Hats for the whole family! That's the subject of today's book review of Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats: 30 Fun & Stylish Designs for Kids of All Ages by Kristi Simpson. (Full disclosure: I received a copy of the book from publisher Stackpole Books, which has also published several of my crochet titles. As you know if you have read any of my previous reviews, my loyalty is to you, the reader, regardless of a book's origin.)
Don't let the "Mommy" designation put you off. There are hats for dads and dudes, too (beard, anyone?). Grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors...everyone will enjoy these creative projects. The book has an energetic feel that's sure to inspire.
Kristi designed, crocheted, and photographed a variety of hats from form-fitting beanies to headgear perfect for costume parties. If you like critters, the Horse Hat, Giggle Monster, Zack the Zombie, Sock Monkey Twist, Lamb Bonnet, and Snowman Cap give ample opportunity to embellish hats with eyes, noses, ears, and more. The Ahoy Mate! Pirate Hat is a clever way to conjure up a pirate when you don't have an eyepatch at hand.
There are some more traditional styles as well. The Groovy Waves Beanie, Luvbug Slouchy, Mary Kate Cloche, and Ocean Air Cloche are some of my favorites.
Kristi writes a different set of instructions for each size. That makes it very easy to keep one's place when following a pattern. I crocheted the Mary Kate Cloche in size medium and didn't have any trouble--and you know how fussy I am about instructions! Technique photos in the patterns and at the back of the book are helpful and clear, as are the pictures of the finished hats.
The book has a homey feel, in part because Kristi photographed real people rather than professional models. I support this inclusive approach, but I don't think it would have been inappropriate to do some photo editing (say on some drool). I know babies are messy, but I don't necessarily want to look at that writ large! Some of the pictures are not as crisp as professional photos for publication should be. For example, the cover page of the Sock Monkey Twist on page 48 and the Baby Doll Hat on page 32 are blurry in places. It's unfortunate when the background color doesn't contrast enough with the hats, like when the cute green fuzz on top of Zack the Zombie disappears into a green background. Sometimes there is also an odd borderline between the subject of the photos and the background.
I question the "Beginner" skill level assigned to many of the projects: I think those should be reclassified as "Easy." The Craft Yarn Council of America, which sets industry standards, defines Beginner projects as "Projects for first-time crocheters using basic stitches. Minimal shaping." Easy is "Projects using yarn with basic stitches, repetitive stitch patterns, simple color changes, and simple shaping and finishing." Although assigning a skill level is not an exact science, hats with shaping and color changes would seldom fit into the "Beginner" category. And it's hard for me to think of any rationale that would designate a project with bobbles as suitable for first-time crocheters.
The other thing that gives me pause is the use of buttons on baby/toddler hats. I know there are safe ways to secure buttons, and they make adorable embellishments, and plenty of crocheters use them in patterns for young children, but the mom in me only sees them as a choking hazard. (If you do use buttons, please make sure they are sewn on to stay.)
Getting back to the patterns, the hats themselves are a lot of fun! Obviously, if you're making one for an infant you'll choose the project, but for toddlers and older children I think it would be great to let your child pick out his or her favorite(s) and be involved in the shopping trip to get the supplies. Kids love to do what adults do, so sit next to them when you start the project. Explain what you're doing—even young kids will take in a lot more than you might think. When the little ones are four or five, seize the opportunity to put a hook in their hands and teach them how to make a chain! (One advantage crocheting has over knitting: no pointy needles.) Who knows, you may inspire a new generation of crocheters.
I love the idea of making hats for the whole family and then taking snapshots together. Not only will you have created hats you'll have fun wearing, you'll have made some priceless memories as well.
If you love hats and are looking for quick, fun projects to crochet for every member of the family, I recommend Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats.