Talking "Knits for Boys" with Kate Oates

I got a chance to work with Kate Oates on my most recent book (coming this fall). Kate is the designer for Tot Toppers & When I Grow Up and the author of a new book, Knits for Boys and before that Knitting Clothes Kids Love.  She enjoys designing hats and garments for babies and children in particular, these projects often reflect a whimsical spirit. In her non-knitting life, Kate holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Florida and lives with her family in South Carolina, which includes husband Ryan, boys Jesse, Charlie, Oliver & Eliot. She has so many super cute patterns on her Ravelry profile here!

Kate was kind enough to sit down and talk with us about her new book, Knits for Boys!

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Tanis Gray (TG): There are a lot of knitting books for kids out there, but as the mom of a boy, I find there aren’t an overwhelming amount of functional, modern, cute sweaters for boys. I was so happy to read through your book and see how many great designs for little men there are in there! How did the idea for this book come about?

Kate Oates (KO): I have four boys! I started off doing mostly baby design, but as mine have aged I couldn't help but start sizing more broadly.  Really, it is kind of lucky for me that there is a need for more patterns in this area because I probably would have done it anyway.


TG: You are not afraid of color or texture! How did that influence your collection of designs for your latest book?

KO: No, I'm not.  I love love love color! My parents used to joke about me talking about "pretty colors" growing up as a kid. That has definitely stayed with me.  I really enjoy knitting things that I find interesting to look at and to touch (hence my texture obsession).  Fortunately for me, my kids either inherited a love for color and texture from me, or else I have taught them well.  There is very little neutral in any of our wardrobes.


TG: Something particularly great about this book is your “Grow With Me Tips and Tricks.” This is an idea that knitting moms or anyone knitting for children will really appreciate. Tell us more about that.

KO: Grow-With-Me came from my hearing knitter's lamenting on how much time they labor over a project for the child to wear it once or twice and then outgrow it.  I also am NOT a fan of the knit-it-4-sizes-too-big-and-they-will-grow-into-it approach.  So, I started experimenting with techniques to extend the fit and longevity of a sweater in ways that made it wearable and attractive no matter what phase.  Of course kids are still going to outgrow things--but using some Grow-with-me will definitely help to extend the fit!


TG: I appreciated the very clear schematics and photo tutorials. Why was it important to you to include those in your book?

KO: In order to really take advantage of Grow-With-Me, schematics are a must!  I have always provided schematics in my patterns. Although it is usually easier to fit a child into a standard size than an adult, there are plenty of occasions where knowing that you have a long and skinny or a shorter muscular frame mean that you can tailor the fit for the child. I'm a very visual person so photo tutorials were also a must! Finishing skills can really make or break a knit, and I wanted to provide all the tools for knitters to be successful.


TG: The Jesse Half-Zip and Imagination Sweater are tied for me as my favorites. What’s your favorite design in this book and why?

KO: Ha!  You have great taste.  Those two are in the top for me as well.  I also love the Prepster Vest and T-Rex Pullover. But I have so many favorites...I truly love them all. I've already talked about my love for color and texture and so that probably explains my top choices.


TG: You have FOUR boys and they modeled for your book. How involved were they in the process? Did you run ideas by them or did they make suggestions?

KO: Yes absolutely!  My oldest was the inspiration for the T-Rex sweater, he has always been really into dinosaurs. The sections of the book sort of ended up being based on my older two boy's preferences.  I have one who loves color and one who loves texture and that's how I came up with that particular break down. They had a lot of fun at the photo shoots and we pretty much just let them do their thing, they came up with "poses" or things to do and we just chased them around.


TG: Which project in the book was the most fun to knit? 

KO: The Imagination Sweater.  I pretty much came up with the stitch patterns while I was knitting it, so that was fun.  I go through phases where color work is my favorite thing to do, and then cabling is my favorite... It just so happened that I knit this book during a color work phase!


TG: Did everything you envisioned for the book end up in there or did you have outtakes?

KO: Hmm let's see.  I don't think anything totally flopped.  Although the project that did cause some headaches was the Prepster Vest.  I had a few sample knitters helping me with the book and Prepster was a project that I handed out.  First, I messed up the ribbing on the back and I forget exactly what happened but she got about 4" (mind you this is a fancy cabled fingering weight project, so 4" is no joke!) and had to rip out and start over.  Then, we had a nightmare of a time with the neckline.  I didn't like what I had initially written out, so I tried about 3 different options before settling on something really basic!


TG: Describe the book making process to our readers.

KO: It's a loooong process but in a nutshell, this was my project from beginning to end.  I wrote up a full proposal including sketches for all the designs and that was sent out to publishers.  I settled on a publisher that was willing to really let me do my thing (as an indie designer, it's hard for me to relinquish control!) from choosing yarns to directing the photo shoots (and using my boys as models). In between signing the contract for the book and me starting to knit designs, I had a premature baby so I did get waylaid for a while which meant I ended up with about 9 months to write all the patterns and get everything knit AND photographed before sending my finished manuscript to the publisher.  Then, I went back and forth with the editor for a while making corrections and adjustments. Finally I got to see the cover artwork and the drafts of inside pages and was able to give some input as well.  And now, here we are!


TG: What’s coming up next for you?

KO: We are about to start a knitalong in my Ravelry Group for Knits for Boys and hope to have lots of folks join us!  Almost all of the yarn companies that were kind enough to send me yarn support for the book have also provided KAL prizes which is so fun.  Outside of KfB, I'm continuing to self-publish patterns from baby to child (boy and girl!) to adult for the time being, and I've had fun really exploring ways to be involved with other aspects of the industry, from yarn companies to local yarn shops.  I've been doing some teaching as well and I find that really fun and inspiring--I love meeting knitters and enabling them to do some of the basic math that will help them utilize Grow-With-Me or even make projects for themselves fit better!


Thanks, Kate! The new book is adorable and chock-full of over 25 patterns that any boy would love to wear and any mom or dad would love to knit for them! I know I'll be casting on a new sweater for my son soon!Order Kate's new book here.