Friday, 17 July 2015

Aurora Borealis Mittens: A Review

In this post we're going to have a look at Aurora Borealis Mittens, written by Shannon Okey and published by Cooperative Press, the publishing company that Okey founded.

In the interests of full disclosure, before I get started on the review, I should probably say that Shannon Okey and I are both longtime members of, though I don't think we've ever had any more direct contact there than that of commenting on each other's posts. But as I informed myself a little more about Okey's work preparatory to writing this post, and found out that, besides heading up her own publishing company, she has a long string of craft books to her credit and was formerly a columnist for knit.1 as well as editor of the British knitting magazine Yarn Forward, it amused me to recall that the Metafilter community, at least in its early years, was sometimes considered by outsiders to be a bunch of slacker nerds typing away in their mother's basements with Cheeze Doodle-stained fingers. While we may have some members like that, we also have a lot of very accomplished members who, like Okey, are very productive high-achievers in real life with their own not inconsiderable online following. Not incidentally, the crafting community is well represented on Metafilter.

But to get to the review. Aurora Borealis Mittens offers some sound and even creative advice on technique, offering knitters a number of ways to customize its patterns. There are no fewer than seven cuff options detailed in the opening pages, along with mitten-specific advice on how to swatch and wet block, and a tip on how to economize on expensive hand-dyed yarns (by sharing a large skein with another knitter who is also making mittens).

Solveig Mittens. Pretty, and super warm, thrummed mittens. I like that an old rose was used for the thrummed stitches, as they look like little hearts.

Sigrún Mittens. These mittens are actually liners intended to be worn inside another pair of mittens. Very practical for those whose blood tends to run cold.

Fannar Mittens. These mittens are felted and can be embroidered after being felted. They're very plain. These are meant to be worn as an outer mitten (with or without a liner) so I'd want to either use the embroidery technique or go with a more interesting yarn.

Thora Mittens. From the pattern description in the book: "These mittens are named after a specific Thora: Þóra Borgarhjörtr, one of Ragnar Loðbrók’s three wives. Ragnar, who you may know from History Channel’s excellent series Vikings, was actually a historical figure, and married to one of my foremothers." Way to name drop that impressive little ancestral factoid into your mitten pattern book, Okey! Pretty pattern. I think I would want to make the cuff a little longer than they are on the samples. These are longer length mittens than is usual (Okey is making sure there's no bare wrist exposed between the wearer's sleeve and mitten cuffs, which I'm on board with), and the short cuff makes the proportions look a little off to me.

Nordic Stars Mittens. These are back of the hand and palm-side versions of this pattern, done in different colourways. It's a pleasingly intricate pattern.

Aud Mittens. Love the play of colour against the pale bluish-gray background here.

Halldora Mittens. The pattern in this one (and the zig zag stripes on the palm) shows to good effect in the white and teal used here.

Aslaug Mittens. Love the contrast from front to back and detailed cuff used here. Don't love the pointy mitten tips. I know that's a standard feature of mitten design, but it always looks so silly and awkward to me.

Eydis Mittens. The black devices are supposed to look like spears but look a little too much like spiders to me here. If they look that way to you too (and you're not into spiders), going with a different colourway should solve that problem.

Astrid Mittens. These have a striking, graphic appeal to them.

Iðunn's Garden Mittens. The colours used here are gorgeous and work really well with the floral pattern. They make Iðunn's garden sounds like a fabulously exotic and vivid place that I would want to visit.

Freydis Mittens. Very pretty and inventive interpretation of the snowflake pattern.

Sindri Mittens. Bold star pattern, and this colourway really makes it pop.

Dagmar Mittens. "Flowers reaching for the sky" on one side, and "a restrictive gate" on the other side. These seem like the perfect things to wear on a skating rink date with a beau one is feeling iffy about.

Gulla Mittens. Pretty pansy and striped pattern mittens.

Nordic Stars Tam. And finally we have a bonus hat pattern, to help you use up the yarn left over from your mittens, and that you did not want to have to share with another knitter. You could adapt this pattern to suit any motif from any of the patterns above.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Conformity and Deformity and other Knitting Fables

Sim, Mim, and Jim felt their planned road trip to New York (and subsequent intended taking of the children's public broadcasting scene by storm), required just the right knitwear.

Pippa was thrilled that she had found a way to marry two of her greatest loves: knitting and rug hooking.

Ursula's latest design was not only a deconstruction of postmodern society's tension between conformity and deformity, but also a vehicle for smuggling contraband across international borders.

Frazer struggled not to cry as he walked down the runway. He'd finally realized that his girlfriend's conception of high fashion sailing attire meant she did not and never would share his passion for and rudimentary knowledge of sailing. There are no butterflies at sea.

Melantha and Lance loved their new double bikini and felt it did almost as much to strengthen the bond between them as their cherished two-seated Love Toilet.

Thomasina, whose ears were very sensitive to the cold, had long been working towards her design goal of making a chic, adult version of earmuffs, and thought she'd finally nailed it. Putting the connecting strap under the chin instead of across the head had been key.

Hope, whose design muse was Frida Kahlo, had created the latest in a series of looks that represented what she thought Frida Kahlo would be wearing if she were alive today. This particular one was "what Frida would wear if she were into pom poms and were having everyone over to drink pitchers of Agua Frescas and watch Orange is the New Black".

Fawn's design muse was Judy Jetson, and this was her "Judy is stricken by a migraine and the pain relieving ray gun is broken" look.

Gramps had just reassured Chet III that of course his will stipulated that his extensive collection of knitwear and silk scarves as well as the buttoned red leather wing chair were to be part of Chet's inheritance.

Jamie and Dolores, two public school teachers currently on mandatory leave of absence and "under observation" at their local hospital's psychiatric unit, used their craft time to create caftans that were visual representations of sieve-like young minds, futile blackboard scribbles, and worn out blackboard erasers. Those hospital gowns were pretty depressing and embarrassing, after all.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Knitter's Magazine K119: A Review

Knitter's Magazine has released issue number 119. Let's have a look at it.

Circle the Square afghan. Nice-looking piece. I like the integration of traditional lace and geometric lines.

Mint Cascade cardigan. Very pretty! One would almost have to make this one in some shade of green.

Aqua Frieze cardigan. Love the design of this one, though the cropped length and open front design do give it something of that "shrunk in the wash" look. But then it could always be lengthened and reshaped.

Shetland Squares pullover. This piece is constructed by sewing two large rectangles together, and it looks like it. I'd add waist shaping and neaten up the fit somewhat. There's a reason why we don't all wear sandwich board outfits.

Citrus Bars afghan. LOVE this one. Both the yarns used and the design work together perfectly to make a simple yet lovely and striking piece.

Entrelac Magic afghan. This isn't the impressive piece of design the previous afghan is, but it's attractive and functional enough. There are more inspiring yarns to use for it than those used here.

Prismatic Panels afghan. This is a new wave interpretation of the classic ripple afghan.

Monkey Business booties. Very cute!

Monkey Business hat. Simple but attractive enough.

Wee Waldo booties. I'm not sure too many people will get the Waldo reference unless the rest of the baby's outfit is in keeping with the theme, but these are nice enough in themselves.

Wee Waldo sweater and cap. Cute. It's hard to go wrong when knitting a striped sweater for a child.

Boxed Lilac top. The lacework and colour of this top is lovely, but it's not something that will be flattering on most women. Even this professional model isn't able to make it look all that good. I'd reshape it into a slightly oversized, drapey top, and nix the mudflaps on the sides.

Monkey Bars baby blanket. Nice piece of contemporary design. I'd be inclined to forego the sock monkey colourway and explore the many other possibilities.

Tracts & Trails. This looks a little too much like eighties-era vinyl upholstery to me. However, I think I might like it better in another colourway, as this one isn't quite pulling together.

Symphony of Stripes shawl. The texture of this piece looks luscious (given that it's made of silk and mohair it could hardly be otherwise), but that is one unattractive colourway and I can't imagine how one would style this shawl, as it would go with nothing but the most basic of basic outfits. I'd dial back the number of colours used from five to three or less.

Wears Waldo pullover. Basic striped baby's sweater, but I do give points for the punny name.

Hiding in the Shadows baby blanket. The basic striped baby blanket you see in the backrgound is actually illusion knitting, which is rather a cool concept for a baby blanket, though I do think I'd want to go with another theme.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Skein of Thought with Mochimochi Land

In this video, Anna Hrachovec shares some of her thoughts and techniques she uses to employ her designs in photography and animation.

This video is a supercut of the charming animated GIFs made in 2012 by Anna Hrachovec.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Knit Simple Fall 2015: A Review

Knit Simple has released their Fall 2015 issue. Let's have a look at the simple knits therein.

Pumpkin and leaf cardigan. This is... okay. It's not great design, but it is the kind of thing that little kids relate to and look cute in. However, those leaf and pumpkin stems bear a most unfortunate resemblance to green worms and I'd go with instarsia stems.

Pumpkin and leaf scarf. Not a bad scarf for a kid. Again, though... green worms.

Pumpkin pocket pullover. The pumpkin pocket is really badly shaped and again... a green worm, this time with a really... ill-advised... placement. If you don't feel up to the task of designing a better pumpkin pocket, just leave it off entirely as this would be a perfectly nice striped pullover without it.

Pumpkin purse. This looks slapped together and the colours don't work.

Pumpkin bag. This is a bit better than the previous design, but not by terribly much. The pumpkin appliqué needs work. I'd be inclined to leave it off altogether and embellish the bag some other way.

Owl sweater with matching scarf. This is kind of cute but it does look a little on the roughly constructed side.

Owl toy. There must be better designed owl toys than this one.

Pumpkin hat. Cute and wearable.

Pumpkin.. cushion?... hassock? I don't know which. I suppose it's big enough for a small child to sit on. I don't think I'd care to have something like this sitting around my house all year, and it seems like an odd thing to make for Halloween decorations when it's neither especially attractive nor of much practical use.

Jack o' Lantern Scarf and Mitts. Basic, but cute and wearable.

Afghan. Basic, but it looks attractive enough and very cozy.

Sport pillows. Not a bad decorating touch for the sports obsessed. One could customize them to display a favourite player's or team's number or logo.

I... don't even know what this is. It looks like a knitted representation of Professor Kitzel's time machine. Are we supposed to make this thing, put it on a hassock, and watch entranced as we imagine it telling us all about Charlemagne and the elephant, or the California Gold Rush?

Afghan. Not a bad-looking piece, and it's reversible. This would be a nice one to do in a variety of colourways, or in a hand-painted yarn.

Orange and white cowl. Not bad. A more interesting and higher end yarn and button choice would do a lot for it.

Orange and white cowl with cables. I liked the previous one better. Those cables give it the look of a foundation garment that has wandered away from where it was supposed to be.

Triangle afghan. This is a little too grandma's parlour for me, but a better colourway could do a lot for it.

Tasseled afghan. Again... not a bad design, but a very uninspired colourway.

The granny square goes big and goes home. Not bad.

Simple striped cap. This is rather a nice basic piece, though I bet most male wearers would prefer it sans pom pom.

Basic striped hat and scarf set. It'll do.

They've done something a bit different with the stripes here, to good effect.

Dead basic shaker knit cap. Which many men would prefer to wear because it'll keep his ears warm and doesn't make him feel like an idiot and that's all he asks of a hat.

Interesting texture on this one. I'd go with a better integrated colourway and omit the pom pom.

Rather a nice-looking hat with a bit of visual interest.

Simple ribs in two colours. Nice, though again the pom pom seems like a bit much.

Basic hat in two greens that don't quite work together.

Simple striped sweater. This is wearable, and a more interesting colourway would really elevate it.

Classic cabled pullover. I'd fix the slightly dropped shoulders and add waist shaping to give it a little more style.

What I can see of this looks promising.

I like the chevron texture, but this needs waist shaping and the dropped shoulders should be fixed.

Cute, wearable, nicely textured hat for either gender.