Saturday, 25 May 2013

Have a Forking Good Time Making Pom-Poms

Here's a video from the people of Loom a Hat that will tell you how to use a fork to make pom-poms. You will be limited to making very small pom-poms when you use this technique, but I suppose if you wanted to move on to bigger ones you could use a slotted spatula or the garden fork.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Knitting in the Victorian Style

When it came time to write a post for Victoria Day, I kicked myself for having released a post about Queen Victoria and her knitting back in April. I wish I'd thought of saving it for today. However, what's posted is posted, so today's post will consist of my presenting a selection of some authentic Victorian-era knitting patterns that are attractive and useable by today's standards to you for your enjoyment and possible future projects.

Please be aware that these historical patterns, although they often are available on the web for free thanks to the wonderful concept that is public domain, probably aren't for the beginning or even intermediate knitter. Patterns have become much more user-friendly and standardized in the past century, and these antique patterns often don't provide basic information such as required yardage amounts or stitch gauge, and can be generally really confusing. The sizing will also tend to run really small and have to be altered. You'll need to have significant knitting experience and a certain tolerance level required for the frustrating and time-consuming process of figuring out the patterns.

If nothing I've featured here works for you, there are lots of Victorian-era patterns available online. Project Gutenberg has a number of Victorian knitting instruction books and the Antique Pattern Library has an extensive selection of patterns available, all for free. Iva Rose has quite a good selection of restored reproductions for sale. Your local library might also be helpful. And one thing to be aware of when trying to find authentic Victorian patterns is that Ravelry patterns tagged with "Victorian" are usually so.... not.

This beaded purse is from Isabella Beeton's Beeton's Book of Needlework, and was originally published in 1870. The pattern is available for free and would make a lovely evening bag.

This baby bootie pattern is available for free over on Doodles.

This knitted neckerchief is another Isabella Beeton original and is also a free pattern.

This lovely little baby's knitted frock was originally published in Weldon's Practical Needlework: Practical Knitter, Second Series in 1886, but has been re-released by Interweave.

This little vest is for a child of three, and was originally published in Weldon's Practical Needlework: Practical Knitter, Tenth Series in 1888. Again, it's been released in a new edition by Interweave. I'd be inclined to make it in my size.

This design was originally known as "Gent's Knickerbocker Hose" and was published in Weldon's Practical Needlework: Practical Knitter, Twenty-Eighth Series in 1895. Now of course, they're going to be called men's socks and will be worn with, and mostly under, trousers.

This acorn-shaped pattern for an emery cushion was originally published in Weldon's Practical Needlework: Practical Knitter, Thirty-First Series in 1896, which again was republished by Interweave Press.

This reticule is another pattern from Weldon's Practical Needlework: Practical Knitter, Thirty-First Series in 1896. It's 10" x 6" and could easily be enlarged or downsized as the knitter wishes.

Happy Victoria Day!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Knitter's Magazine K111: A Review

Knitter's Magazine has published issue K111, and it's a "family friendly" issue, which means it has at least a few children's and men's patterns. Don't you male knitters just love being made to feel like knitting magazines are talking around you to the nearest female knitter? Let's have a look at its patterns.

Not liking this boy's pullover. The overall shaping is good, but the contrast colour and the drawstring are detracting from it. Drawstrings usually don't cross over one another and just hang there like that, as though they're biding their time until they can perversely disappear back into the casing. I'd omit the drawstring and do the contrasting colour a little differently, such as in a few stripes in the cuffs and hem and another stripe in the collar.

This child's dress isn't quite there. It looks baggy and saggy, for one thing. Well, it is baggy and saggy — the stripes on the bodice are visibly pulling out of shape. And though I like both stripe patterns, I don't think they are quite working together. I'd pick one stripe pattern and use it for the whole dress, and maybe just make the scale of the pattern a little bigger on the skirt. The colourway isn't quite working either, so I'd tweak that a little.

Whenever I see a model in this kind of tilted back pose, I am reminded of Jerry Seinfeld's bit on how women stand in front of the mirror when they're shopping: garment held in front of the woman, woman's body leaning back at a 60 degree angle, one leg held out. We women do that to give the garment a filled-out look so we can get a sense of what it might look like when worn, but Seinfeld's theory is that women are trying to find the perfect outfit to wear for those days we spend leaning back at a 60 degree angle with one leg stuck out. The fact that this model is having to literally bend over backwards to make this sweater look good is not a good sign, because women need clothes that look good when they're on and we're standing upright. My suspicion is that this sweater looks a tad on the bulky and shapeless side in ordinary poses.

I actually don't mind this design, but don't understand why this colourway was chosen for it. The combination is way too "peasant at the discothèque", and one of these things does not belong. I'd make this in a non-retina-burning colourway, such as cream and navy and olive. This also is a design that belongs on a woman with a modest bustline with a waistline she doesn't mind emphasizing.

I actually rather like this design, but think it needs to be done in a more sophisticated colourway to work. Doing it in these candied, little girl-ish colours makes it look a little too home ec project. And we have the tilted back pose again, which may mean the fit is less sleek than it appears here.

I am trying to figure out how they got the solid and translucent stripes in this piece. My best guess is the solid stripes are knitted with two strands of yarn. It's a clever effect, though it isn't very practical for streetwear and the baggy fit's not going to be too flattering. It would make a decent coverup for the beach, though.

This is one of those patterns I end up peering at trying to figure out exactly what's going on. This appears to be a sweater pattern that happens to be worn with a crocheted skirt, not a dress pattern or two-piece pattern as I thought at first glance. But I like it. The colour blocking effect is well-done, the overall effect is crisp and striking, and this is a sweater a woman can wear with jeans or shorts or a skirt all summer long and that will look good on almost every woman.

Quite like this cardigan. It's simple enough to go with a lot of other things, yet pretty enough to be distinctive. The fit does look a little baggy, but that's easily remedied.

Knitter's Magazine put this look on the cover of this issue, and I don't know why as there's nothing special about it at all and they do have much better designs in this issue. Totally basic top that I don't quite know why designers bother to produce anymore, since there are so many identical patterns out there already.

This one just isn't working. The front pieces actually do match up but the design makes them look as though they don't. The edgings look rough. The resulting look is just kind of odd, and I don't know what on earth a woman could wear this with but a plain white top and purple or green skirt or pants or maybe jeans. If you want a vest with a shawl collar (the collar does sit so well), I'd recommend making this in one colour or in a beautiful variegated yarn, with different edgings and buttons all the way down the front.

Very nice classic man's cardigan that many men would be happy to wear.

Oh dear. This style of cardigan can be an elegantly relaxed look done right and on a woman it suits, but it's not a good idea to render it in novelty yarns, or even hand-dyed yarns, which just cheapens the look, especially when the yarns chosen don't work together.

This tiered skirt would have been a cute look if the top two tiers weren't done in that very loose gauge. I mean, what did the knitter use to make them, her fingers? They just look like a mistake.

I don't think I know many, if any, men who would like and wear this look. Or any women for that matter. I know menswear is damn boring, but trying too hard to reinvent the wheel is not the answer. There are good points to this design, such as the check stitched front edging, but the stripes and colour blocking is overdone and the purple and orange colourway isn't going to fly with too many men. Simplify the colour blocking, work on the colour scheme and use a more basic button and you might have something that would suit significantly more men.

An entrelac pattern geometric-cut spencer. I can't help finding it kind of fun, but that's probably the fact that I like the yarn used. When I imagine this in a colourway I don't like, I have to admit my review of it is perfectly savage. Hardly any women will look good in this piece, and it won't look right with many outfits other than say, a very simple jersey dress with no horizontal seamlines.

Classic boy's cardigan.

Quite like this child's cardigan. The shape is good, the crocheted edgings make it look polished, and the colours used make it look fresh and playful.

I don't dislike this top, but it does look like it needs a little something. The middy collar and the texture are nice touches, but I'd take the look steps farther, probably by doing the collar in a contrasting colour and adding a belt-like detailing or some edging in the contrast colour to pull the design together.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Initially It Might Have Seemed Like a Good Idea

The bag in the picture above is the "Initial Knitting Bag" pattern, published circa 1942. As you can see, it's the perfect accessory for your beautifully tailored gray flannel suit and silk blouse. Since you may not have such items in your closet, it'll probably just have to be your knitting bag. A crocheted knitting bag, which will be a daily reminder of you why you are knitting and not crocheting, and which will also double as a dust mop. Who could ask for more?

Coming up: Look for the review of Knitter's Magazine issue K111 tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

It's a Knitted Voodoo Thing

Voodoo, also titled Mini-Me, is a stop animation short created by Wonky Films and featuring two knitted characters named Knit and Purl. Wonky Films has also produced two more films featuring the same knitted characters: Stuffing Up and Tickle. These knitted little guys have won the Bablegum film festival's Jury Runner Up Award and appeared on BBC Big Screens across the U.K. to help promote Children in Need.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Bergère de France Magazine #167: A Review, Part 2

Today's post is the second half of the review for Bergère de France Magazine #167, Part 2, the first half being posted yesterday.

Pattern #22, a child's jacket, looks cute at first glance and then you start noticing how the front is puckered and that the lapels are badly shaped. This is a good concept that didn't get the execution it deserved.

Pattern #23 is a baby's cardigan and bootees. This design is workmanlike enough, I suppose, but just sort of meh. And the zipper really should have been ivory rather than white, to match the trim on the sweater.

Pattern #24 is a very basic v-neck pullover, given a little interest with a textured yarn. Most young boys would probably be perfectly happy to wear this sweater in their favourite colour.

Pattern #25 is a classic cardigan that the designer somehow managed to screw up. The front edges, pocket and cuffs all look askew and random and distracting instead of working together harmoniously as they should have.

Pattern #26 is a textured vest. The pattern is so unfinished looking it screams "beginner project" and "homemade".

Pattern #27 is another amateurish pattern that would make a young boy look and feel like his mother dresses him funny. Do the editors of Bergère de France not know what boys actually like and wear?

Now that's better. Pattern #28 is a baby's cardigan that's actually fairly successful. The lacy pattern is pretty and the neck fastening is interesting, though I would take care to use buttons that matched the yarn or use some cute novelty buttons rather than just using utilitarian white ones. Pattern #29 is a pair of crocheted sandals, and I can't say I care for them. They look cute at first glance, and then you start noticing that the ankle straps are too loose and the sole is buckling away from the foot. I wouldn't want a baby to be trying to learn to walk in these — they will not stay in place.

Pattern #30 is a simple little top with a dragonfly pattern in the front and sleeves that echo the design. Very pretty, easy design.

Pattern #31 is the child's version of Pattern #28. I don't like the child's version as much as I did the baby version (the top fastening looks awkward) but it's still pleasing enough.

Pattern #32 is the child's version of the dragonfly baby top we saw in Pattern 30. It's a nice top in both versions. Bergère de France certainly does make sure to get maximum mileage out of any good ideas they get.

Pattern #33 is a chevron-pattern "comboshorts" or playsuit. I can't say I'm taken with it. The pattern and colour combination are too heavy and dreary-looking for an outfit that could only be worn on a warm sunny day.

Pattern #34 is a chevron-pattern sphagetti strap top. I rather like this one. The pattern is striking and the colours are pretty. The pattern would be too much for a full pullover, but used in a small dose like it is here, it works.

Pattern #35 is a jacket with chevron-pattern sleeves, and I don't think it works. The sleeves look too tacked-on. It's a shame, because the designer went to the trouble of colour coordinating the buttons and giving the hemline and neckline a chevron shape. I'd knit this sweater all in one colour and just have a subtle chevron pattern in the stitchwork.

Pattern #36 is a tasseled scarf. It's not a bad look and cute be a cute accessory for an adolescent girl, but the construction does look really rough.

Pattern #37 is a necklace I can't say I admire. I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if you just left the tassels off, but honestly... beads strung together on wire would be much more attractive and take less time. Or you could just go to Claire's.

Pattern #38 is another simple little number that you'll want to choose an interesting textured or beautiful hand-dyed yarn for to give it some interest.

Pattern #39 is the same short sleeved top as we saw in Pattern #40 in a child's size. The same comment applies.

Pattern #40 is a mesh lace pullover. It's nothing too special but is attractive enough. The tassels on the necklace make the sweater look like it's coughing up a yarn ball.

Pattern #41 is a pullover with an "African-style" design on the front. I don't know how authentically "African" that image is, and without knowing that I wouldn't knit this sweater. Cultural appropriation has to be done with care.

Pattern #42 is a cute striped baby hoodie.

So that's my first Bergère de France review over with, and I'm underwhelmed. There are some cute ideas in it, but those are reworked too many times, and too many of the patterns are truly amateurish or even bad and only look cute because they're on an adorable child. All the patterns in it are really easy. There's nothing to interest an experienced knitter, who could easily replicate any pattern in it with the aid of the patterns he or she already has. I know Bergère de France's patterns are produced as a marketing tool for their yarn and such pattern magazines tend to be less innovative than knitting magazines whose manadate is to provide interesting designs, but Rowan is also a yarn company magazine and you don't see them putting out a lacklustre effort like this. I'll review the next couple of Bergère de France issues, but if this is par for the course from them I may be dropping them from my list of magazines to be reviewed.