Sweater Models Know What's Hot

July 21, 1995|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Even in the heat of summer, a group of North Laurel- and Savage-area children and teen-agers are thinking sweaters.

Sweater coats. Sweater hats. Multicolored sweaters with designs on front and back. Sweater suits and sweater tights.

About a dozen local young people will sport them all in an internationally published pattern book called "Streetwise," which will appear in yarn stores around the world, including 400 in the United States, within the next two weeks.

So far, 20,000 copies have been printed and a second order is under way. The book is the latest from author and knit sweater designer Lee Andersen, a New Zealand native whose studio, Vibrant Handknits, is in the Historic Savage Mill and whose artistic designs have drawn international attention.

"It's their first time modeling and they've been ecstatic," said Mechelle Sharp of North Laurel, whose daughters Meredith, 4, and Suzanne, 2, appear as volunteer models in the book.

Ms. Andersen, who co-owns the shop with a friend, Joan Becker, was commissioned by British publisher Jarol Ltd. to create the book. As she has done with her six previous books, she sought out amateurs to model the sweaters.

Most of the models are North Laurel and Savage residents. Ms. Andersen, who lives in Columbia, also recruited her models from Columbia, Ellicott City and two from Upper Marlboro.

The selection was simple, recalled Amy Hammond, an Upper Marlboro resident whose 22-month-old twins, Webb and Connor, pose together in white-and-blue sailboat and train sweaters.

"We were just here [at the Savage Mill] shopping one day, and she asked if she could use our sons for this pattern book," said Mrs. Hammond. "I just said, 'Sure, why not?' "

The models in "Streetwise," a pattern book with 11 sweater designs, will get more than four times the attention models had in Ms. Andersen's other books. About 5,000 copies of each of those books are in print.

North Laurel resident Marisa Strickland, 18, has modeled for Ms. Andersen for more than a year and is among the dozen amateur models recruited for "Streetwise."

"Before I started working with Lee, I hated having my picture taken," Ms. Strickland said. "But working with Lee is really fun."

Ms. Andersen doesn't promise anyone that posing for her will lead to fame and fortune.

"We're not an avenue for a modeling career," she said. "We don't make any guarantees. This is just for fun."

Although they aren't paid for their work, the models receive copies of the book.

"I really like it," said 6-year-old Savage resident Dresden Cruz. "Here I am," she added, thumbing through the 32-page book and pointing to a multicolored hat and sweater combination.

Ms. Andersen, a 38-year-old native of Wellington, New Zealand, has spent her life developing the craft of knitting into an art.

Her designs have attracted celebrity clients, including actress Phylicia Rashad, "Good Morning America" anchor Joan Lunden, the crown prince of Thailand and the queen of Spain.

Most of the sweaters at her shop start at about $95 for a basic wool crew-neck, and go as high as $1,000 for a full-length sweater coat, hand-knitted from mohair.

Her new book lets home knitters craft colorful sweaters from Ms. Andersen's original artistic designs. Most of the sweaters can be knitted during a weekend, Ms. Andersen says.

"The patterns are very easy to knit, and the sweaters are machine washable," she said. "We designed the book to be economical."

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