Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Fleece to Face with Kristen Rengren
Dolores’s occasional series of author/designer interviews continues today with Kristen Rengren, author of an absolutely splendid new book of baby knits (from the always reliable Melanie Falick Books/STC Craft) that draws inspiration from the not-so-distant past.
DVH: Hi, I’m Dolores. Who are you? I can never keep track of these things.
KR: I’m Kristen Rengren. It’s nice to meet you.
DVH: You look familiar. Wait–did you used to dance at Club Whoopee over in Sauganash? And call yourself Amber Waves O’Grain?
KR: Oh, I bet you say that to all the girls. And possibly to some of the boys.
DVH: What can I get you to drink? I just finished the last of the Dewar’s, but there’s plenty of everything else.
KR: Maybe I should just have a Shirley Temple. It looks like you’re doing enough drinking for the both of us.
DVH: This is medicinal. Like vitamins.
KR: Sure. Okay.
DVH: Now, the Supreme Commander told me the last couple of these little chitchats were too loosey-goosey, so before we start I need you to agree to some ground rules. Let me see, where's that list? Yeah, here we go: no vulgarity, no inflammatory political statements, and no trying to take my top off. Is that clear?
KR: Are those rules for you or for me?
DVH: Oh, will you look at that–you’re right. So, you’re still welcome to take your top off if you feel so inclined.
KR: I thought this was a family show.
DVH: We have a very broad definition of family. Now, let’s get the official business out of the way so we can have some fun. What is it that you brought to show me today?
KR: I just wrote a book called Vintage Baby Knits–it’s a compendium of over forty vintage patterns from the 1920s through the 1950s, all rewritten for the thoroughly modern baby.
DVH: Groovy. We love babies around here, as long as they go home at the end of the day. Is this your first book?
KR: The first under my real name. All the rest have Fabio on the cover.
DVH: You grow more interesting by the minute. These are some very classy baby duds you got in here. When Debbie Bliss sees it she’ll have a freaking conniption. I think that would be fun to watch, don’t you?
KR: Well, I wouldn’t want to ruffle Debbie’s feathers, especially if she’s got as many pointy sticks in her house as I do. Vintage knitting has taught me a lot, but I’ve picked up very little in the way of vintage self-defense.
DVH: Hypothetical situation: you’re in a coffee shop minding your own business, having a latte, and Debbie comes at you from behind the bagel toaster with a butter knife. How do you defend yourself?
KR: I suppose in a pinch I’d have to hold up the Louise cardigan from the book, and just hope that she keeled over from the cuteness. I’m not exactly a knitting ninja, but I do know how to wield some heart-stoppingly cute sweaters. And I carry some size fifteens with me just in case.
DVH: Another hypothetical: you, me, Debbie. Wrestling in a big vat full of Jell-o. Your thoughts?
KR: I think I’d like to talk about the book.
DVH: Fine, play coy. Anyway, this is obviously a top-drawer production. No schmattehs, and the babies are all good looking. Must have cost a fortune. A-list baby models don’t come cheap. Were they difficult to work with on the set? Anybody throw a sippy cup at the makeup girl? Or wee on the furniture? Come on, you can tell me.
KR: I have no idea how they got those babies to sit still for so long on the set. My initial guess was duct tape and baby aspirin, but I think my stylist just turned out to be an astoundingly effective baby wrangler.
Actually I do know one trick the photographer used – she rustled up about twice as many babies as they needed for each shoot, and then just didn’t photograph the babies who cried that day. We had a super cutie for the Christening dress in the test photos, but she apparently cried like it was The Exorcist when they put her in it on the day of the shoot, so we ended up with a still shot.
DVH: Baby diva tantrums! We loves it. Hang on, though. I see a pattern for a stuffed elephant and a lion. Are those the only toys in the book? No sheep? You got something against sheep?
KR: Half the items in here are made of sheep. I thought it would be redundant.
DVH: Nice save. You know, you have shapely ankles just like Amber at Club Whoopee. Maybe she’s your sister?
KR: I have three sisters, but none of them are taxi dancers. At least for their day jobs.
DVH: I swear looking at these pictures makes me want to push out a flock just so I can knit the hoodie on page 22. You know a good place to meet rams in this city?
KR: You don’t even need a ram anymore if you hang out in the right places. Just look at Dolly.
DVH: Forget Dolly. Can I take a closer look at your ankles?
KR: What a coquette you are!
DVH: Mais oui, ma petite! La plume de ma tante! Baba au rhum!
KR: Maybe you shouldn’t take so much medicine.
DVH: I’m sure this thing is going to be a big-ass hit, so can we expect a volume two? Or do you have other plans?
KR: I’m already at work on a book of vintage kids’ knits as a sequel. And I’d also love to write a book of vintage patterns for women. The only trouble is that ladies in the forties and fifties wore such punishing under-things. I’m working on how women can get that look today without restricting any vital organs.
At the same time, I’m also working on original designs, because it’s just too much fun to design my own patterns, too. You can expect to see a bevy of vintage-inspired original patterns from me this fall and winter – for kids and grown-ups. If you’re lucky there might even be something for lovely lady sheep... provided you’d actually keep it on, of course. Don’t make me pull that camisole down again, darling.
Other than that, it’s world domination, getting the bathroom cleaned… you know, the usual.
DVH: In addition to all that would you be interested in dancing at Club Whoopee? I know a guy. I just need a good picture of your ankles.
KR: If you saw me dance, you’d tell me to not quit my day job and to stick to my knitting. I promise.
DVH: You’re being way too modest. Let me put some James Brown on the hi-fi and we can get down and funky. Here, I’ll start.
KR: Gosh, will you look at the time? I have to…go…wash my….eyes.
DVH: You’ll be back. They always come back.
If you'd like to enter to win a free copy of Vintage Baby Knits, click here to learn more about the contest being run by STC Craft.