Friday, 3 October 2014

Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits 2014: A Review

The review I wrote of Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits in September 2013 has been in the list of my ten most-viewed posts for many months now. Interweave must have had a similar reception to its publication, because here I am reviewing the 2014 issue of Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits.

The Luxurious Lacy Overblouse. This... isn't bad. I like the neckline and the lace stitch, but the lines of it could be more flattering. I'd shorten the sleeves to short or cap length and add waist shaping (unless there already is waist shaping — it's hard to tell from this photo).

The Night-on-the-Town Herringbone Scarf. Very handsome, classic scarf.

The Hidden Delight Lacy Camisole. This would make a very pretty summer top for we brazen hussies of 2014 who can wear what used to be considered underwear as outerwear.

The Modular Lace Blouse. This one is very pretty too, and it also is more evocative of twenties style than any other piece so far, with its elongated length and the lace stitchwork, which is similar to the kind of lacework used to decorate sewn clothing in the 1920s.

The Lotus Blossom Scarf. Lovely lacy scarf.

The Lacy Tapered Jacket. Not very enthusiastic about this one. The lace panels are lovely, but the shaping isn't great. It appears as though this is a sweater that buttons only at the waist, and that style is a hard one for many women to carry off, especially in the longer length, because off all the visual lines it creates. I'd fix the dropped sleeves, make the jacket shorter, and consider changing the shaping of the front pieces.

The Floral Finery Pullover. I love the style of this one. The body of the sweater is very well shaped and the collar and cuffs provide polish and pops of visual interest. The semi-abstract colourwork on the collar and cuffs is not doing much for me and I'd replace it with something more traditional, but that's just personal preference, because it is good design objectively. And it's a nod to the art of the early twentieth century.

The Fair Isle Wristlets. These aren't bad. The fair isle pattern is attractive. I think I'd want to fit them more closely to the wrist, though. It'll look better and there's no point in inviting the cold air into one's gloves.

The Cozy Cardigan. Not a particular fan of this one. It's lumpy looking and the collar and cuffs don't sit well.

The Cabled Aran for a Day Out. Beautiful classic man's cabled pullover. There's a reason men have been wearing sweaters very much like this one for over a century.

The Let's Ride to Ripon Hat. Before I rode to Ripon in this hat, I would want to inquire just how far it is from here, and how many people are likely to see me in it, and then, on second thought, if I could possibly take the time to nip into the house and exchange it for another hat before our departure. This cap looks like it's wearing a headband from a 1980s Jane Fonda exercise video. There's a reason why Interweave hasn't released the Unofficial Jane Fonda Workout Knits.

The Tour-the-Estate Paisley Slipover. I love this one with its beautiful detailing at hem and cuffs, but I would definitely refashion that tie. I know it's probably true to period detail, but it looks too random and tacked on as is. I think I'd edge the front part of the neckline and the slit with the contrast trim, and attach ties to the top edges.

The Classic Autumn Cardigan. This one isn't doing it for me. It has a muddled feel to it, as though the designer tried to incorporate too many elements (lace, stripes, and tartan) and chose a colourway that didn't help at all. I'd simplify this design a little by removing one of the three design elements, and go with a more monochromatic colourway.

Driving Gloves for the Lady of the Manor. Love these, which are elegantly simple and totally wearable for either the lady or the maid of the house (and aren't we women usually both, these days).

The Cosmopolitan Peasant Blouse. I very much like this one, which has the smart, Art Deco-like look of sportswear in twenties, a time in which sportswear meant polished outfits, not sweatpants.

The Lace-Leaf Pocket Cardigan. This cardigan has some pretty detailing, but the fronts that don't meet combined with the sleeves that are too short make it look too small. My guess is that this sample was simply not big enough to fit this model. If you are going to knit this, I'd recommend that you make sure the sleeves are the right length and that it's wide enough to fit the wearer.

The Flirtatious Felt Hat. The shape of this hat is really good and I like the idea of a knitted band for it. There are better colourways for this design, though.

The Maids' and Maidens' Lace Blouse. Love this one, which updates a twenties style by shaping it like a contemporary sweater.

The Market Day Beret. Cute little classic beret.

The Bristol Pool Double-Braided Muffler. Another beautiful classic scarf that almost any man would be happy to wear.

The Going to Town Tam. Very much like this one, which looks even better from the back than it does here.

See? The broken lines and the centre button are so visually interesting.

The Evergreen Table Set. This doily is a lovely piece of work and the colour and its diagonal lines update it as much as a doily can be updated, but I don't know anyone who uses doilies these days. My 75-year-old mother scorns them as hopelessly old fashioned.

A Lampshade for the Grand House. This is really pretty, but the concept of homemade lampshades makes me very, very nervous. I started to research and write a post on knitted lampshades once, and what I read made me decide to delete the draft and abandon the idea for a post altogether. Factory-made lampshades have to meet certain safety regulations with regard to flammability; a handmade lampshade does not, so one cannot be sure it'll be safe to use. It seems to me that it would be a better idea to dress up an existing shade by adding beaded fringes (using glass beads and fine wire, not plastic beads and thread or yarn) than to knit one. I really don't care at all for the thought of any of my readers being burnt to a crisp, so if you do decide to make this pattern and put it on a lamp, please don't ever leave the lamp unattended while lit.

The Upstairs and Downstairs Bag for Needlework and Sewing. Lovely little bag, though I would be inclined to use this an evening bag rather than a sewing bag, as very few of my sewing projects would ever fit in a bag this size.

The Tea Cozy for Cook. This is definitely from the Frumpy Grandmother category of design.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Coated in Knitting

I had planned to do a post of selected knitted coats and jackets for the first day of autumn last week, but last week found me having to focus on writing reviews of all the new knitting magazine issues that had been published the week before. Knitting magazine publishing is seasonal, which means that there'll be no new issues for awhile and then there's five or six published all at once, and I like to give the magazine review posts first priority as they're the main reason people read this blog. Anyway, October 1st also seems like a good day to post about knitted coats, so here's the post. I've selected ten jacket designs for women, five for men, and five for children. Let's start with the women's patterns. The photo above is of the 705 - Coat pattern by Bergère de France. It's been published in several magazines and pamphlets. I find this pattern so inimitably chic and French.

This is the Milkweed pattern, designed by Carol Sunday, and available for $8(USD). I posted this really lovely pattern to this blog's Facebook page recently and the page's followers got nearly as excited about it as they did when I posted a picture of Daniel Craig in a cardigan, which is saying something.

This is the Moscow Coat, designed by Vladimira Ilkovicova. It's available for $9(USD). I love the smart, modern vibe of this piece. The cowl collar is actually a separate piece and can be arranged in a few different ways.

This is the Shell Game Coat, designed by Patty Nance and published in Bargello Knits. I'm revelling in imagining this coat in a variety of other colourways, though you'll need to be very good at working with colour to plan a colourway as beautifully integrated as this one.

The Urte pattern, designed by Louisa Harding. This pattern was published in Eventyr Pamphlet #140 in 2014. As I researched jacket patterns for this post, I told myself I definitely had to include one pattern with a lush faux fur collar and cuffs as I love that look, and this stylish number was the one I chose. The collar can be worn buttoned shut or opened up and folded back and looks equally good either way. I would tweak this pattern by decreasing the depth of the faux fur around the hem to something like six inches. This design is a little too hip-emphasizing as is.

The Houndstooth Car Coat, designed by Cecily Glowik MacDonald, and it was published in the November 2007 issue of Cast-On. If it proves too difficult or impossible to get that issue of Cast-On, the pattern looks not too difficult to copy. Love this one for its retro feel. I'm imagining it in neutral colourways (gray and black; ivory and brown) for maximum wearability. I don't think I'd knit this one in mint green unless I owned the roadster behind the model. Then I would feel I must.

Of course not everyone who would like to knit a jacket wants to knit a long one, so let's look at some short jackets. This is the Graphic Jacket, designed by Jacqueline van Dillen, originally published in the Holiday 2013 issue of Vogue Knitting. It's a polished, "go nearly everywhere" piece. And if you find yourself standing the way this model is while wearing it, do make it a priority to see your chiropractor and/or take some Ex-Lax.

This is the Edgewick jacket, designed by Cheryl Chow. It's an immensely wearable item that should look good on almost any woman, and is available for $6.50(USD).

The Cranston Coat, designed by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and published in New England Knits: Timeless Knitwear with a Modern Twist. It's so simple yet so distinctive.

The Harlow Suit Jacket, designed by Evelyn Hase. This pattern is available for $4.95(USD). Love the detail on this one.

Let's look at the jacket patterns for men next. This is the Nottingham Sweater, by Marlaina Bird. It's available for $5.99(USD). The zipper and the contrast trim give it quite a sharp and modern air, yet it's a classic look that almost any man of any age could wear.

This is the Cable and Rib Zipper Jacket, by Patons Australia, originally published in the Patons pamphlet #1232, Inca for Men. Very classic and wearable, but with a little style.

The Peavey Jacket, designed by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark. This pattern is available for $5.50(USD). Love the plaid pattern, though there are definitely better colourways for this one.

The Man's Plaid Jacket, by Mari Lynn Patrick. This pattern is available for $5(USD). This is a bolder, younger version of the plaid jacket just above, but one does have to look past the styling of this photo, and imagine the sweater in another colourway.

The Men's Short Jacket, by Martin Storey, published in Sarah Hatton & Martin Storey Designer Knits: 22 Handknit Designs for Him & Her Using Rowan Yarns. Some unusual and interesting texture here, with lattice work laid over stripes.

Now that we've seen the women's and men's jackets, let's move on to the children's jacket patterns. The Super Stripes Jacket, by Patons, published in Patons pamphlet #500882, Cool for School. This is a smart zippered sweater that will suit either a boy or a girl.

How adorable is this Rosebud coat, designed by Ann Kingstone? This pattern was published in Stranded Knits.

The Pevensie coat, designed by Emma Galati. This pattern is available for $4.50(USD). This isn't styled very well — this jacket would look much better in any number of other colourways or with other buttons, but the design has good lines and is very eye-catching.

The Hansel jacket, by Alison Stewart-Guinee, was published in Fairy Tale Knits: 32 Projects to Knit Happily Ever After. If I was making this sweater for a boy, I'd tweak it a little to make it more masculine by going with wooden buttons, or perhaps leather buckles, and perhaps a different colourway.

The Child's Mosaic Jacket, by Suzanne Bryan. This pattern was originally published in the November 2011 issue of Cast-On. This is really quite a strikingly original piece of work and an interesting rendering of the mosaic effect in yarn.