Friday, 21 March 2014

Knit.Wear Spring/Summer 2014: A Review

The Spring/Summer 2014 issue of knit.wear is out. Let's have a look at it, shall we?

The Folded Lace Tank. I like the ingenuity shown here with the use of pleats and lace, but A-line tops can be unflattering on many women, so proceed with caution. I'm also not crazy about the way the trousers and brassiere this model is wearing is showing so plainly through the top that it almost appears to be knitted in gradient sections.

The Box Pleat Scoopneck. This isn't bad. It's well shaped and the pleats at the neckline are an interesting, modern touch.

Front Pleat Dolman. This one is going to be wildly unflattering on most women, making them look six months pregnant at best. Notice how this model is having to raise an arm over her head to give it any semblance of style?

The Pleated Elliptical Cardigan has good points. I love the lace yoke, and the back looks good. But that front doesn't appear to sit well. One of the front view photos show the model holding it closed with her hand, the other with with her arm. I suspect it will flop open unattractively when it's not held closed.

The One-Sided Raglan. I rather like this one, which has a stripped-down modern vibe. The cropped length and side cut-outs aren't for everyone, but are also easily remedied.

Can't say I care for the Gusset Tunic. That side tail looks just pointless. Or more accurately, it has a point, but it's not a point worth taking.

I like the detail on the XOX Tee. I'm not crazy about the shape of it, but it looks loose fitting without looking at all sloppy and you can always neaten up the fit a bit if you like.

The Funnel Collar Pullover. I actually quite like this one. Yes, that collar looks more than a little like a braided rug with a hole in the middle, but it sits well and isn't unflattering, and the rest of the sweater is so well shaped that it balances the collar.

The Fitted Turtleneck Tee is a great little piece; very flattering and with a little texture and interesting detail in the line of contrast colour around the neck and sleeves.

The Six Point Tee. Another good piece. It's wearable, it's going to flatter most women, and it has a certain simple deconstructed charm. Make this in a beautiful yarn in your favourite colour and it'll serve you well as the perfect thing to throw on with jeans when you want to look casual yet put together.

The Ruched Yoke Sweater. I like this one a lot until we get down to the A-line lower half. That excess width isn't doing anything for this model and isn't likely to do anything for the rest of us.

The Diamond Funnelneck. I like the texture here, and the funnel neck, but some shaping through the body would have done wonders for the item as a whole.

The Cameo Caftan. I love the stitchwork used here, but I can't sign off on the caftan construction, and that "cameo" looks for all the world like a camouflaged tarantula biding its time.

The Bohemian Tee. I like this one. It's pretty and feminine and interesting and could function as an extra layer over your dress or tank top when you don't want to be bothered with a shawl.

The Circular Tunic. I'm gathering that knit.wear seems determined that we knitters shall swamp ourselves in excess knitted materials this summer, but I for one am not going down without a fight. This design looks like two tablecloths stitched together. Pretty tablecloths, but tablecloths nonetheless.

The V-Line Tee. I like this one, which has an elegantly relaxed outline.

The Painted Mesh Pullover. I rather like this one, which should be a comfortable and useful second layer for cool summer weather. I'm not a fan of that longer back hem, but if you feel the same way, it's easily fixed.

The Botanic Pullover. Hmm, there's much to like here. The leaf pattern is beautiful, and the attention to detail shown in the leaf motif continuing up the side hem and the garter stitch hems make this look like a certified design rather than something that's just been slapped together. And I can totally see a few friends of mine who have a modern dress sense rocking this. So yes, I like this piece on the whole, though I think of it as a "shawl to 'pull over' one's outfit" rather than a "'pullover' sweater".

The Naiad Tank. Those mesh ruffles look like they were attached by a drunken designer with a glue gun, and that is one ugly yarn.

The Zigzag Mesh Pullover. Very much like this attractively textured little sweater. I would stitch up those ribbed hems though.

This Ruched Cowl is really rather cool. I can see it working in a number of colourways and with a variety of wardrobes, though as a fall/winter item rather than a spring/summer one.

The Bold Stripes Wrap is very smart and wearable.

The Chevron Mesh Scarf. Not a fan of this one. I think it's the combination of the stitch and the colours used, which make it look like a strip from an afghan. Doing it in a single solid or variegated yarn would remove the ripple effect that's so afghan-esque.

Quite like the Bolt Tee, which is both well shaped and has an interesting and effective graphic design.

The Short-Row Vest. This is one of those patterns that at first glance seem to me to warrant a negative review, but that I come to like after more careful appraisal. This piece is has a striking graphic design and an interesting construction that sits well. It won't work on every figure or for everyone's taste, but then few knitwear designs do. On the right person with the right outfit this could be an original and eye-catching piece.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Knitty Spring & Summer 2014: A Review

Knitty's Spring & Summer 2014 issue is online! Let's have a look at it, shall we?

This is the Regenerate shawl, and it's quite gorgeous. The fabulous yarn used here really adds a lot. There's a picture of another sample knitted in a solid colour on the pattern's page, and although it's still a very nice item it isn't anything like as stunning as this one.

The Sweet Tantalate shawl has a clever and striking design.

The Havina shawl is an attractive piece that seems to drape well.

The Naga Fuji shawl. This one is a lovely item in itself, but doesn't seem to drape as well as the previous shawls in this issue. The rectangular shawl shape seems to be a difficult one to carry off, as it tends to look awkward.

The Sunday Sunrise shawl is well named. For me it's a happy reminder of the way the sun looks in children's drawings. It's a pretty item, looks good on, and is small enough to be used as a scarf if the wearer wishes.

The Anthi pattern is very similar to the 1930s Beehive pattern I wrote about in my very first post on this blog, and later made for myself. As I compare the two of them, I find I much prefer the vintage version, which looks so much more polished. I think the main problem with the Anthi is that I wish it had a better designed scarf tie. This one looks just too rough and ready.

The Carousel pullover is made perfectly symmetrical. The sleeves, the hem, and the neckline are all exactly the same size and this sweater can be worn any which way because there isn't a top, bottom or sides. I'm usually disapproving of gaping sleeves or armholes like this, but this pattern is so inventive and original that I just have to admire it. It's a reasonably wearable, attractive piece, though it's perhaps not for every woman (i.e., not for me as the last thing I need is excess material in the chest area) and it will probably require an underlayer as the open sleeves will otherwise show everyone an excellent view of the wearer's brassiere/sideboobs.

The Rosarian pullover is another atypical design that takes some especially careful thought to assess. I normally don't like a batwing sleeve, but I think I like this one. The openwork texture of this item gives it an airiness that makes it more like a shawl than a top, which means it's subject to different standards. That is to say, rather than being a top that will have excess rolls of knitting under the arms, it's a shawl that will stay in place and look charmingly cute and off-beat.

The Kali vest. I quite like this one. It has a good shape and the honeycomb pattern is sharp and modern.

The Icarus tank is a nice piece on the whole, but if I were making this one I would definitely do something about that rough-looking neckline and hemline, such as adding a crocheted edging. It makes this piece look so unfinished.

The Fifty Fifty tank is a nice piece, though I would do something a bit different with that eyelet triangle just below the back of the neckline, such as putting a version of the lace motif used below in it, or omitting it altogether. It looks out of place as is.

The String Theory Socks. There's a debate among knitters as to which method of knitting socks is preferable: top down or toe up. I hate to think what these socks will do to that conflict, as they are "knitted from the heel on upwards and sideways". They are cute and they look like a great way to showcase a good variegated yarn.

The Octopodes socks. I like the tweedy toe and ankle and the band of striking stranded colourwork of this design, but I'm not crazy about the stripe running along the side. The designer describes it as "creating a strong visual line", but to me it looks too much like visible seaming.

Coming up: Look for the review of knit.wear's Spring/Summer 2014 issue on Friday.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Out of Ireland

Aran patterns have an interesting if somewhat uncertain history. There's some debate as to when the Aran sweater as we now know it began to be knitted, with some historians arguing that it has existed for centuries and was standard wear for Irish fishermen. However, it's thought that Aran knitting is too stiff and thick to be practical for fishing and most historians believe that although similar Gansey sweaters had been a part of traditional knitting in the British Isles for hundreds of years, Aran knitting came into being as late as the early twentieth century when Irish women who wished to earn money by selling their work began knitting simplified Gansey patterns with thicker yarn in order to increase their productivity. The first commercial Aran patterns became available in 1940s, and in the 1950s Vogue magazine featured Aran sweaters and Ireland began to export handknitted Aran sweaters. Since then Aran sweaters have been standard wear in the Western world.

It's also thought that the stitches used in Aran knitting have meaning: the honeycomb symbolizes the supposedly industrious bee (though modern scientific study has revealed that bees spend most of their time flying aimlessly about); the cable, so common to fishing boats, represents the maker's hope that the wearer will be safe and lucky when fishing; the diamond stands for wishes of success and wealth; and the basket stitch symbolizes the fisherman's basket and the hope that it will be filled with a good catch.

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, I've put together this post of selected Aran knitting patterns. A Ravelry search for the term "Aran" produces more than 200 pages of results, and while I won't pretend to have looked at all those patterns, I did at look at enough pages to come up with seventeen patterns that I thought were interesting and attractive modern examples of the Aran style. And if Aran knitting isn't Irish enough for you, you can always check out my St. Patrick's Day post from 2013, where shamrocks abound.

The photo above is of the Cabernet Hat, designed by Monika Sirna. This pattern is sized to fit all heads from babyhood to adulthood and is available for $5.85(USD).

This is the Aran Sweater with Rounded Yoke, and it's a vintage Vogue Knitting pattern that dates from 1957. I've made this one twice myself (once for one of my nieces and then for a young cousin), and it was a pleasure to knit as well as being a very attractive, wearable, practical piece. This pattern is not available for download, but has been reprinted in four (out of print) Vogue Knitting publications, so you should be able to find one of those books at your local library, or purchase a secondhand copy online.

This is the Aran Pullover, by Kristin Nicholas, and the larger scale cables on a moss stitch background give it an updated feel. This pattern is available for download for $5.50(USD).

If you'd like an Aran knit that shows off your figure, this Aran off-shoulder pullover by Stitchlogue by Calista Yoo may be for you. I'd omit the crocheted flowers. This pattern is available for $7.00(USD).

Here's a comfy looking little shrug, the Aran Cabled Shrug in Kaya Wool, by Crystal Palace Yarns. This pattern is available for free.

This Tweedy Aran Cardigan by Norah Gaughan will serve you well for years. This pattern is available for download for $5.50(USD).

The sweater depicted on the right is the Urban Aran Pullover, by Patons. Knitter Jared Flood, whose version is on the right, adapted it into a cardigan. As he points out on his project page, the pattern was so perfectly suited to being a cardigan he couldn't believe it wasn't one already. This pattern is available for free.

The Alphabet Sweater, by Debbie Bliss, is a good way to introduce your baby to not only Aran knitting but also to the alphabet. This pattern is available in Special Knits: 22 Gorgeous Handknits for Babies and Toddlers, by Debbie Bliss.

The Düsseldorf Aran, by Fiona Ellis, has some interesting and eye-catching sleeve detailing. This pattern is available for download for $5.50(USD).

The Hooded Aran Coat, by Debbie Bliss, looks luxuriously warm and comfortable. The pattern appears in Debbie Bliss's Land Girl Pattern Book.

Cables and moss stitch go together like bread and butter. These are the Aran Isle Slippers, by Jennifer Lang. This pattern is available for C$5.50(CAD).

This is the I Heart Aran design, by Tanis Lavallee. It features not only hearts but the x's and o's that connote hugs and kisses, so that you can feel the love without being too twee about it. This pattern is available for $6.00(CAD).

The DNA Scarf, by June Oshiro, uses Aran cables to evoke the double helix. This pattern is available for free.

These are the Cross-Country Socks, by Ingrid Hiddessen. I love how the simple pattern used for the foot takes a turn for an intricate at the ankles. This pattern is available for free.

Of course, I had to wind up this post with something more specifically designed for today. This is the St. Patrick's Day beret, by Andrea Babb, and the pattern may be found in 50 Knitted Gifts for Year-Round Giving: Designs for Every Season and Occasion Featuring Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted.

Coming up: Look for the review of Knitty's Spring & Summer 2014 issue on Wednesday.