knits for nerds

Joan of Dark (a/k/a Toni Carr) is an avid lover of all things knit and crocheted. She has been featured on two DIY Network shows, Uncommon Threads and Knitty Gritty. She’s the author of the book Knockdown Knits (Wiley), and her patterns have been published on and in Vampire Knits (Potter Craft). Her sense of style was also profiled in Indianapolis Monthly, Nuvo, and Intake Weekly. With a science fiction writer for a mother, and a father who made sure that her comic book collection was always stocked, she had no choice but to grow up a geek! She can be reached on line at

Tony Carr has recently published Knits for Nerds (Andrews McMeel Publishing, February 2012), which includes 30 knitting projects inspired by her love of science fiction. She discusses the book here.

Coming up with the concept of  Knits for Nerds  was surprisingly easy. I’m a big nerd, I always have been. I preferred to read on the playground instead of swinging on a swing, my summer vacations and spring breaks were spent at sci-fi conventions instead of Daytona Beach, and one of my coolest memories from childhood was getting to see K-9 (from the classic Doctor Who series) in real life!

Actually deciding what patterns got to be in Knits for Nerds? That was the hard part! Some of my initial ideas couldn’t be done because of copyright concerns. Then there was the difficulty of making things that would never be seen outside of a convention, and while costumes are cool, as a knitter I want to be able to wear what I knit all the time!

Finally my publisher, agent and I decided that the book should be a mix of slightly “out there” patterns and wearable pieces. Some things were easy to come up with. Star Trek mini dresses and a cadet sweater were a natural inclusion. Firefly was a little trickier. It’s one of my favorite TV shows, but the only really memorable knitwear is the Jayne Cobb hat. I thought about including my pattern for that one, but it’s a pattern that’s been done over and over again by many different designers, so why muddy the waters? Instead I decided to simply do some items inspired by my love of the show. My friend Laura Hohman is a brilliant sock designer, so I begged her to whip up a pattern for a beginner pair of socks in the classic Jayne Cobb hat colors. A good pattern for a newer sock knitter and perfect to pair with the Jayne Cobb hat that probably already exists in most knitters closets! The scarf was another natural fit. We were having so much fun with the yarn when testing out the sock pattern that we decided to make a scarf to match, complete with pom-poms and fringe, thinking that is the way Ma Cobb would have made it. A brown coat inspired pattern was next. Lacy, delicate, and perfect for the girlie Firefly fan.

Other patterns I plucked straight from my favorite books. American Gods and Alanis Boys by Neil Gaiman described the character Mr. Nancy at one point, yellow gloves, and another wearing a green fedora. As a knitter I couldn’t resist making these! I was really lucky to bring on some other designers to help me out with some of the projects. The above mentioned Laura Hohman handled all the sock designs in the book, while Ashley Fay, created the lovely Light of Earendil Shrug. Marilee Norris designed a cute little robot loosely inspired by Doctor Who, Genevieve Miller, who I had previously worked with on Vampire Knits, made the fabulous Space Princess Hats inspired by Star Wars, Callie Need contributed the Cat Woman hat, my own sci-fi writer mother Linda Dunn made Padme’s battle cape, and of course Rilana Riley-Munson and her incredible lace shawl, inspired by the book Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

I like to think that overall we came up with a nice mix of patterns for the casual nerd who still wants to wear their knits during the week, and the uber nerdy convention attendee who wants to rock the Princess Leia bun hat.

Shooting the photos for the book was a fun nerd fest of its own. My friend Lorraine (who is the gorgeous model with the chessboard laptop bag) works for Neil Gaiman, and offered up his house to us for one weekend. We piled into a 15 passenger van with models, a make-up artist, two photographers, equipment and lots and lots of knitwear. When we weren’t dressing the models, setting up shots, beseeching Lorraine to make us more tea, or shooing dogs out of the frame, we got to geek out in the library over the first edition books, drool a little on the original Dave McKean art in the kitchen, and check out all the limited edition toys in the attic. After we wrapped up the last shot we made snow angels in a field while talking to Neil about roller derby. I like to think that those pictures, shot with friends, in a cool house, with dogs occasionally tipping over photographers, and cats cuddling up on a models lap to take advantage of her warm sweater help make the book what it was meant to be. Warm, silly, sometimes beautiful, but definitely not taking itself too seriously.

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