Cool Old Book: Knitting Wildlife

One of my favorite vintage pattern books is Knitting Wildlife by Ruth Herring and Kim Manners. It’s not rare or anything, so you can pick up a copy for less than $1.00.

That’s 1976 Model of the Year Marie Helvin looking ferocious on the cover.

Themed sweaters are so 80s, and I would never knit any of these (the intarsia colorwork is evil beyond my desire to execute), but who doesn’t love a pattern book with a cause?

The editors collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to “pay homage to the world of nature and spread the message of conservation.”

From the inside cover:

Wild animals captivate us with their grace and beauty, their compelling strength and sensitivity, but we are increasingly aware of just how vulnerable they and their habitats have become. Knitwear designers Ruth Herring and Karen Manners have been inspired by this predicament of global proportion to create no fewer than 19 fresh and exciting wildlife designs in association with the World Wildlife Fund who will receive royalties from this book.

Each pattern is introduced with a story about the beauty and plight of the animal featured in the design. But the best part is that they got celebrity Brits of the day—athletes, actors, models, and musicians (and their kids)—to model these designs.

A very young Elizabeth Hurley models the Whooper Swans and Daffodils cardigan.

Before botox, bazooms, and Hugh Grant.

Michael Palin, one of the geniuses of Monty Python, models the Orcas Breaching Whales pullover.

Looking rather smug after saying something very funny, no doubt.

Genesis founder and guitarist Mike Rutherford models the Lionesses Sleeping in Acacia Tree pullover.

He hasn’t changed his mane in 25+ years.

Marie Helvin gets a second entry in the book modeling the Great Barrier Reef dress.

Neither has she.

The book also has patterns for elephants, polar bears, panda bears, a rhino, and even a badger.

If you were going to create something to support a cause, what would it be and who would you want to model it?

I’m thinking maybe a collection of menswear designs to benefit the World Literacy Foundation, all of them modeled by Toby Stephens.

Maggie Smith’s son.



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