Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Vogue Knitting's Enchanted Forest Cardigan

Twenty years ago Vogue Knitting published a DKNY pattern for an oversized, tree motif cardigan with set-in sleeves and ribbed polo collar in their tenth anniversary Fall 1992 issue. When, in their Spring/Summer 1993 issue, VK ran a picture of four of their editors (including the editor-in-chief) proudly standing arm-in-arm in the Enchanted Forest cardigans they'd made themselves, it was only the first indication of just how popular this sweater pattern would prove to be.

Since 1992 Vogue Knitting has reprinted the pattern in three of their books (among them the 2002 edition of Vogue Knitting's The Ultimate Knitting Book) and in the Fall 2007 issue of their magazine, which was also their 25th anniversary issue. As of this writing, there are 81 Ravelry members who have knitted this sweater or who are knitting it. It's also in 113 queues and has its own discussion group on the forums. That's a lot of interest in a twenty-year-old pattern, especially when it is a relatively complex, time-intensive project.

What is it about this sweater that it should have such enduring popularity? For starters, it's eminently practical. It's a simple, classic pattern, yet with enough detail and polish that it's distinctive, and it looks ever so warm and comfortable, as though it were just waiting to be slipped on. It could be worn almost anywhere and for any purpose: running errands, at work, hiking in the woods, or raking leaves in the yard. Notice that my list of where to where this sweater doesn't include "while sitting at the computer and browsing eBay" or "while watching Game of Thrones or The Good Wife". This sweater's design has such an organic feel and such flow to it that it almost promises you that you're going to go outside and reconnect with nature every time you put it on. Almost all the people who make it choose neutral, natural colours: cream, taupe, brown, rust, olive, or soft gray-blues and gray-greens. And it doesn't hurt that the pattern has a beautiful and evocative name. I hope it's not just personal bias that makes me say so — my fourth grade reader contained a story called "The Enchanted Forest", and almost all I can remember of it besides the title was that it was magical and I loved it.

I haven't made an Enchanted Forest sweater for myself, because it always has seemed like a mature woman's sweater to me, and I am not *quite* there yet. But I know I will knit it in the next five years or so, and that once I have it, I'll keep wearing it until wear it out. I've mentally planned it already. I'll make it much less oversized. Twenty-six inches long is a dress on me. Fifty-eight inches through the chest is enormous, and especially when combined with those dropped shoulders, would make me look and feel like a linebacker. I may also make the collar notched rather than polo. But I will use a soft, neutral colour, I will not change the forest motif, and the entire time I'm working on it I'll be imagining myself in it, always in an outdoor setting, and always with crisp golden fall leaves somewhere in the picture.

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