Friday, 30 November 2012

Remember All Those Times an Earring Got Caught on Your Sweater?

When I made an earring holder some time ago, I used a piece of screening from the roll I keep around for repairing window screens, and I was happy with that, but I must admit these look really good. They won't take much time or money to make. If you knit, you probably already have an extra ball of yarn lying around that you can use, and possibly also a spare picture frame. If you feel the need of technical guidance, there's a free pattern available on Ravelry.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Family that Struggles with Abject Self-Hatred, Robs Convenience Stores, Bakes Pies, and Tries to Destroy One Another's Life Work Together, Stays Together

There are so many things wrong with these patterns and with the staging of this photo that I hardly know where to start, but do you want to know what I find MOST disturbing about this knitting booklet? That it was written by Meg Swansen. That's right, Meg Swansen: daughter of master knitter and knitting designer Elizabeth Zimmermann; renowned designer, author and knitting teacher; long-time columnist in Vogue Knitting; owner of Schoolhouse Press, a well-known publishing company specializing in knitting books; and administrator of a knitting camp in Wisconsin.

Perhaps this booklet was written during a rebellious phase, when Swansen got into dropping acid and said, "All right, Mother, I'll show you. I will knit, but only for the purpose of destroying knitting."

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Knitting Goes Virtual

Funny, but guess what, there really IS an knitting Wii, called Kniittiing. To me the whole point of knitting is to have an actual, useful item to show in return for the time investment and RSIs. But of course we all have our own interests, tastes, and goals. Different strokes and stitchwork, and all that.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Knitter's Magazine Issue 109: A Review

When I first saw that Knitter's Magazine had a done a skirt issue, I was unenthusiastic. I had a vision of knitted skirts as they were in the eighties: shapeless and baggy plain stockinette stitch affairs that are bordered with a few rows of rib at the bottom to keep the edges from curling. But as I cruised through the preview pictures, I was more than happy to find that the skirts in this issue were not at all what I expected. These skirts are beautifully shaped and textured and I love almost all of them. And as Knitter's Magazine's editor points out, a skirt can often take less time to knit and assemble than a sweater. So now I'm thinking there is a dearth of knitted skirt patterns out there, and wondering why. Perhaps we've been in a bit of a sweater/upper body rut and needed a knitting magazine to show us the way. More skirt patterns, please! I remain unconvinced as to the virtues of knitted trousers (I'm picturing major bagging and sagging in the worst possible places), but if Knitter's Magazine wants to do a pants issue next, I'm game to review it.

A houndstooth pencil skirt. This is one wearable item. It'll look good on most women and go with all the basics in their closets. Look at how polished this model looks in the skirt, a basic turtleneck, a pair of good shoes and just one piece of jewelry. She can go practically anywhere in that outfit and look right.

I'm a little less enthusiastic about this one, though I still like it. Nice cable detailing, and the classic A-line shape is good. I think maybe it just wasn't so well styled as the previous skirt. I would have put a different-coloured top with this, such as a cream, and not tucked it in at the waist.

A textured, baggy... pinafore. Worn over a sweater. Oh dear. I must admit, great as the skirts mostly are in this issue, the sweaters do leave something to be desired. Perhaps the editors were too focused on the skirts to make sure the sweaters were up to par. Though they put this one on the cover. Even a professionally styled model can't quite pull this one off, and it would make an ordinary-looking woman look like a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of seven who's given up even trying to fix up a little when she leaves the house and just wears her dreary work apron everywhere.

Love the fair isle border on this, and the non-traditional colour scheme makes it look fresh. This skirt wouldn't look half so interesting in more traditional fair isle colours. I don't think I'd want to wear these colours in winter, but I'd aim for a similarly off-beat colourway.

I'm not liking this one very much. That ribbed upper panel around the hips is not terribly flattering. I think the designer was trying to avoid putting that line of gathered fullness at the waist, which would have looked much worse, but gradual increases would have accomplished that and looked better than this.

This one isn't successful either. I love the interesting lines and the interesting stitchwork, but you can see through this model's white top that this skirt is so bulky around the waist and hips that it's creating major bulges. Knitted skirts need to lie flat and smooth around the waist and pick up whatever width and texture they're going to have somewhere south of the hips.

This wrap looks like it was slapped together out of some remnant in the designer's workroom in ten minutes to fulfill a promised delivery. (The top seems to be a pattern from the previous issue.) And the picture looks pretty good (the colours are beautiful together), but I'm not convinced that this would work so well on an ordinary-looking woman in real life. There's a reason we aren't all wearing clothes that have been whipped up in ten minutes.

I'm actually not crazy about this one. It looks like it would be thick and bulky, and in the picture of the model it looks for all the world like a bad polyester leisure suit material from the seventies. I think maybe it's the colour that's bothering me. I love turquoise but this one is a little glaring.

I like this one. It's both classic and sharp.

A shapeless child's jumper knitted in the kind of subtle, off-beat yarn and colourway that's not going to appeal to a child. Er, no.

This is another of those "overwhelmed homeschooling mother of seven" tops. Moreover the close up of the yarn makes it look like knitted dryer lint.


Not a bad evening top, or use of a pretty novelty yarn. I'm not a fan of these extra-long tops or of the halter style, but that's probably just because I can't wear them myself.

This photo doesn't give us a very good look at this one, and my suspicion is that it's because it wouldn't look so good full on. The transition from the brown to the green is really choppy and makes it look a bit like a botched dye job. A crisper demarcation line would have looked sharper and more graphic.

I like this pretty self-striping yarn, but it's not used to advantage here. The skirt looks pieced together rather than designed. Also I see some unflattering bulges and ripples at the waistline.

Love this one! That bulrush-effect design is simple yet so effective.

Ooooh, pretty. Looks like the perfect outfit for summer evenings. Will require a slip though. I see the model has one on.

I'm normally not a fan of tiered flounce skirts, but I must admit this one's working, probably because it's draping so well. Even the tulle underskirt is cute.

Now this is how you keep a skirt becomingly fitted at the top and stylishly flared at the bottom: by making the stitch increases organic to the design.

Of course Knitter's Magazine has upped the ante for knitting magazines preview photos by adding a background swatch so you can really see the texture. And when looking at this one, I have to repress the urge to scratch myself. I have my doubts about how good this yarn would feel against the skin. But never mind that, as it might feel okay. This design is.... passable. Not great, but not bad either. I'm looking at the way the detailing on the sleeve lines up perfectly with the hem. It looks like it was done on purpose, but I don't think it's working. Why put that one long horizontal line at the hip of all places? The sleeves are definitely too long on the model, and shortening them to the wrist, or even going to an elbow or cap sleeve length, while keeping the tiered edgings, would break up that line and give the sweater a much-needed lift.

This skirt is kind of cute, but that front wrap has me worried. I have a skirt cut like that and it takes concerted effort on my part to avoid any Albert Flasher moments when I'm wearing it. But then it's a lightweight fabric, not a knit. If I were to make this, I think I'd take some extra steps to ssafeguard my virtue, such as making the under panel a little wider or adding some fastenings.

This is okay. I notice all these skirts are textured or have intarsia. They have to be if they're going to hold their shape.

Halters over turtlenecks? I hope that's not a trend, because it looks ridiculous and frumpy. I suppose this was styled that way because you'd need something under that lacy top and it's difficult to put anything under a halter. I'd say anyone who made this would probably have to either line it or change the pattern to be less lacy to make it wearable. And this halter should really be more fitted, period. Long sloppy tops don't do anyone any favours.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Live and Let Knit

If you love vintage knitting and crochet patterns, you might like to check out Re Knitting, the blog of a retired West Yorkshire woman named Barbara who for the past two years has been helping to sort and catalogue the U.K. Knitting and Crochet Guild’s collection of magazines, pattern booklets, pattern leaflets and other publications. Barbara has posted about some of her finds among this collection, which are sometimes drool-worthy, sometimes hilarious, and always interesting. She’s come across such evocative knitting artifacts as: patterns for delicately crocheted WWI-era patriotic tea cosies and milk jug covers; the WWII-era official guide to knitting for the army; instructions for crocheting your own 1920's cloché out of paper; patterns for 1930’s bathing suits, a pattern for very mod Mary Quant sweater dresses; patterns for sweaters commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s 1977 Jubilee celebration; and patterns documenting Roger Moore's pre-James Bond career as a knitwear model.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Knit n' Style February 2013: A Review

Of all the knitting magazines I know of (and I'm going to be following about fourteen of them for this blog), Knit n' Style is probably the one with the most down-market feel. I have a couple of issues I bought back in the nineties and I've looked at it on the news stands occasionally since then, and its patterns have generally looked like they were knitted by the staff's grandmas out of whatever yarn was in the clearance bin at Zellers. That's not to say they don't publish some first-rate patterns, because they do, but many of their offerings look tacky and ten or fifteen years out of date at the time of publication.

But let's have a look at their February 2013 issue. And while I'm on the subject, Knit n' Style, you might consider knitting naming your issues by season as the other knitting magazines do. That way your readers won't be wondering if they've missed the November, December, and January issues.

And here we have a really ugly pair of socks. It's the yarn choice that's killing them, because the pattern is okay.

This sweater looks almost aggressively dated, like it was made to be worn as a costume piece in a New Kids on the Block biopic. I envision it being worn by the older and well-meaning but bossy sister of one of the New Kids in a scene set in 1990, in which she makes a big, heartfelt speech to said New Kid about some aspect of his behaviour, such as the trashing of hotel rooms. Said speech may or may not include the words, "You're hurting Mom and Dad!"

Knit n' Style chose this sweater for their cover, and I don't know why, because there are better patterns in this issue. You'd have to keep this sweater belted while you were wearing it because otherwise the front would sag open very unattractively. The front should have been constructed to hold its shape. And I don't know why the designer put three-quarter length sleeves on a jacket that looks like it's meant for outdoor wear.

This sweater doesn't sit attractively on or do any favours for the figure of an elaborately posed professional model, which doesn't bode well for what it will do to an average-looking woman who's going to want to just walk around, sit down, and generally live her life in it.

Nice classic cardigan in a decent yarn. Though the sample knitter didn't pick up enough stitches for the buttonhole and button bands, which has resulted in the bands pulling up at the bottom. And the sleeves are too long for the model.

Honestly this just looks like project made in Home Ec, the real purpose of which was to provide the maker with a learning experience rather than to produce something attractive and flattering to wear. And the lesson learned here was probably that sack-like, horizontally striped vests are neither flattering nor stylish.

Hmm. Well, I actually like this subtle self-striping yarn, and the pattern is okay, but I don't think this was the right yarn choice for this sweater. A yarn with subtle flecks of colour would have worked better, adding a little visual interest without adding a competing theme. Also, the sleeves are too long for the model again. Pay attention to fit, Knit n' Style. It's one of the things that makes you look bush league.

This isn't bad. I like it a lot better than a similar, "buttoned just at the top" cardigan that appeared in the Interweave Knits Winter 2012 issue. It's better shaped and sits better and will be far more flattering to any woman.

I like this one. The little heart cabled panel in the front is a nice detail that makes this otherwise classic pattern look somewhat distinctive and interesting. Although the sleeves are, alas, too short.

In the New Kids on the Block biopic scene mentioned above, the New Kid will be wearing this sweater during his sister's lecture. I really don't like the yarn choices here. I don't think many men would want to wear this sweater as it's made. A more subtle combination might have worked better, such as replacing the variegated red/yellow yarn with a darker shade of gray.

This is another sweater that says "1990" to me rather than looking contemporary. Though of course, colour-blocking is back in. I'll give this one a pass. My guess is a lot of men would quite happily wear it.

A classic. Of course you already have a pattern very much like this in your collection.

Here we have a totally undistinguished pattern, the only notable feature of which is that it was knitted out of faux fur yarn that will make you look and feel like a stuffed animal. Novelty yarns aren't, paradoxically, a shortcut to making knitwear design look novel. Novelty yarns are actually a challenge to work with. They tend to look cheap and tacky and it takes a lot of talent and skill to incorporate them into a design so they don't degrade the overall look. Which hasn't happened in this instance.

I like this one. The design could use a little tweaking though. That shawl collar would look a lot better if were fuller, and the button band isn't quite long enough and is pulling the cable bands slightly upwards when they ought to lie perfectly horizontal across the model's chest. And again with the too-long sleeves.

Is the budget for Knit n' Style so tight that they had to resort to ravelling out a seventies' era afghan to get yarn for this item? Because I don't see any other reason why anyone would use a hideous yarn like this. And it's a shame too, because I do quite like the style of this little jacket. I'm not usually a fan of the three-quarter sleeve or cardigan front pieces that aren't designed to meet in the front, but here they totally work together. Good collar and interesting fastenings too.

I very much like this one. Of course, it's designed by Gayle Bunn, who seems to be the only "name" designer on the roster for this issue. You can really see Bunn's skill here in the details: the collar sits right; the pattern is consistently horizontal over the entire sweater; the button bands sit properly; and — Hurrah! — the sleeves are the right length. This sweater, or the heart-cabled sweater, would have been a much better choice for the cover. My only nitpick is that I'm not crazy about the colourway of a warm green alongside gray and white. Warm and cold shades almost never work well together. Replacing the green with a burgundy or red or blue would have made this design pop.

The combination of a pastel pink colour and the delicate design make this woman look like she wrapped a baby blanket around her neck. If you want to make this cowl pattern and especially if it's to be worn with a black leather jacket, choose a bolder or more sophisticated colour and textured yarn. If you want to make a pastel cowl, choose a less delicate pattern.

Cute newsboy cap.

I'm not crazy about this, but it's probably a matter of personal preference than anything else, because there's nothing objectively wrong with either the yarn choice or the design.

This bag reminds me for all the world of the big cooking pot my grandmother used to have. That's not to say there's anything wrong with it, though I would choose another yarn for it, because... cooking pot. I am skeptical about how well the bag would hold any significant weight without stretching out and sagging (it looks as though it were stuffed with tissue paper here), but then you have that concern with any knitted bag.

Another ruffle scarf that is fine though it doesn't appeal all that much to me personally. Red Heart has been used for this design as it has for many in this issue. I'm wondering if there's some sort of kick back arrangement between Red Heart and Knit n' Style.

This design is named "Quick Fashion Collar". Have you ever noticed that things with the word "fashion" in their names tend to be not at all fashionable? It was common practice between 1920 to 1960 or so for people to knit detachable collars that could be fastened to their sweaters. And it made some sense because you could freshen up a basic sweater by giving them different looks, and launder the collars separately. But then in the detachable collar era they always looked organic to the sweater and they were beautifully and skilfully made. This collar looks like an amateurish, pointless add-on. Even the model looks pained.

A hooded scarf. I've seen combined hood scarfs before, and they usually look cheesy, but I do like this one. It just looks like the scarf is skilfully wrapped and draped around the model's head. It helps that the scarf is beautifully cabled and done in what looks like a terrific quality silk yarn in a lovely colour.

I don't care for this scarf. I think it's the colourway that is so off-putting. The graphic quality of the design would look better with sharper colour choices.