Behind every fanboy or girl are their parents. This is just biological fact. However, periodically, behind a great fanboy or girl is a fanparent. Sometimes the fanparent is themselves is a fan: decorating the nursery in Federation red, screaming “It’s a pap!” at a startled obstetrician and ensuring that 99% of the people on Junior’s trick-or-treat route will have to ask what a Jaffa is. Other times, the fanparents are not fans: suffering through hour after hour of Pokemon discourse, secretly researching if the “browncoats” are a cult and wondering at what point their offspring’s life has veered sharply off the beaten path and into some confusing and oft hilarious foreign planet. Whether a fanparent is joyfully embracing fandom or carefully prodding it with a stick, they are willing to make the effort. They may or may not have been fans of the things we obsessed with, but they were always fans of us.
It is in the finest tradition of fanparents that “The Doctor Who Pattern Book” by Joy Gammon was created. Published in 1984, this book encompasses 24 seasons of Doctor Who and 6 incarnations of the Doctor. This was the BBC and the authoress’ gift to the parents of children that deeply deeply desired a stuffed Cybermat. The patterns throughout the book range from the truly epic (such as the awesome TARDIS Sleeping Bag), to the rather unfortunate (such as the Neon Who-logo Jumper).
The patterns in the book only range officially into the adult category with some sweaters, otherwise this book is clearly designed to help parents make gifts for the adorable moppet in their life who needs a Yeti. Like the original Doctor Who series, “The Doctor Who Pattern Book” is a home-grown effort. Family and friends dutifully don knitted jumpers while the background scenery ranges from badly superimposed starscapes to a gray wall with paper plates glued to it (possibly taken from an actual Doctor Who set.)
In terms of desirableness to today’s Doctor Who fans, some of the projects in the book suffer from a late 1970’s aesthetic. In particular, the “Time Lords in Action” patterns; knitted costumes of Doctors 1-6, plus a Master to give all of them someone to harass. The pattern also requires several late 70’s-early 80’s “Action Man” figures, (a squat British action figure with removable clothes, apparently) so I recommend putting the costumes on some X-men figures or GI Joes and let the kids experience their first fandom crossover.
Most of the patterns however, would still be very well received by retro Who fans, particularly the charming sewn K-9 shoulder bag (there is also a knitted K-9 pattern, for those who abhor sewing machines) and the seminal Fourth Doctor scarf, which is how Doctor Who tricks you into knitting for the next 15 years. For more modern Who fans, there’s the aforementioned TARDIS sleeping bag (sure to be a conversation piece at you or your child’s next sleepover), a TARDIS organizer and a TARDIS floor cushion, for people who need infinite amounts of space to hold their tush.
The book is also great fun to read, both for its retro appeal and its charming asides (“The Master has always been bearded and the beard here was made by teasing out tiny pieces of dark yarn and gluing them on [an Action Man figure]. This can be very difficult to remove, so only do it if you want a permanently hirsute Action Man!”). Joy Gammon walks us through each project with a wealth of background information and enthusiasm. Was Joy Gammon herself a fan of Doctor Who? While Google couldn’t find much information on her, she was a British crafter of some renown, and created several character-based craft books, including Garfield, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a uniquely British phenomena called Postman Pat. It is possible that the BBC sent her all the show information and as she planned patterns for Cybermats she could only wonder at what on earth this stupid-looking triops was supposed to be. In this book, however, I look to the enthusiastic faces of the child models Walter, Jack and Emily, to whom Ms. Gammon dedicated the book. Regardless of whether Ms. Gammon was the head of the Who fanclub or could barely tell a Axon from an Auton, these are the faces of kids who know they’ve got it good.
It’s clear that almost every pattern in the book was designed to be delivered right into a child’s delighted hands. The Doctor Who pattern book is a book made for giving. So to those who are interested, the book can be found on Ebay or Amazon. Go ahead, buy it and whip up something for that special fan in your life, be they a sibling, best friend, child, significant other or yet another gift-package mailed to David Tennent. Just be sure to make a little something for your fanparent. They gave you the gift of support, the least you can do is repay that with a sweater with Colin Baker’s face on it.