Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Rowan Knitting and Crochet Magazine 52: A Review, Part 1

Rowan publishes a magazine twice a year, and each magazine has over 50 patterns in it. I don't think many people who are reading this blog will want to read a post containing over fifty pattern reviews in one sitting, and God knows I don't want to write one. This means I'll be splitting my Rowan pattern reviews into at least two parts.

So let's have a look at the first half of Rowan's Issue No. 52. Amazingly, a number of these patterns are available as a free download to registered users of Rowan's website.

I know I've complained before about the lack of imagination in men's knitwear, but I'm not sure we need to change that by coming up with the kind of thing Cliff Huxtable would wear to teach his kids Important Life Lessons in some highly contrived way. If you want to make this argyle and fair isle cardigan for a man (and you aren't the man), make sure you get his approval before you get started.

This cabled pullover is a classic, but make sure you're prepared to live with the way it will bulk you up. This model is probably very tall and slim, and it's doing her no favours. Also make sure you get the sleeves the right length.

This appears to be the female version of the argyle and fair isle cardigan that appears above. It is working better in terms of visual pattern than the man's version, probably because it's far less busy, and I like the touch of an extra colour at wrist and hem. However, the shape of this sweater is terribly unflattering, even on a professional model. If you like the concept of this sweater, I'd recommend that you take the colourwork and recreate it in a standard-fitting cardigan.

I know the use of a different cable pattern and a wide ribbed band used on the one side of this cardigan are supposed to look designed and edgy, but they just look mismatched. Also, the early nineties-like boxy, cropped shape of this cardigan is not going to flatter many women. There's a reason that shape hasn't been back in since the nineties.

And speaking of trends that shouldn't come back, here's a pair of fair isle legwarmers. My advice concerning these is that you don't knit them in this colour scheme (did the sample knitter make them in the dark?), and that you only wear them for occasions on which you actually need to keep your legs warm, such as when cross-country skiing.

I feel like I need more information before I can pass judgment on this sweater, such what it looks like when it isn't bunched up in front, or whether it will button up properly in front when it isn't too small. There doesn't appear to be any buttons on the cardigan fronts at the bottom. I've seen this style on sweaters lately, where the bottom three inches or so of the cardigan fronts shear away from each other at the bottom instead of continuing to button all the way down, and it's not a design touch that works all that well. It just makes the cardigan look like it's too small to button properly.

This felted bag is nice looking, though I think I'd find the shape a little bulgy and awkward. This may just be personal preference though; lots of women do carry this style of bag.

This is another item I'm going to have to classify as "not going to be flattering". You're going to have to keep this sweater belted or it's going to sag open in a very unattractive way. And Rowan, what's with the dropped shoulders? I'm five women's sweater patterns into this issue, and this is the fourth with dropped shoulders. It's just not a flattering look on any woman, and it tends to look sloppy.

I'm just not crazy about the colour-blocking detail on this otherwise nice sweater at all. It looks too much like a bib. I'd extend the colour blocked section all the way down the front, and keep the difference between the two yarns subtle.

I genuinely like both the colour and the style of this fair isle cardigan. It's certainly nothing new, but it's the kind of sweater almost any traditional/preppy-type man could wear if it was done in a well-chosen blend of his favourite colours.

This pullover is, of course, a Kaffe Fassett. I think I'd know a Kaffe Fassett design if I met it in the dark. The umpteen colours are the first giveaway of course, and the painterly rather than graphic feel to the design. The interwoven ribbons at the bottom and above the cuff are a recurring motif of Fassett's. That said, I've made his designs a few times and I always end up simplifying them to preserve my sanity and save money on the project. In this one I'd skip the interwoven ribbons and just use the flag motif, and just use maybe four or five colours in the flag pattern instead of however many he has used here.

This throw is another Kaffe Fassett design, and looking at it I find myself thinking that, as varied as his sweater patterns are, perhaps he has been restraining himself in terms of his sweater designs after all. I'd love to know how many times this pattern gets made — my guess is, "not many". Besides the fact that it would take you a year or more to knit, it's so busy and modern a piece that you'd need one of those spare, modern-style décors to put it in, and people who decorate that way don't tend to knit much.

I'm not liking this short-sleeved pullover. It's too eighties in a way that just looks dated to me, and I don't care for the colour scheme. Making this sweater in harmonizing shades of the same colour would improve it a lot.

I thought I was going to like this tank top, and then I got a closer look. I think it's the colour scheme that's so unappealing, because that tan and gray are a dreary combination. Otherwise it's not a bad design at all, and likely to be a useful, flattering piece for many women.

The description for this shawl says it's a beginner pattern. It certainly is. It looks for all the world like a nondescript piece of first knitting stapled together and thrown over the model's head. If you're a beginner knitter, take a pass on this pattern and keep looking for piece you can really be proud of when you've put all that work into it. Astoundingly, this was NOT one of the free download patterns while the Kaffe Fassett patterns were. Don't ask me — I just post about the things that knitting magazines do.

The colour block design on this sweater is beautifully done (this is one of those sweaters that many knitters who make it won't want to use any other yarn or shades but the ones specified by the designer), but dislike the fit. Sloppy, oversized sweaters just don't flatter anyone. I'm not sure that the longer back hem adds anything at all. If you want to make this sweater, make it in a easy and loose but not sloppy fit, without the dropped shoulders and longer back hem. It'll do a lot more for the woman who wears it.

I wouldn't normally have included a sweater as generic as this, but I did want to point out the things that set this sweater apart: the texture, raglan sleeves, funnel neck, and easy but not sloppy fit. The care that's been taken in construction gives this basic design a very finished look. Knit this sweater in your favourite colour and you'll get more wear and real pleasure out of it than three or four intricately patterned and eye-catching sweaters.

This little cardigan is one of those sweaters that look so cute on the model that many women would be enticed into making it for themselves. And it is a cute pattern with a well-designed collar and interesting texture, but beware. This cardigan is a cropped, boxy shape, which is not going to be flattering on most women, and the elbow-length sleeves will draw the eye to the wearer's midsection — do you want people looking at your midsection? If you want to make this pattern, you may want to make it in a longer, slightly more fitted, shaped style, and to choose a different sleeve-length.

Really cute popcorn mini-cardigan. Mini-cardigans are not for everyone, but then no design is.

I actually quite like this dress. When considering whether to make it, do keep in mind that the length of your neck and the sweater's neck must correlate (so shorten it if your neck is short). Also this mesh pattern will make it necessary for you to wear something under this dress — see how the model's skin is showing at her shoulders? If the idea of wearing a second layer under a wool dress makes you want to faint, just substitute the mesh for another, more opaque stitch.

Hooo boy. A boxy mini-cardigan that's going to make your arms look they're encased in upholstered Slinkys. It's fun in its way, but it's not going to becoming to most women. Notice how this model is having to adopt a rather tortured pose to make the sweater hang in a way that's at all attractive.

Another nice if rather generic turtleneck sweater. I don't know why Rowan's designers are throwing principles of fit and flattery to the wind when it comes to the more innovative patterns.

I don't think I need to warn you about what this sweater will do to your figure given what it's doing to this poor model's.

Nice detail on this cardigan, and I like it that the designer tried to do something different with the neckline, but I have serious reservations about how this going to work on most women's figures, i.e., anyone without very small and widely spaced breasts. Because you know, most of us sport some curves on our chests that these sweater fronts are going to detour around and it's not going to be pretty. This model is either flat or small-breasted as most models are, and underneath her sweater her upper body appears to be upholstered in such a way to suppress what she does have. Rowan, show me this cardigan working on a woman, B-cup or larger, who's just wearing a t-shirt underneath this sweater, and I might be able to give it a more enthusiastic appraisal.

There's a sweater further up in this post that looks a good bit like this one: a textured turtleneck in two shades of gray with colour blocking detail. Rowan really should have gone with two different colourways to make them look more distinctive. But about this sweater. This colour blocking may not look so much like a bib, which is an improvement, but it still isn't quite working. Colour blocking should look intentional and not like you ran short of yarn in the right colour. I'd have thrown in some more colour blocking, such as doing the cuffs in the darker gray, or maybe doing bands on the sleeves or something.

I like this pullover on the whole (and especially love the lattice pattern), though I do have my concerns about the neck. It appears to be stuffed full of a scarf, which makes me suspicious of how it sits when there's just a man's neck in it. My guess is "limply".

Why does Rowan have such a fetish for longer back hems? Is it supposed to echo the too long sleeves or something? I can't see the attraction at all. It just looks stretched out. If you want to make this pullover (which has some good points, such as the overall texture and raglan stockinette stitch detailing), I recommend you make it with a straight hem, and sleeves that fit.

Nice socks. Though I wish I could see what the feet look like.

The random colour blocking common in the men's patterns has now popped up in the women's sweaters. It's not working here either. It just looks too random to start knitting with another colour in the middle of a cable pattern. If you want to make this pattern, I'd skip the colour block detail and also fix the dropped shoulders.

Quite nice. Lots of men would quite happily wear this sweater.

Look for part two of the Rowan's Issue 52 pattern review tomorrow.

Update: You can see part two of this review here.


  1. See, I quite like the color block sweater (the neckline is kinder to my chest area, the sleeves are shorter which works in SoCal), but unlike everyone on Ravelry, I'd probably make it in varying shades of grey/black/white to be slightly more modern. Or just slightly more me.

  2. This is a very interesting and informative website. I have just completed a rowan cabled, hooded jacket. I was pretty mift that I had to race out and purchase 2 extra balls of yarn at around £18.00 and no, my knitting tension is not that tight. Rowan need to be aware that when they specify yarn it has to be accurate. It took me over a week to source and a kind shop advisor told me to shorten the hood in order to save yarn. The hood on this design is ridiculously large and drapes down half of the body size. Couldn't see from the front of the pic. Beautiful jacket but yarn spec, way out.