Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Something Knitted

Last week I published a post of selected bridal gown knitting patterns, and I've decided that post will be the first in a series on knitting patterns for weddings. I can't say how many posts there will be in this series, but I do have quite a few ideas in mind, so I'll just try to do one a week until I'm done. (You can see the other posts on knitting for weddings here.) This is the second post, and it features selected patterns for garters and hand-knitted bridal stockings. I'm trying to write this series of posts in such a way that they can also be of value to those who aren't planning a wedding. I've no intention of ever getting married myself, but I'd just love to knit myself a fancy pair of thigh-high stockings at some point.

Let's look at the garters first. They're a purely decorative item for most bridal outfits, and though garters are normally not an item for public display, bridal garters are commonly tossed to the male guests by the groom at the end of the wedding (as the bride's bouquet is tossed to the single female guests by the bride), with the catcher being supposed to be the next person to get married. Brides often consequently supply themselves with a second, simpler and/or less expensive bouquet and garter specifically for tossing so that they may keep the more elaborate bouquet and garter that saw actual use during the wedding. If you're knitting a garter for a wedding that will feature a garter toss, you may want to make one special garter to be worn and buy or make a simpler version for tossing.

Garters are probably one of the items a knitter might be most likely to make for a wedding, because it can be done so quickly and inexpensively. As I found when I looked for garter patterns, they are very likely to be the standard white lace with a blue ribbon threaded through it, and so be the "something blue" the bride wears for luck. I've tried to find some different styles, but even then they were pretty much all in blue and white or ivory. There's really no reason why a bride can't wear a garter made in her favourite colours or wedding colours.

The garter above is knitted of ribbon, and of course it's possible to use a variety of ribbon types or colours. The pattern is designed by Julianne Smith and is available for free.

This Angora Mohair Garter pattern appears in Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders: 101 Small Indulgences, edited by Judith Durant. I'd say this one is for a winter wedding, because if I had to wear anything angora all one hot summer day, I'd be taking it off and chucking it at someone long before the end of the wedding.

Pretty garter with a ruffle and a bow. I'd be inclined to make this one in a higher-end or more delicate fibre than is used here to give it a lacier, more lingerie-like look. This garter is designed by Deby Lake and is a free pattern.

A classic lace garter with two shades of green ribbon run through it to give it a bit of a different look. This garter was designed by Diane Willett and is a free pattern.

This garter pattern is actually a slightly altered version of the one above, and uses a single ribbon and a different fibre for a softer, more ruffled look. This garter was made by Christy Wall and is a free pattern.

Gina's Wedding Garter plays with the usual proportions and the result looks like something different. I also like the idea of adding a little charm to the garter, though you'll need to make sure whatever you add doesn't catch on the bride's dress. This pattern was designed by Lara Neel and is a free pattern.

Now let's have a look at some knitted stockings. Some of these stocking patterns won't be compatible with wearing any of the garters above, so you may have to choose which item you'd like most to wear. Fortunately you won't need to wear garters with these stockings because they're designed to stay up on their own. Some have garters built right into the pattern. This pair of lace stockings have a different view front and back. They were designed by Mari Muinonen and are available as a $5 download.

Susie's Long Stockings are one of the stocking patterns with built-in garters. This pattern was designed by Elizabeth Wolden and is available as a $6 download.

The Agnes's Silk Stocking pattern is probably the most traditional of the stocking patterns I've picked out, and I should think it would be impossible not to feel like a princess while wearing them. As long as you can keep from yelling at the caterer. These stockings were designed by Karen E. Hooten for the September/October 2011 issue of Piece Work.

These ribbed stockings would be for the more informal winter wedding and perhaps one for which one was wearing traditional Scottish dress. This pattern was designed for A Handknit Romance: 22 Vintage Designs with Lovely Details by Jennie Atkinson.

The Haapsalu Lace Socks pattern looks quite racy in black, but of course they could be made in any colour and would have a completely different effect in the traditional white or ivory. This pattern was designed by Tiina Kaarela and is available for €5.00(EUR).

The Delphyne is another lacy stocking pattern, this time less openwork than the previous. This pattern was designed by Stephanie Mason and is a $7(USD) download.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mini-Skirts and Mod Style: a Selection of Knitting Patterns from 1960-1969

This post is the seventh on my series of posts on 20th century knitting patterns (you can find the other posts in the series here) and contains a selection of ten patterns dating from 1960 to 1969. It was surprisingly difficult to find patterns for this post. The first post in this series, for 1900-1909, took more time than any post I've written for this blog because there were so few Edwardian patterns available of any description, and so few were wearable by modern standards, but the posts have gotten easier and easier to find by the decade. I assumed the post for the sixties would be a snap, especially since Mad Men, a show about a New York advertising business in the 1960s, has renewed interest in sixties style. I had no problem at all finding material for my post on Mad Men knitting projects. But as it turned out, there just weren't that many sixties-era patterns available online. The web sites I've been depending on to find patterns for previous posts in this series all have collections that end with the fifties. I don't know why. Could it be that there were just fewer patterns available from then, as crafting went into a downturn during the sixties and the seventies? Or perhaps the patterns are just generally less appealing to knitters. I know I don't generally care for sixties fashions myself; I find the styles from the first half of the decade too staid and the fashions from the second half just plain ugly. However, I kept searching until I found ten patterns that I consider presentable and here they are.

The checked man's pullover above is the first pattern, which was published in Eva Breit magazine in January 1961. And the pattern is free. The one drawback is that the pattern is in Dutch and the odds are you don't read Dutch. However, I dared to include it because Google translate does what seemed to me on a quick read through to be an amazingly good job of translating the instructions, and I think a good knitter can manage to figure out what is not a terribly complicated pattern. Again, I had quite a hard time finding patterns for this post.

This simple sleeveless top is another Eva Breit magazine pattern from its January 1961, that again is in Dutch and must be translated.

I can't get over how not-knitted this Houndstooth Jacket looks. The aim of much early sixties knitting seems to have been to make knitted garments that didn't look knitted. There was a lot of fine gauge stockinette involved. This is another Eva Breit magazine Dutch-language pattern from January 1961.

This Nordic-Style Ski Sweater originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 1963 issue of Vogue Knitting, and can now be found in Vogue Knitting Vintage Collection: Classic Knits from the 1930s-1960s.

This Natural Beauty pattern may be my favourite in the entire post. It was originally published in The Australian Women's Weekly in October 1964, and is available for free.

I love the shape of this Mohair Bag, and the fact that it's mohair, but it might be a little too large in scale for a modern woman's taste. However, it should be easy to scale it down to whatever size you wish. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in June 1965 and is available for free.

This Long Leggy Gear pattern for lace stockings appears to have been knitted in white, but I'd suggest that you knit them in another colour, such as anything but white. Grown women just can't get away with white stockings. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in March 1966 and is available for free.

This Zipper Jacket and Cap is a Patons Australia pattern from 1968, and is a free pattern. I'd advise against making that hat, but the jacket is quite sharp and mod.

The At The Park design is quite cute, though it should probably lengthened for wear today and I see it in a variegated yarn and coordinating solid colour yoke rather than in black and white. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in September 1968 and is available for free.

This knitted dress with lacy panels is a nice little number that would look quite timely today, though again you may want to lengthen it somewhat. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in May 1969 and is available for free.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Knitted Art of Movena Chen

Movana Chen is a Hong Kong-based artist who studied fashion design at the London College of Fashion and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Hong Kong. Since 2004 she has been working in the medium of knitted art, specifically knitting with recycled fibres from old newspapers and magazines. She sees her work as the opposite of book-burning, which is an act of hate and destruction, while her work transforms a communication medium into another form of communication: art objects, and wearable art.

I especially enjoyed Chen's series of photographs depicting her travels around Paris with one of her knitted forms, which showed some Parisians interacting with her work.

You may check out more of Chen's work (she is also quite a good photographer) and read her own thoughts on her work on her website.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Knitting Goggles and Other Knitting Fables

Irina double majored in design and theatre, and liked to make her design project do double duty as costumes for her theatre classes. She'd worn her latest project for an avant garde piece on the standards of beauty for women, in which she'd played a cotton ball.

Darcy had heard so much about "beer goggles" that she came up with her own version: knitting goggles. They came in handy when she didn't happen to feel like darning in ends.

Maureen was so pleased that she had managed to get through design school without ever having had to learn to knit. After all, she thought, she was a designer, not a crafter, and a true designer can do wonders with thrift store afghans.

Hermione was so thrilled that after a two-year moratorium on buying yarn, she had finally used the very last dregs of her stash. She celebrated with a ceremony, attended by her cats, in which she crowned herself Stash Princess.

Keara had had to make an unusually large number of swatches to nail down the tension for her design project, but in the end she found it had been totally worth it.

Jolene had made her final project for design school out of several bathmats and fuzzy toilet seat covers. In the written abstract she'd had to submit with it, she'd said it gave one that "just got out of the shower and had taken a good pee feeling", and pointed out that it was also very absorbent. Her instructor had scribbled, "These are not selling points," and given her a D, but Jolene knew her vision just wasn't one that could be appreciated by the masses. Yet.

Lucinda had made it her life's work as a designer to a campaign to make the granny square look chic, and she was determined to stay on message no matter how many runway models wound up looking utterly miserable in the process.

As a dedicated terrarium hobbyist, Gretchen was thrilled to find a way to take her work with her wherever she went. Though she still had to figure out a way to attach the glass covers to her sleeves.

Lynn had designed her new cloak to look like a representation of an insect under a microscope, and wore it with a costume that she hoped looked like one that was native to a country where they still had malaria, although she hadn't had time to look up which specific countries those were and what their national costumes looked like. However, as Lynn reminded herself, when you're trying to save countless innocent insects from slaughter, it's important to not get bogged down in trivial details.

Thea found she could use up her stash so more quickly if she knitted with the entire skein rather than just a strand from it.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 2013: A Review

Interweave, which gave us Jane Austen Knits, has taken its next foray into literary-themed knitting and published The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 2013. Before you Harry Potter enthusiasts get too excited, I must tell you that due to copyright restrictions, the print version of the magazine is only available for sale in the U.S. If you are American or, um, reside elsewhere but have an obliging American friend or family member who will accept mail for your and resend it to wherever you live, you can buy The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 2013 here. Alternatively, I understand that the digital version is available to anyone registered as a U.S. resident.

Harry Potter does seem like a great choice for a literary tie-in. The world of the books and the movies has many great costumes and symbols and other visuals that lend themselves to knitwear design. And knitting itself appears in the books with some regularity. As Amy Clarke Moore has written in her Editor's Letter for the issue, "J. K. Rowling is a knitter herself and several of her characters knit — from Hagrid (making a canary-yellow circus-tent) to Molly Weasley (knitting sweaters for all her children) to Hermione (making hats for house-elf liberation). Even Dumbledore contemplates the value of a nice warm pair of socks and enjoys reading Muggle knitting publications."

Let's have a look at the designs in The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 2013.

These are the Albanian Forest Mitts, which are very handy for keeping one's hands warm while flying on a broomstick, wielding one's wand, or retrieving one's mother's stolen diadem. They're reasonably wearable from a Muggle standpoint too.

This is the Bluebell Flames shawl, which is meant to represent the bright blue fire conjured by Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It's an attractive shawl, and just like the bright blue flames, it'll keep you warm on your own quests, such as commuting to work.

These are the Dragon's Egg socks, a reference to the golden dragon's egg Harry retrieves as the first task in the tri-wizard tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

This is Dumbledore's Smoking Hat, but you don't have to be smoking or have a crazy neckbeard to wear this it. It's totally cute without being twee and I'd wear it myself.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore laments that he has once again received books for Christmas, when what he really wanted was a pair of warm woolen socks. Interweave has obliged by publishing a design for the perfect Dumbledore Socks, with his initials “A P W B D” (Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore) worked around the top. If you're not a Dumbledore fan, you could always replace them with your own initials.

This is the E.L.F. Cap, which of course is based on the hats and other items Hermione knitted and left temptingly about for the house elfs to take so they could be set free. To her disappointment, the elves wouldn't touch them, with the exception of Dobby, who happily wore a stack of them. But then the things Hermione made were described as not being very well-made or very attractive. Maybe if she'd been as gifted in knitwear design as she was in her studies, the outcome might have been different. At any rate this would be a cute thing to make for the little elf in your life who is too young to appreciate the more evocative patterns in this issue and just wants a more literal Harry Potter knit.

The Forbidden Forest Scarf. Wearing this would drive me crazy — all those dangling ends. And no one would get the reference. The scarf does have a certain textural interest and I suppose it wouldn't be a bad piece if stitched unobtrusively together and worn with the right modern outfit.

These are the Fred and George Socks. Now your feet can be like the Weasely twins: paired, but different.

This is Ginny's Cardigan. I love this beautiful, classic design, with its subtle but definite rendering of owl faces in the lace work down the back. And I'm not alone in my love for this pattern, as it has gotten more favourites on Ravelry than any other pattern from this issue, and there's a knitalong for it.

This is the Hagrid Sweater, designed for the larger-than-life man in your life.

This is the Heliopath Vest, which is the designer's idea of what Luna Lovegood would make for herself. I quite like this pattern on the whole, but I am not crazy about the dropped stitch effect. Dropped stitches generally look mistaken rather than effective, and this isn't one of the exceptions.

This is the Herbology Socks pattern, and they're just the thing to wear when one is repotting asphodels.

Hermione’s Time-Turner Mitts. These are cute and wearable. If you don't feel like being asked what the "H" stands for, you can always use your own initial instead.

This is the Ignotus Peverell's Cloak, which unlike the Ignotus Peverell's Cloak of Invisibility does not turn one invisible. Speaking as a Muggle and assessing it from the standards one expects of visible items of apparel, I find it rather frumpy.

The Juicy Fly pattern is based on the black velvet hairbow Dolores Umbridge is wearing when Harry Potter meets her, and that he mentally compares to a succulent fly. I don't know whether anyone would actually want to bother making this one as it's not much use. A little girl might wear it in her hair, I suppose, but then you could find other more attractive hair bow patterns to make that she'd rather wear.

This is the Lestrange Cloak, and it is by far my favourite of any pattern in this magazine. It is just stunning and would look lovely and elegant over a simple short dress for any relatively dressy occasion.

The Malfoy Manor Wrapper. I very much like this design. I don't think I've ever seen a shrug that fastens in the front, and it really works here because the lines are so good. Also, this item will stay in place.

This is the Mermaid's Shawl pattern, inspired by the mermaid song in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's really lovely and any mermaid would be proud to wear it. Wool will keep one warm even when wet, after all.

The Modern Stripes House Scarves design are successful both as a Harry Potter reference item (they can of course be knitted in any house colours one wishes) and as a very sharp, appealingly modern design. I also love that Interweave has gone to the trouble to get models who look like the Harry Potter characters and to style them so as to enhance the effect. It was going the extra mile and the effort has really paid off.

This is the Mudblood Cardigan, and of course it's a simple cardigan such as a Muggle might wear and just the sort of thing Hermione Granger might have worn when she arrived at Hogwarth's; a Muggle-born but with more talent and brains than anyone else in her class. It's a nice-looking basic sweater, though I would make it with a little more ease than has been allowed this Hermione-like model.

The Narcissa Socks are, according to the design's Ravelry page, "inspired by the dark beauty of Narcissa Malfoy with twisted stitches and intricate petal motifs". I must admit they do have that effect. The characters of the Harry Potter world do seem to need a lot of socks, but I guess that's to be expected when they spend so much time in drafty castles and flying through the cold night air.

These are the O.W.L. Mittens, with spells inscribed conveniently on the palms. Very cute and inventive pattern.

This is the Order of the Phoenix Winged Vest, and that is one intricate and gorgeous design on the back. It's a man's pattern, and though of course many men would not care to wear this, there are probably not a few who like Harry Potter and/or a touch of the unusual and dramatic in their clothes who would.

I'm not crazy about the Pomona Mitts. They're meant to reflect Professor Pomona Sprout’s personality, which is "earthy, robust, and ready for hard work". And probably they do, but by Muggle standards they just look rough and amateurish.

The Severus Pullover is another gorgeous design that was imagined as something "Professor Snape might wear if he needed to go undercover as a Muggle". As with the owl design in Ginny's Cardigan, the serpentine pattern has been kept subtle. Even the most conservative, kid-culture eschewing man might wear this, never dreaming that he's unwittingly a representative of Slytherin House.

Love the Sorcerer's Sweater, with its intricate and original cabled design.

These are the Sword of Gryffindor Mitts, and I quite like them as well. They have a certain casual elegance to them, and yet they'd be warm and fairly practical.

The Gray Lady's Cloak pays homage to the ghost of Ravenclaw. It's quite pretty overall, though I am not thrilled with how the hood sits. It's more than a little baggy.

The Tonk's Togs design was inspired by Nymphadora Tonks’s ability to change her appearance at will; it's two sweaters designed to be worn together or apart. And I quite like both sweaters, especially the cabled design with the asymmetrical neck, which is obviously the product of considerable design chops, but I don't think it makes much sense on either a practical or aesthetic level to wear them together.

This is the Tracery pattern, which of course resembles the stained glass windows that might be found at Hogwarts. I loved stained glass (I do some stained glass work myself), and this is a brilliant rendering of the effect of medieval stained glass windows, as translated into knitting.

The Yule Ball Engageantes are meant to be elegant enough to be worn with a ball gown. I think they'd need to be knitted in a more delicate fibre and/or tint to succeed at being ball gown-worthy because here it looks like they've been knitted in sock yarn which is not an upscale look. They are however a quite well-rendered pattern and would give a bit of style to autumnal streetwear.