Thursday, 10 November 2016

Four Years of Knitting Damage Done

Today is The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done's fourth anniversary. I wish the timing of it were more auspicious. As I write this, it's the morning of November 9th, and I'm trying to process the American election results. I have a very different knitting memory for this election than for the 2008 American election, when I spent election night contentedly knitting a pair of socks, pausing only to fist pump when another state was declared for Obama. The resulting socks, fittingly, went to a Canadian friend who lives in the U.S. I told him they weren't just any socks, but were historic socks. And also 10% cashmere.

This time around, I did indeed knit while watching the election results, but then I went to bed at about twenty minutes past midnight on November 8th. The election had not been decided yet, but it wasn't looking good, and it seemed more important for me to get a good night's sleep than for me to find out the results in real time. So I had about eight hours more of remaining in a mental state where a grossly unqualified and abusive man was not the president elect of one of the most powerful countries of the world, though I did not expect to wake up to good news. I didn't sleep well, or much, after the first three hours, and I did a lot of thinking. About the world's future. About the democratic process. About climate change, nuclear war, and racial, gender, and economic inequality. About my own role in the political sphere and in helping to resolve these issues, and my own goals. About this site, since it is part of the work I do. And about my knitting and crafting in other mediums, which will always be part of my life as long as I have reasonable use of my hands and my eyesight, but which seemed to require some reconsideration.

One of my conclusions was that I need to work harder and accomplish more, and prioritize better, to spend less time on trivial things. This is a difficult endeavour for me, as I have had chronic fatigue issues for over nine years. There are frequent days when I don't have the energy to leave the house, and the occasional day when I basically don't get up. It's been well over three years since I went out socially in the evening. The fatigue is as much mental as it is physical, and often leaves me with little ability to focus or to cope with any frustration or stress. Even the thought of doing something useful can feel overwhelming. And after nine years there seems little reason to hope I will ever get better. However, I think I can do better even within my physical limitations, and that hopelessness and defeat is a luxury and a self-indulgence I cannot afford. There is so much to be done in this world, and so many problems to be resolved. I want to get on my feet financially so as to be in a position to help others instead of needing help, and I want to learn more, get more work done, and contribute more to world. I think my contribution will largely be in the form of written work, as I'm not able to do much else, but I can certainly do that.

I thought about Eleanor Roosevelt during the election night as well. Eleanor Roosevelt was an inveterate knitter who took her knitting everywhere she went. She knitted during the U.N. committee meetings she chaired. However, she never let her knitting take precedence over more important things. She never let her knitting keep her from meeting her deadlines for the six-day-a-week column she wrote for 27 years, for instance, which makes me feel terribly embarrassed about my less than twice-a-week blog posting schedule over the past year. Part of the reason I do so much knitting is that I usually have the mental and physical energy to do it, but that doesn't mean I get carte blanche to knit when I could and should be doing other, more important things. I want to be the Eleanor Roosevelt kind of knitter.

I will be continuing to work on this blog, as it still seems worthwhile to me. I don't kid myself that a knitting blog can be a significant force for political or social change, but I think it's worth doing because I can do some good with it. I am providing a service to my readers by giving them an easy way to keep up with current knitting publications, and by helping them develop their knitting skills and their ability to critically assess a pattern. The site is entertaining, and a number of readers have told me that The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done is a welcome distraction during hard times. I also do my best to make this blog and its accompanying Facebook page a place where every knitter feels represented and welcome and where we all treat each other with respect. I also do occasionally get a chance to help publicize a good cause and speak out on political issues -- my rule of thumb is that I can write about anything on this blog or its Facebook page as long as I can find a knitting angle.

So, with these mental adjustments made, the fifth year of this blog lies ahead. Let's begin it together. As always, your suggestions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Vogue Knitting Holiday 2016: A Review

Vogue Knitting has released its Holiday 2016 issue. Let's have a look at what's knitted and in vogue these holidays, shall we?

Pattern #1. A lovely contemporary piece, and it's reversible. I'd have put silver beads on this instead of gold.

Pattern #2. Very attractive and carefully detailed piece.

Pattern #3. Nice gradient effect.

Pattern #4. That's some awesome stitchwork, and the shaping complements it.

Pattern #5. Kind of schlumpy.

Pattern #6. This could work with the right outfit, but I think it would make me feel as though I were wearing a life preserver made out of the Michelin Tire Man.

Pattern #7. A handsome and super warm-looking throw.

Pattern #8. Love this one. But then solid colour sweaters with beautifully intricate yokes are my jam.

Pattern #9. Oh Vogue Knitting, it's like you're designing just for me.

Pattern #10. Very pretty fair isle, and the colourway is charming.

Pattern #11. Nice cardigan, though my one nitpick is that those sleeves are an awkward length.

Pattern #12. The pattern is rather eye-catching, though it deserved better styling than to be worn over a x-larger t-shirt, which gives the total look a "just running out to a convenience store in pajamas" air.

Pattern #13. Quite a simple effect, but it's attractive enough.

Pattern #14. The texture's kind of interesting, but the selection of a variegated yarn made the final result way too busy, and this is a style that will look frumpy on most women, especially when it's so bulky.

Pattern #15. That's some impressive stitchwork, but this would look better as the afghan it so nearly is.

Pattern #16. Nice looking shawl. I'd like to see this in a more interesting colourway.

Pattern #17. I'd be afraid I would slap someone with all the excess sleeve drapery every time I raised an arm.

Pattern #18. This looks a tad on the heavy side, but I do like the intricately worked mosaic stitchwork.

Pattern #19. Some incredibly striking and impressive stitchwork in this one. And the kimono shaping works with it.

Pattern #20. Nicely shaped and detailed jacket.

Pattern #21. I can't say I care all that much for this shaping of this wrap, but the mosaic stitchwork is so incredibly impressive that it almost carries the piece. I'd still rather see this done as a jacket or as a shawl rather than as a hybrid of the two.

Pattern #22. The fresh blue ripples of this are pretty, but I would neaten up the fit and fix those dropped shoulders.

Pattern #23. These legwarmers are a cute and very young-looking design, but I can't help but feel they need feet in them.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Bergère de France Magazine 184: A Review

In this post, we're going to have a look at Bergère de France Magazine 184.

Pattern #01, Tunic. This has a very "slapped together out of odds and ends of yarn look", and also makes the model look as though she's wearing the knitted version of a slinky.

Pattern #2, Crop Top. This one's rather cute. The stripes and the wrapped effect give the design some style. But I think I'd lengthen the top, or at least not wear it over something that's so gathered and full at the waist.

Pattern #03, Dress with Halter Back. This pattern surprised me by being a sewing pattern. I'm including it in the interests of completeness, and because I know many of my readers sew, as I do myself. It's not a bad little summer dress. The lines are good and the design is wearable.

Pattern #04, Short-sleeve Polo Shirt. This isn't bad at all. The lines are good. I'd perhaps add some buttons to the neck placket to make it look a little more polished.

Pattern #05, Round-Neck Sweater. Not bad. The asymmetrical cable detail works fairly well, and the shaping is good.

Pattern #06, Crochet Cardigan. This looks like a grocery shopping bag with sleeves.

Pattern #07, Short Sleeve Tunic. This design is uninteresting, and would look pretty frumpy on most women.

Pattern #08, Short Sleeve Sweater. Not bad, though I think it could use a little waist shaping and a more interesting colourway.

Pattern #09, Zipped Jacket. Very wearable and even rather smart.

Pattern #10, Cape-Style Sweater. This is another of those pieces that even a professional model can't quite carry off, which doesn't bode well for the rest of us. Making the waist more fitted would help.

Pattern #11, V-Neck Sweater. This isn't a bad take on the classic men's tennis sweater, though I think it would look better if the main colour were the classic white or ivory rather than Bergère de France's beloved oatmeal.

Pattern #12, Halter Top. A dead simple, classic halter top.

Pattern #13, Blouse with No Collar and 3/4 Sleeves; and Pattern #14, Cable Shorts. Both the sewn blouse pattern and the cable shorts are solidly middle of the road design.

Pattern #15, Wrap Around Dress. I quite like this dress, as the lines are good and the sewn cotton binding gives a nicely finished look, but I would definitely do it in a more interesting colour.

Pattern #16, Mid-Season Dress; and Pattern #23, Mid-Season Denim Dress. Not a bad simple little summer dress. Ordinarily I'd recommend making it a little longer, but that might take the look into sister wife territory, and the denim version in particular is halfway there already.

Pattern #17, V-Neck Sweater with 3/4 Sleeves. This looks like a not-quite-finished project.

Pattern #18, Sleeveless Cable Sweater. I love the off-the-shoulder section of this sweater, but the stitchwork of the bottom section is a little heavy-looking for summer.

Pattern #19, Wide Cardigan. Call me old-fashioned, but I think sweaters should look like sweaters and not like the aftermath of some fishnet mishap.

Pattern #20, Scoop Neck Top. This is very simple but the shaping, the textured yarn, and the rolled neckline and hem give it all the interest it really needs. I'd go with some non-oatmeal-like colour, though.

Pattern #21, Blouse with Peter Pan Collar & 3/4 Sleeves. This is the same blouse as we saw in pattern 13, with an added collar. It's not bad. It does sit a little stiffly, but that's probably because it's made from poplin, which is one of the crisper cotton fabrics. Muslin or voile or a light crepe or silk would sit better.

Pattern #22, Short Cardigan with Long Sleeves. The cropped length of this cardigan gives it an awkward look even on this professional model. I'd definitely recommend lengthening it.

Pattern #24, Lacy Cross Over; and Pattern #25, Pleated Skirt. The cardigan isn't bad on the model, but I question how well the sweater would stay in place. Wrap clothes that do not stay securely wrapped are a worry and a hassle no woman needs added to her day. The skirt isn't bad, but I am beginning to wonder if Bergère de France's sewing pattern design muse is Taylor Swift.

Pattern #26, Tunic with Crocheted Border. I'm inclined to like this, which has the look of vintage lingerie, but I'd think there should be a little more to it if it's meant to be worn out in public as anything other than a beach coverup. I'd make it longer and also finish that hem, possibly with some more crocheted lace.

Pattern #27, Crochet Gilet. This one's a little too "summer on the free love commune" for me.

Pattern #28, Lace Sweater with Wide Sleeves. This has such a frumpy shape. That slim fit skirt would work well with a relaxed fit top, but this one is too oversized.

Pattern #29, Short Sleeve Sweater. The shape isn't great, and I don't see the point of knitting something so very basic and uninteresting.

Pattern #30, Sleeveless V-Neck Sweater. Not bad. The yarn is interesting, the line of garter stitch down the front is effective, and the shape is relaxed but flattering.

Pattern #31, Sleeveless Long Sweater. This has a "slapped together out of an ugly yarn that someone gave me" look.

Pattern #32, Purse #2. As I've said in previous Bergère de France reviews, I think this bag kit that Bergère de France offers has lots of possibilities, but for some reason Bergère de France can't seem to come up with a design for it that isn't horrifically bad. This one looks as though it were made out of a secondhand pair of hobbit trousers.

Pattern #33, Sleeveless Cropped Sweater. Women are not cube-shaped and their clothes shouldn't be either.

Pattern #34, Purse #1. And here we have the counterpart to the bag we saw in pattern #32, by which I mean that the one above was the hobbit trousers and this one is the hobbit suspenders.

Pattern #35, Belt; and Pattern #36, Belt. These belts look as though they were made by children at a summer camp and brought proudly home to their mothers, who received them with good grace and gritted teeth, wore them once (inside the house), and then kept them on their belt racks for a few years until one day the belts silently and mysteriously disappeared.

Pattern #37, Lacy Scarf. This one has an attractive texture and drapes well.

Pattern #38, Scarf. I rather like this one, with its very light texture and subtle contrast. While I might not knit this scarf in these colours, I would pick low contrast shades in an effort to recreate the effect of this one.

Pattern #39, Long Sleeve Cardigan. The yarn is rather pretty, but the designer of this piece really ought to have put some effort in.