Monday, 8 December 2014

Let it Snow Men

For today's post I've selected a number of snowman-themed knitting patterns. I do this partly in honour of my sister, who is Christmas crazy and especially likes snowman stuff. One of the items I bought for her for Christmas this year was a snowman clock, which plays a few measures of a Christmas carol every time it strikes the hour. (One does have the option of turning the carols off, and the clock automatically turns off the carols between midnight and 5 a.m.) I expect she'll either love it or hate it, which is a win either way. Anyway, let's have a look at the knitted snowman goodness I've picked out.

The above photo is of the Snowman Pillow, by Brenda K. B. Anderson. It's a free pattern.

This is the Snowman Tammy, designed by Sandra Jäger. It's well shaped and well charted. The pattern is available for €2.99(EUR). There is also a beanie version of this design.

This is the SnoBuddy Family, by Chris de Longpré. This little Snow family is weighted with beans so as to sit reliably upright, and they're guaranteed to get through the holiday season without a single brawl or spiked egg nog hangover. This pattern is available for $8.00(USD).

This is the Snowman Stocking, by Bernat Design Studio. It's guaranteed to stretch out so as to hold more Christmas goodies. It's a free pattern.

If you like the thought of snow that magically disappears without having to be shovelled, the Snowman Illusion Mittens, designed by Margit Sage, might be for you. This pattern is available for $1.99(USD).

These are the Snowmen Pot Holders, by Marilyn Wallace. It's a free pattern, and the outline design works so well it almost seems a shame to use it on mere pot holders. I'd be inclined to use the design to make pillows or a child's sweater.

The Snowman Hat for an Ice Princess, by Ewenique Yarns, is so cute it makes me smile. It would be perfect for a child. This pattern is available for $5.00(USD).

This snowman comes with his own little ice cave. The Snowman Diorama Ornament pattern, designed by Katie Startzman, is available for $4.50(USD).

I absolutely love this Mr. Abominable pattern, by Katie Boyette. You can hug him and love him and squeeze him and love him and he will be your very own and you can call him George! This pattern is available for $6.00(USD).

Friday, 5 December 2014

Outlandish Knits

So I finally got around to watching the time travel adventure/romance Starz series Outlander. I'd been reluctant to watch it because I've read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (though only as far as a Breath of Snow and Ashes, as I found every book less compelling than the last and the whole "Jamie and Claire are both irresistibly attractive to every other character in the book and are having mind-blowing sex for the 3,348nd time on the nearest reasonably flat surface" thing was getting really old). I don't usually care for filmed versions of books I've read. I'd rather watch something new than a simplified rehash of something I've already read. But then I ended up deciding I should watch the series in order to write about it for this blog because I saw so many online references to the knitwear.

I must say I enjoyed the show on the whole. It's been a long time since I read the books so the discrepancies didn't bother me too much. (A friend of mine who is an obsessive fan of the books says she can't watch the series at all though she has tried numerous times.) The show is beautifully produced and quite well cast and well acted on the whole. And then there is oh-so-much knitwear, which was fun to see, if not period accurate. In the show, time travelling Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser, played by Catriona Balfe, sports a series of elegant dresses topped with knitted cowls, shrugs, shawls, and armwarmers, all in wools of natural hues and mostly knitted out of bulky weight yarn on large gauge needles. I know practically nothing of eighteenth century textiles and fashions but I had my suspicions about the authenticity of the costume design and especially of its knitted elements. I thought it quite astonishing that Castle Leoch should have a (for that time) very extensive and perfectly fitted wardrobe on hand for their unusually tall guest, and I thought it unlikely that big needle knit cowls and shrugs were a style seen at all at the time. I was correct in this, and there were many more inaccuracies that I hadn't the knowledge to pick up on.

There is much internet conversation on this topic (such as this Ravelry thread), in which fashion history buffs are getting their replica stays in a twist over all the anachronisms in the Outlander costumes. Eighteenth century knitting was usually done to a very fine gauge, unless it was an item that was to be felted. And not only are cowls and shrugs quite a recent style innovation, it's possible that even the knitted shawl, as we know it, did not exist at the time. Also, it seems not all yarn was undyed in the eighteenth century as natural dyes were commonly used to achieve such colours as glaring yellows, vivid reds, and denim-like blues, so not all of Claire's knitted accessories would have been dun-coloured. However, the costume designer for Outlander, Terry Dresbach, is not a fashion historian and, according to Buzzfeed writer Alanna Okun, she had about seven weeks to prepare all the costumes for the show. Given those limitations it's to her credit that she met her deadline with attractive costumes that are even as accurate as they are. I've heard it said that in the movie business (as in many arenas) when it comes to having things done fast, inexpensively, and well, you'll have to pick two attributes, as you cannot have all three.

At any rate, to get down to discussing possible Outlander-themed knitting that knitting watchers of the show can do, there are always two directions for a knitter to take when making items inspired by a TV show or movie: one can replicate the specific patterns worn by the onscreen characters, or one can draw inspiration from the show in a more abstract sense and design something completely new. I'm not seeing much of the latter kind of Outlander-inspired design, at least not yet, though I am in hopes that we'll get a magazine or book of Outlander-inspired patterns at some point. Meanwhile, it's entirely possible to knit oneself replicas of the knitwear worn in the series. The upside of dressing Claire Randall Fraser in twenty-first century knits is that her accessories are quite wearable for today. Despite the historical inaccuracies there has been a lot of online clamour about the Outlander knits, with knitters demanding patterns for the items Claire and the other Outlander characters wore. And since most of the knits worn in the shoes are simple, big gauge patterns, some knitters have obligingly providing unofficial replica patterns for those who want them.

You can make a simple striped garter shawl like the one Claire is wearing in the top photo with the When In Scotland pattern depicted below,
designed by Rilana Riley-Munson. It's a free pattern.

The Outlander Pattern for Claire's Cowl, written by Shelli Westcott, is a very close match to the one worn by Claire, and will actually look much better worn with contemporary clothing because it won't be jarringly anachronistic as it is onscreen. It's a free pattern.

I don't personally find the Outlander knits to be inspiring, as those dead easy chunky knits are very much not my preferred style of knitting, either to make or wear, but Geillis Duncan's cape, as seen above, came closest to arousing my interest. Unfortunately the show never gave us a better look at it than this.

If you fancy the little capelet Claire wears in the photo above, this Outlander inspired Rose Coloured Capelet, designed by Ravelry user Furlaine, is a very good replica of it. This pattern is available for C$4.00(CAD).

The cabled armwarmers Claire is wearing in the top photo are a close match to the Outlander Cabled Wristers, designed by Jenifer Spock-Rank. This pattern is available for $1.99(USD).

The cowl Claire is wearing is especially hilariously out of synch in terms of the kind of spun yarn that would have been available in 1743. At this distance, it looks almost like a fur neckpiece, but it is indeed knitted from yarn, which I've seen identified online as Louisa Harding's Luzia. But then perhaps Castle Leoch housekeeper Mrs. Fitzgibbons has a stash of Luzia put away in the garret. As Claire said herself, Mrs. Fitz is a wonder.

ETA: It appears this cowl was actually knitted out mink yarn. I'm trying to do a little research on this because it seems there weren't minks in Scotland in the eighteenth century. There was fur trade, but what I am trying to find out is how likely was it that anyone was spinning yarn from what would have been very expensive imported minks at that time? Wouldn't they have been used as skins? And again... cowls didn't exist back then.

I had to include this even though I don't like knitted dishcloths. This Outlander Je Suis Prest Thistle Cloth pattern, designed by Alli Barrett, and available for $2.00(USD), features the Fraser clan motto "Je Suis Prest" (in English, "I am ready"). As an aside, it's interesting how many Scottish clan mottos declare readiness or preparedness. My own surname, Rae, is Scottish, and the Rae family motto is "In Omnia Promptus", or "Ready for Everything". It's probably understandable given that these mottos were originally war cries. These days, for those of us fortunate enough to be living in area that isn't war-torn, they can be a way to motivate yourself to do the dishes.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Twist Collective Winter 2014: A Review

Twist Collective has released their Winter 2014 issue, and it's the best knitting magazine issue I've seen in quite some time. There's perhaps only one design in it that I wouldn't be happy to make and/or wear myself. Let's have a look, shall we?

The Addington cardigan. This is an attractive piece that any woman could wear. I'm not quite sure what's going on with the closure at the neckline, but then one could use any kind of button or clasp there.

The Elica shawl. Simple, pretty piece.

The Paramo pullover. Simple but smart piece. This is a sweater a woman can get a lot of wear out of.

The Quiver shawl-collared pullover. Love this one. It's classic and distinctive and works equally well on a man or a woman.

The Tupelo cowl. Nice piece with a great texture.

The Hyssop pullover has beautiful lacework and a good shape.

The Bierstadt hat and mittens. Attractive and eye catching.

The Riverdale cardigan. Nice classic look. I'm not sold on the curved front hem, which can look like a mistake.

The Mad Dash cardigan. Beautiful, interesting piece with great back detail.

The Fenwick Scarf and Gaiters. These are nicely designed pieces (it's hard to go wrong with classic cables such as these), but I'm not sure about the whole gaiter concept. These will get absolutely filthy in no time.

The Siffleur pullover. So lovely!

The Nevyn cardigan. Excellent piece. The cable detailing on the back is quite inspired. It's a way to add shaping and visual interest at the same time. And I'm almost wishing I didn't already own a pair of cute rubber boots, because then I'd have an excuse to track down and buy those awesome poppy boots.

The Nishi shawl is an exquisite piece of work.

The Radius pullover. Very solid contemporary design here. I would pass on the built-in fingerless gloves, but that's me.

The Masonry socks. Very smart socks. I do like a sock design with a little restraint. Confining the pattern to the ankle and toe looks much sharper than covering the entire sock.

The Quarry sweater. Another very smart piece.

The Tangent cap and cowl. Very pretty set. Love the Art Nouveau-ish fan patterning on the cowl.

The Hartford design is a classic cabled pullover.

The Epicenter pullover. I'm impressed with this one, which managed to be very contemporary and innovative in a way that will appeal to those of us with more traditional tastes, and is totally wearable at the same time.

The Calinda scarf and mittens. Another lovely set.

The Caldera pullover. I totally want this piece to be on me right now. I especially like that the designer chose to go with a buttoned placket and collar here rather than the usual turtleneck. We can't all wear turtlenecks.

The Fillster cap and mittens. Very much like the intricate cable design used here.

The Leadlight cardigan. A lovely piece. Extending the body's cables through the fair isle yoke is an effective and distinctive touch.

Anaphora cowl. What a beautiful piece. All the stitchwork, but especially that twining floral motif, is exquisite.

The Kew shawl. Interesting and attractive lacework.

The Willerval hat and mittens. This is very decent design, but I think I wouldn't go with a red and green colourway here. It's a little too candy cane-ish.

The Parapet jacket is a very elegant piece of work. The stand up collar is an especially nice touch and adds a lot of style to the whole piece.

The Pelion shawl. Love the combination of contemporary shaping with classic cables.

The Intaglio sweater. Beautiful piece. Love the cowl neckline.

The Skyscraper cardigan. I quite like this design on the whole, though I would do something different with the neckline, such as adding a collar. It looks unfinished as it is.

The Abyss shawl. Lovely combination of gradient colour and graceful shaping.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Flags Xmas Story

In this video, made by YouTube user Yatamimation as an advertisement for a clothing business in Tokyo, when the young couple plan what to get each other for Christmas, they think in terms of crocheting and knitting. Hope you enjoy seeing what they decided to give one another.