November 5th, 2011
Dear Poncet family, you are my new heros

I will take a short break from posts of a politcal nature for just a moment. I was writing a friend today and mentioned that I recently fell in love with a movie, which I thought was about penguins, and so streamed it for my son while he was sick on the couch. I quickly learned that the film was not so much about penguins but more about the Poncet family, five explorers (three of them small children) who live on a boat and travel around researching penguin colonies. The above photo is Jerome Poncet, the father, a kind of Jaques Cousteau of the Antarctic. At which point I got really excited, and a little bit giddy. Lately I am feeling like explorers are my version of rock stars. I have been copying, studying and researching exploration for a top secret project I am working on (which I can’t really talk about here because, well, it’s top secret). But let’s just say it involves exploration and artifacts, and top secret information. And public art, but that’s all I’m saying for now.

So, where am I going with this? So I was glued to the screen while this beautiful, blond, intelligent, (I should add slightly wind blown and in need of some lip balm), Aussie mamma talked about how she felt her children were learning so much by experiencing the world directly, the best form of education possible. Her offspring flitted and jumped about on rocky coastlines, amidst seals and whales, and ran carefree and pantless on the deck of the boat in the middle of a frigid and icy ocean. Enough to make this mamma inhale deeply and feel pangs of panic at the precariousness of it all. A bit of envy sat in the pit of my stomach at how calm she seemed, not at all worried. Able to let her children (all boys) run wild, in the wild. And me barely able to let my son run wild in his own backyard, lest he fling himself off his favorite climbing tree, of which he is able to climb up two feet. I suppose I should let myself off the hook a bit given that my oldest is three and a half, while hers are five, seven and ten. So I have a few years to go in learning to let go a bit more. Anyway, I am digressing here.

As you already know I am big on knitting and so I was also envying the hand knit (or what look to be hand knit) items worn by the family. Most noticeably the above balaklava which Jaques seems to never take off which gives him that stereotypical french explorer look (that and the french looking nose). There is also a beautiful tweed fisherman’s sweater worn by the five year old. The whole family wears these balaklava’s and I’m thinking it’s not only cool looking (look at the pom pom perched on top), it’s totally practical. No scarf needed. Why didn’t I think of that before? I must knit it. Balaclavas are this year’s chunky cowl. We can make them cool. It’s all in how you wear it. How can you argue with Jaques style? Look at him. That man is tough as nails, (I started to wonder if the handrolled cigarette was actually glued to the side of his mouth for looks).

Alas, a quick search on the internet for a pre-existing pattern of the same design turned up nothing. I am not sure if my knitting skills are up to the task of creating this masterpiece on my own. Even though it is really much like a hat with a hole in the middle right? The bonus of this design is that with the slight brim, you can fold up the bottom and wear it just as a hat, as Jaques so casually does in one scene. It just screams “The world is my oyster.” I am solidly convinced that the mother knit them all. Not only is she beautiful, intelligent and daring but she can clothe all of her family, knitting up these warming treasures while on the high seas and cook fabulous french cuisine on a one burner stove in the galley kitchen. What greatness I tell you.

Anyway, if any of you knitters out there know of a pattern of similar nature to this one, or have the skills to share with me some ideas for recreating it, I would love to hear from you.

I won’t be surprised at all if this catches on. You watch. Admit it. You want one too.

Nov 5 2011
10:13 pm
Ms. A writes:

Try this site, you might get lucky!

Nov 5 2011
10:39 pm
Lydia writes:

Enjoyed your post and look forward to viewing the movie, thanks. Here is a pattern from a Etsy site … not sure its close enough to the lovely one in the photo. Thought I would pass it on just in case.
Take care

Nov 5 2011
10:43 pm
noah melody writes:

This may help [but missing brim :( ] :
My little brother and sister will love this for our science class. It sounds brilliant for a group of explorers in training. Thanks for sharing.

Nov 5 2011
10:48 pm
Ann writes:

Have you searched for a pattern at the Ravelry site? I found 6 pages of patterns there for balaclavas (note slight difference in spelling!). One that looks fairly similar is by designer Christine Grant:

There are lots of patterns for children too, so you can outfit your whole family!

Happy knitting, Keri!

Nov 6 2011
4:55 am
Mouse writes:

I can see why they are your heroes, I may also have to watch that film and join the fan club!

Nov 6 2011
7:04 am
Sandy writes:

Balaklavas are very popular here in Finland, mainly made for kids, though. There is a pretty wide range of them available in stores.

I can find a few different patterns, but unfortunately in Finnish only. This is a nice one, for inspiration:

Nov 6 2011
9:56 am
shayna writes:

here is a lovely pattern found on etsy…think i might make it, too:

also, a search on brought up many other options.



Nov 6 2011
10:41 am
folkscallmejonny writes:

Balaclava ? That’s a kind of Greek pastry,right?

Nov 6 2011
11:05 am
Zom G. writes:

I do want one too! I had a heck of a time finding one to fit for my boy o’ 3 and I probably could have knitted in less time and cost. I can’t wait to see how it goes. Thanks for the movie suggestion, it is not easy finding films for the whole family to enjoy.

Nov 6 2011
4:33 pm
mollie writes:

Another vote for! but you have to laugh at this first

Nov 7 2011
1:18 am
Karen writes:

I’ve made my own version of this out of polar fleece (because although I am a textile artist, I do not (yet) knit. I’ve made a tube for a scarf (just slip it over the head onto your neck and it keeps your neck warm– no long ends to deal with) and a tube with the end sewn shut for a hat. I made the tube longer for the hat so that I could have a cuff to keep my ears super warm. Polar fleece may not be your thing, but it’s warm, fast, and easy and they roll up nicely so that you can tuck them into a purse, pocket, or knapsack. Plus it is made of recycled pop bottles.

Nov 10 2011
8:56 am
megan writes:

I’ve been reading through Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitters Almanac, which is not only a book of “pithy patterns” as she calls them, but also a fun, great read. There are several hats, none called baclava, but similar–she tells you how she approaches the knitted item and you can use her info to make your own design. There’s also an aran sweater chapter (the first chapter). I’ve made the baby sweater a few times from her instructions–it’s great! I think you’d really enjoy it.

Nov 10 2011
12:00 pm
megan writes:

p.s. Here is a quote from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitters Almanac. Considering it’s copyright date is 1974, I wonder what she would say today:
“Thrift and conservation are in the wind: how delightful to find that using up wool-remains improves the appearance of finished product….You know, if our ancestors had thrown out their furniture every decade, as we do, where would we go for antiques? Let us give some thought to the well-being and enjoyment of our descendants, patch up our lares and penates, and hang on to them so that the future will inherit at least some relics of our heedless and wasteful age. Working over something, and repairing it, —whether we re-finish furniture, fix over an old house, or put new cuffs on a sweater—not only gives things new life and makes them look cared-for, but embeds them still deeper in our affections.”

Nov 11 2011
4:35 pm
Heike Bräutigam writes:

I found the one which ist just made your you ;)
The Knitted Beard-Balaclava

Nov 13 2011
12:47 am
Roch writes:

Please, I need your book in Spanish!

Nov 21 2011
7:48 am
folkscallmejonny writes:

Keri, when are you coming back from the Antarctic Balaclava Testing Mission?

Nov 22 2011
9:01 am
Nov 24 2011
7:44 am
Mandy writes:

Finally got to watch this with my kids. What a life is the life of an explorer.

Jan 18 2012
7:27 pm
Kim writes:

Hi Keri

Ravelry is THE place to search for a hat pattern .. or any knit/crochet pattern.

Happy hunting!

Mar 29 2012
10:20 pm
Laurie L. writes:

So I am curious…after several months (and a busy schedule I’m sure as a mother of two), what have you found/discovered/knitted?? Give us a followup!

Oct 10 2012
9:06 am
Tina writes:

The book Homespun Handknit has a lovely pattern. It might be a bit chunky for what you’re looking for but I thought you’d enjoy the book.

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