Knit Simple

Heavens to Betsy: do you have any idea how many knitting magazines are out there? Any idea whatsoever?

Passing the vast, cavernous knitting-mag section of the local Barnes & Noble last week, I realized that I'd neglected this sleeping giant of a genre and thus the handful -- nay, tens! -- of mass-market advertisers who would potentially advertise in such titles. Yet still I was overcome by a sense of paralysis. So many knitting magazines, so little time. What if I chose the wrong one? Careers have been made and broken on lesser decisions.

So I downshifted into moron mode and grabbed the mag with the hottest chick on the cover. Alas, covers can be a wee bit deceptive: the fall issue of knit simple emphasizes sweaters over sweater meat. Even worse, it does so in a manner so precious and cloying that even glass-half-full knitters will find themselves entertaining dark thoughts.

No, knitting generally isn't a pastime enjoyed by hard-core cynics and no, there likely ain't much attitudinal overlap between the readerships of knit simple and Gawker. Nonetheless, the mag still far overplays the cuteness card.

Again, I probably should have taken a closer look at the cover, which boasts the faux-scribble fonts and lower-case headlines that practically scream, "Alert: adorability ahead!!!!!!!" I'll give knit simple points for consistency, as the mag maintains the hammy, encouraging tone in its every spread, headline and caption. The up-front "knits + that" section traffics in adjectives like "delectable" and "stunning," and in headlines like "Baa-dazzled" (for some kind of sheep-related accessory). It advises readers that "'Tis the season to be felting" (you need a permit for that, you know) and plugs a few new yarns which, to these untrained eyes, totally look like yarn.

The features work much better, especially on the presentation front. Rather than the expected picture/pattern/instructions trifecta, knit simple simply depicts the final product, whether a skirt for the office or a pet blanket or -- yay! -- mittens. The mag relegates the how-to stuff to the back of the issue, an inspired decision that keeps the features a-flowin' as smoothly as the Mississippi. I'd say something about the overabundance of toothy models within them, but I have no alternative to suggest. Really, nobody wants to see a shot of grandma, her legs tucked into a cozy, elegantly knit afghan and her arms cloaked by a homemade shawl, in the throes of pinochle bliss.

It's decent of the mag to take a page or so to call attention to knitting-related charity efforts, including Socks for Soldiers and a campaign to knit mittens -- double yay! -- for Kazakh orphans. I also admire the way knit simple caters to newbie and expert alike, with a list of terminology, columns on both basic and advanced techniques, and resources aplenty (URLs, phone numbers, you name it). At the same time, the mag tends toward the most obvious story ideas, like the holiday-themed piece we're going to see in every issue of every magazine over the next six weeks. Here, knit simple presents numbingly blatant tips for readers whose "knitted-gift list has gotten away from [them]." Two-word summary: start early.

Finally, I'd be doing the publishing business a disservice if I held my tongue about this: Can we all agree that personal/quirky flourishes within the magazine masthead ("Amanda collects earrings on her travels," "Billy once killed and mounted an endangered rhino using nothing but a toothpick and a wad of gum," etc.) have crossed the line between clever and cliché? I'm sure that every publication employs many lovely human beings who are quite eager to share that very special something that makes them very special. But gosh, a mag's creative staff is given ample opportunity to flash its personality via words and photos and obtrusive sidebars on the, like, 92 pages that follow. Put a cork in it.

Where was I? Oh, knit simple. Yeah, the magazine seriously needs a thorough de-cutefication, and maybe it shouldn't look quite as much like All You as it does (the similarities are uncanny at times). Overall, though, you could probably do worse by way of a knitting magazine -- and I say that as an utter ignoramus who has never glanced at another knitting magazine and won't do so again until the next "diversify, son, diversify" note arrives from my editors. So there you have it.

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