Thursday, 19 September 2013

Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits: A Review

Interweave has released a Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits issue. As a big Downton Abbey fan, I've been aware of this special issue for awhile, but had to wait until there were preview pics available online before I could write a review. Let's see what knitted fashions are going down at our favourite abbey, shall we?

The Lighter-than-Air Chiffon Blouson is rather shapeless, and not terribly flattering or interesting.

The Garden Bouquet Shawl is gorgeous. Not even the Dowager Countess could disapprove of it.

The Brocade Vestment is rather problematic. Of course it's based on this fabulous evening dress of Lady Mary's, which is definitely among my favourite Downton Abbey costumes:

The front is gorgeous and a worthy imitation of the original. The back is more problematic, and I don't like the way it's been styled. I don't know how the back looks in the original dress and Interweave's version may be a faithful reproduction, but if I were to make this I'd forego faithful reproduction and do some serious rewriting of the pattern and knit a fuller, more fitted back in order to make the item more wearable. I'd want it to be something that can be worn with a low-necked chiffon blouse as in the original, or on its own.

The Stunning Sunflower Lace Stole. This isn't as striking as the Garden Bouquet Shawl, but it is an attractive shawl and period accurate.

I can't say I care for the Lady's Waistcoat. No one but a very small-breasted woman could possibly carry off that just-below-the-bustline neckline, and it just looks awkward and strange even on the model.

The Luxurious Lacy Overdress. This looks like a little lace dress that the designer wrote for some other Interweave publication that got shoehorned into this issue to fill a slot. And it's a nice lace sheath dress pattern, but I don't know if it really belongs over a longer-lined skirt or trousers as it's styled here.

The Gown Gloves. These silk gloves are very plain but very well-constructed, and they could be worn with evening dress or for daytime wear for warmth.

I'm not enthusiastic about the Cuffs and Jabot pattern. They are pretty examples of lacework, but they're not well-styled here, and I am having a hard time envisioning the set as working in a modern woman's wardrobe. After all... if we in 2013 can't make these designs work as part of the outfits we wear in our day-to-day lives, there's no real point in making them.

The Mourning Blouse design. I really like this one, which does look a great deal like an early twenties sweater. I'm even wondering if I mightn't make it for myself just to have an excuse to use a certain antique Art Nouveau buckle that I have in my possession. Though just to be a stickler, I'll point out that mourning purples weren't this vivid shade.

The Elegant Scrollwork Travelling Coat. The back of this coat looks fantastic, but I'm less than impressed with the front, though I know it's period accurate and this coat does look just like something Lady Mary might have worn to the train station to see someone off. I'd be inclined to reshape it entirely to make it hang better and to button up much higher.

The English Garden Wedding Kimono. I know this one is also period accurate, but it's a look that doesn't translate to today. It's going to make any woman who wears it look frumpy, dumpy and just plain odd, like a batty great-great-aunt at a wedding.

The Fetching Fair Isle Cap really does live up to its name. It's very cute, but I am not sure about those pom poms. They're a little twee and if they aren't fastened in place are going to wind up in the eyes of the wearer. I'd be inclined to finish this cap off with a simple tassel.

Absolutely love the Genteel Beaded Figure Purse. This purse could go straight from the Downton Abbey drawing room to your company's 2013 Christmas dinner party and look perfect in either setting.

I'm less enthusiastic about the Suffragette Beaded Drawstring Bag. I think it might be the colours that aren't working for me. I'd make this in metallic tones so as to make it suit more outfits.

These Gentlemen's Golfing Stockings were the kind of thing men wore with a pair plus fours while golfing back in the twenties (though perhaps not in this colourway), but I can't imagine any of the men of my acquaintance being caught dead in them. So we women get them, and they're a totally cute pair of kneesocks.

A simple Hot Water Bottle Cover, intended as a "comfort for the troops". This is perfectly period accurate, as most war knitting was very utilitarian and boring. But if you use hot water bottles in your house or intend to make this as a gift for someone who does, you can always dress this up by making it striped and adding pretty ribbons.

Lady Denman's Vest. Rack my brains as I would, I could not remember a Lady Denman among the Downton Abbey cast, but a quick Google taught me that Gertrude Denman was an actual historical figure and prominent suffragist. I love that this classic, attractive, and wearable vest was named in homage to her.

And we're back in batty great-great-aunt territory with the Oval Brim Hat for the Fair. Seriously, this thing looks like a magnified toilet paper cosy.

The Sunday-Best Felted Cloche Hat is a good design, though I'd make in a less dreary colour combination. This one is totally "sensible Anna the housemaid on her day out" wear, and I think most of us modern women can dare to dress a little smarter because we don't have to have one hat that goes with everything.

This is the Two-in-One Warm Hat or Cravat design. It's very handsome in its scarf incarnation, but I'm not sure how many men would care to wear a hat like that.

The Chilly Morning Cosycoat. This isn't anything like the costumes I've seen the Downton Abbey kitchen maids wear, but perhaps they will as we get further into the twenties on the show. It's a nice enough basic vest.

Mr. Carson would have been apoplectic had any of his footmen dared appear on duty in this Footmen's Vest, but of course this design is merely intended as a nod to Downton Abbey, not as a historically accurate piece. And it's an attractive cardigan for today's non-subservient man.

The Walking Out Eyelet Panel Blouse. I love this one and would totally wear it. In another colour though, and on its own, since I needn't either be so practical as to select clothing that won't show dirt nor quite so circumspect about how much skin I show.

The 1918 Style Bolero Jacket. I don't care for this one, which looks boxy and unflattering.

The Half-Day Off Mitts are a very nice, wearable little pair of fingerless gloves.

The Vest for the Cricket Match design. This style of vest was first worn for cricket, tennis, and boating in the twenties and has been a classic style for men every since. I very much like this one in particular, with a slightly different style of colour band on the armhole, neck, and hem trim. And I do love that they've found a Robert-like model to wear it. Way to keep your job, Robert, by making yourself indispensable to the house and village cricket match.


  1. Thank you so much for your thoughts on the patterns. It's definitely made me feel more informed on whether or not I want to drop the cash on it!

  2. I have not watched the series but am interested in seeing the pictures of the finished garments. Not keen on some of the designs because they look so impractical to wear. Others I just adore. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Loved your critique of the costumes in the magazines. Most of them ARE costumes I would only wear in a period play. The styles I would make for wear, could easily be made from other patterns and modified as needed/wanted. Adored your critique of the "Toilet Paper Cozy Hat". LA! My thought exactly when I saw it! Thank you for your astute and witty comments before I plonked down any hard-earned cash on the magazine.