she gave it to Princeling he held it to his face, held it away and looked at it then put it to his face again, which seems a fairly positive response. She sent me this photo of him wearing it, entitled 'a good fit but room for growth'
Being always somewhat of a little shrimp, he looks rather drowned in it, but he does shoot up something amazing so it will at least fit him for a while yet, and being sleeveless, sleeve length is not an issue.
I rather think hand knits are a bit like home-cooked food, unless one is very practised and expert, it won't be quite as consistent and fine and polished as the shop or restaurant made stuff, the wonky picked up stitches on the armholes or the occasional sloppy float or tight patch being the equivalent of a slightly burnt pie crust or lumpy bit in the soup, but it is usually made from better ingredients, and has a substance and texture and personal uniqueness to it that is perhaps more genuinely satisfying, if you like that kind of thing anyway. Most importantly, and I don't cease to appreciate how well this is appreciated, it is usually made with love.
This is the first of a number of posts in a 'knitting review of the year' series, in no particular order.