Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Jane Austen Knits, Fall 2012: A Review

Today I offer a review of yet another of Interweave's publications, the latest of the Jane Austen Knits magazines, which to date has had three issues. Can I just say here that I've never quite gotten the Jane Austen cult? I mean, I own a Jane Austen omnibus containing all seven of her novels, and I've read it straight through and enjoyed it, but why such a level of interest in her that P.D. James is writing fan fiction about Pemberley and there's an entire knitting periodical devoted to Jane Austen-inspired designs? I love Edith Wharton and consider her a better and more interesting writer than Austen and you don't see anyone designing a Madame Olenska tiny green monkey muff or Lily Bart suicide negligee. Do I have a point here or am I just disgruntled that no Regency style spencer or empire-waisted anything will ever be other than horribly unflattering on me?

However, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's have a look at the Jane Austen Knits, Fall 2012 issue.

This is called a Sensible Shawl pattern. It's sensible all right. This is the Plain Jane of knitted shawls. However, it's not ungracefully shaped, it will stay in place and keep you warm, it will knit up quickly and easily, and you can probably find a way to make it work over some of your 2013 outfits. Not every pattern needs to be, or should be, a marvel of design.

The lacings on these Longbourn mitts are going to catch on everything. However, if you're wearing them in the manner in which you probably will (i.e., paired with a warm coat as outdoor wear for making your way from place to place), that probably won't be too much of a problem.

This Delaford wrap is very pretty, although so is every other lace shawl pattern.

This is the Walking to Meryton Bonnet. It's a bit of a stretch to call this a bonnet. I'd call it a tuque, and it's attractive enough for a tuque, if not quite what I might wear if I were hoping to entice some dashing military officer.

This Maiden Fair Blouse, while it has a certain conceptual appeal, is not exactly flattering. It's made this professional model look dumpy. If you want to make this, you'll need to play with the proportions and details. Make the lace section shorter and the stockinette stitch section longer — the empire waist on empire styles should always fall below a woman's bustline. Make the entire top a little longer. Figure out a way to eliminate the hip-widening ruffle on the bottom. Or just find another empire-waisted pattern for a top that already is flattering, and make it instead.

I don't see the connection between these Mistress of Donwell Abbey Socks and anything Jane Austen ever wrote. However, they are very well-designed socks. Love the gusset-like detail on the side and the interesting cables on the ankles.

Either these Prettyish Wilderness Socks look a little more Regency costume with their ladylike ruffles and toe details, or the whole tenuous literary reference thing is getting to me. Anyway, they are cute socks.

This little drawstring Sweetheart Bag is actually very pleasing. I'm thinking it could be made into an evening bag if it were done in some evening appropriate yarn and colours, such as a metallic.

I'm not generally a fan of the single button vest or cardigan, but I must admit this Emma's Overdress pattern is well-shaped in front and consequently quite flattering and wearable. I can see it working over a dress or over a t-shirt and jeans.

This Kellylynch Tunic is pretty and distinctive, though not every woman could wear it. The empire-waisted style is not for well-endowed women as it makes them look frumpy and dumpy.

The bolero/spencer jacket usually doesn't work on grown women, but it almost always looks adorable on little girls. This little Regency Bolero would be a nice finishing touch and add a little warmth to a simple child's dress.

Bonnet and Wristlets for Baby Emma. Bonnets look very quaint these days, but in a way that still works. And they're practical, as they stay in place and shield little heads with only the peach fuzz beginnings of hair from the hot sun or the cold. But the wristlets seem totally pointless to me.

Lydia's Tunic is a simple little girl's dress with some smart touches, such as the front pleat and bottom stripe. I don't see that it's at all Regency style, but never mind. The photo was unfortunately staged as, with this background, that taupe-coloured band around the skirt makes the skirt look like it has one long rip in it.

I do quite like this Henry Tilney's Vest and can easily imagine how sharp this waistcoat might look under the right suit, but can't imagine getting any of the men I would conceivably knit it for to wear it. If you want to knit this for a man of your acquaintance, get his okay before you invest in the yarn and do all that work.

Love these Tilney Socks. There's nothing like good design. It always amazes me that something so simple as, in this case, a ribbed pair of socks, can look so very sharp.

Mr. Knightley's Tea Cozy doesn't have a Regency air. It has a grandmotherly air. And that hideous "fecal matter and urine" colourway isn't helping matters.

I must admit this Hussars Spencer is something smart and different. I don't know why the stylist put it over a pink dress, though. It'll work over a turtleneck or t-shirt and jeans, or a plain shift dress. Make sure you get the sleeves the right length, and I'd make the front pieces big enough that they meet across the chest.

Erm. So here we have... a bucket-shaped Kentish Toque with random, shapeless embellishments and senseless colour scheme. I don't even know what to say about this hat. It's just sort of sitting there in front of me, existing, despite all the reasons it shouldn't be.

Love these Betwixt and Between Gloves. You can see they've been designed with great care and attention to detail. They even have buttons. And fingers.

When I looked casually at the picture of this Biedermier Stole in thumbnail size, I thought it was prettily embellished with embroidery and that I was going to like it. But now that I've looked at it more closely, I can't say I care all that much for it. The knitted-in variegated yarns just look cheesy and afghan-like. I think it's that yellow green yarn in particular that isn't working with the ashes-of-roses main colour. If you want to make this item, I'd replace the yellow-green yarn with a burgundy, or even just omit it all together and use some of the rose colour instead.

Strikingly detailed and pretty embellished Soutache Spencer, though again I would do a little tweaking. I'd make the sweater a standard length instead of cropped, and play with the colourway, making the main colour a paler green or rose colour or at least a crisp ivory or white instead of that rather drab wheat-like colour.

I like several things about Elinor's Day Coat: the colourway, the collar and cuffs, the texture, but I hate the way the front gapes open from that single button fastening. It just looks both unfinished and too small. Perhaps Elinor simply got too caught up in Marianne's drama to notice that her coat wasn't all it should be.

A pair of very simple, sensible Northanger Abbey Mittens. Long wrists like that are such a good idea when one wants to be warm because they ensure there is no bare wrist between mitten and coat cuff. Also, when one is prying into a cupboard that isn't one's own, one won't leave fingerprints.

This Fanny's Chemisette really isn't going to look attractive or flattering on anyone. It's cropped, it gapes in front, and it just looks bulky and awkward. I was going to try to suggest some tweaks as I usually do, but I soon realized that by the time this thing is redesigned to fix its flaws, it'll be a completely different design.

This Misses Bertram Wrap isn't a bad little shoulder shawl. It will stay in place, and it could actually be useful when you just want a pretty little something to throw over a summer dress on a cool evening.

The Misses Price Wrap won't work on every figure, but it will look pretty on women who have the build for it and the right pieces to go under it. I'd suggest a simple summer dress.

This pattern is called the Austensible Capelet. I'd have called it the Actual Bedskirt. Unless you really are the type of person who can throw any bizarre outfit on and make it work, I'd pass on this one.

Very attractive little Netherfield Evening Bag. It could work for day or evening depending on the materials used.

When I glanced at the thumbnail photo of this Pleated Neck Scarf, it looked for all the world like the model had a knitted fish skeleton wrapped around her neck. Looked at more carefully at a higher resolution, it's an interestingly and attractively textured scarf. I'd make it longer and skip the crocheted flower detail though, as it just looks a little awkward at this length.

Beautiful ruffled lace Lady Russell Shawl.

This Filet Camisette is filet crochet rather than knitted, but this chemise is lovely and of all these patterns will probably make you feel the most like an erudite Jane Austen heroine who is more than capable of attracting the much sought-after neighbourhood bachelor with her beauty and elegance of mind.


  1. Those Jane Austen magazines are too expensive to not want to knit half of the offerings. I love your reviews, by the way!

  2. I needed a good laugh this morning and you provided me with it, thankyou.

  3. Thanks for the honest review. I was thinking of ordering this with my merino wool order but I don't think I'll bother now. I hate having to buy magazines 'blind' I think you should be able to see exactly what your buying.

  4. Oh this is great! When I looked through the magazine, I thought I was fashion challenged for thinking some of these things were hideous or impractical, but alas, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who thinks so!

  5. Wow I bought the newer Jane Austen Knits magazine. I'm surprised this one is lacking so much! I also agree with you that Edith Wharton is an excellent author and often forgotten. I think she hasn't reached the status of Jane Austen because most of her novels don't have the same type of endings, although they are more realistic endings. She has some lighter short stories. I recommend "Xingu" if you haven't read it yet :)