Special pets deserve special presents. And if you're the nimble-fingered type who takes to knitting needles like beagles to dog biscuits, now is the time to get clicking.
Think sweaters, not coats (after all, dogs and cats already have coats). Or think snuggle-soft blanket. Or pretty plump pillow. Or festive Christmas stocking filled with Furby's favorite treats.
No need to run all over looking for appropriate poochy patterns. Knitwear designer Judith L. Swartz has provided pet-inspired patterns for all of the above in her new book, "Dogs in Knits: 17 Projects for Our Best Friends" (Interweave Press, $18.95, softcover).
No need to feel silly about pooch-pampering, either. Knitting for dogs is quite the thing these days. As evidence, Swartz's publisher points to the following: After Interweave Knits magazine featured a hand-knit dog sweater two years ago, the yarn company that came up with the design had to hire an extra service representative to handle all of the pattern orders.
For Swartz, designing canine knitwear came easy. She got her first dog when she was 8, the same year she discovered knitting, and she has been passionate about both ever since.
As a knitwear designer, Swartz notes in her book, she is always thinking about sweaters. As a dog lover, thinking about sweaters for Fido was doubly delightful.
"It might sound a little pretentious to say that I wanted to create serious garments and accessories for dogs," she writes, "because " by their very nature " sweaters for dogs can only be so serious. But I did want to create garments that dogs can wear happily, heads and tails held high with pride."
Forget silly costumes, fun as they may be. Swartz goes for classic coverups "that dogs can wear with dignity."
And not only dogs. Cats can wear sweaters, too, as a photo of a feline in a gumdrop-yellow number proves. In fact, Swartz's cat, Charlotte, served as a sometime model when the author was working out sizes and measurements.
Swartz created her patterns with all knitters in mind. For newcomers to the world of needles and yarn, her simple dog sweaters are a perfect first project. Not only do higher-skilled knit-one-purl-two-ers have a feast of fetching styles to choose from, Swartz also offers patterns for people hooked on crocheting.
In addition to the necessary knitting information, the book includes a glossary of abbreviations and techniques, a list of yarn suppliers and detailed doggy-measuring instructions.
Little doggy tidbits also pop up here and there. A few fun facts about Fido, for example. Canine cold-weather tips. Natural remedies for flea control. A tribute to service dogs.
One of the best parts about "Dogs in Knits," however, is the colorful photographs of dogs. In knits.
There's Lily, a mixed-breed in a crazy-quilt sweater that matches her owner's bed-spread. There's Spike, a "mighty" but miniature Doberman pinscher about to curl up on an "Arabian Nights" afghan. There's also a West Highland terrier named Maggie, who models, among other things, a lightweight, ruffle-edged party dress that's "perfect for special occasions."
Other posing pooches include:
l A schnauzer named Schatzi sporting a tweedy funnel-neck ribbed sweater described as "a loose-fitting classic" that's "decidedly masculine."
l A greyhound named Matisse wearing an American Indian-inspired blanket sweater that's far more striking than anything he could have worn at the racetrack.
l A beagle named Baylie boasting a jean-jacket design that could only be modeled by a "dude" dog like him.
l And a Benji-looking mixed-breed named Baxter posing in a bright, Peruvian-patterned sweater made with llama-blend yarn to "help capture the Andean mood."
Last but not least is the puppy in the Bigfoot Christmas Stocking. When the photo was taken, the puppy had yet to be named, but Swartz included some recipes for all-natural doggy treats that will fill the stocking nicely once Nameless outgrows it.