Friday, 28 February 2014

Knitter's Magazine 114: A Review

Knitter's Magazine has released Issue 114. Let's have a look at it, shall we?

The Sand Pebbles vest. I rather like the texture of this, but it's definitely on the shapeless and bulky side. I wonder what it looks like buttoned up. Those hairs on the sweater aren't adding much to the effect, but who am I to judge? There are a number of cat hairs visible on my project pictures.

The Majestic Tank. The model is kind of working this, but it still looks like it shrunk in the wash, and for most women it's unwearable. Lengthened by about a foot, it could be a pretty sleeveless top. The yarn and lace employed here are rather attractive.

The Aria cardigan. I absolutely love the texture of this cardigan, but it is just so shapeless that it's not even doing anything for this model. I'd use that yarn and stitch on another cardigan pattern.

The Letter Perfect vest. I always do have a hard time reviewing open-front cardigans and vests. I can't get past the conviction that they're going to look shapeless and frumpy on most women. This looks good until we get down to chest level and then... I just want to make it more fitted and buttoned through the body. I do quite like this fresh, bright colourway.

The Streamlines shawl. Now here's something different from all those pretty but run-of-the-mill lace shawls. This is one very cool, modern shawl. I think it would be impossible not to notice this piece if I saw it on someone.

The Blurred Lines top. This isn't a badly designed piece at all (those stripes are quite interesting and creative), but the design does look undeservedly bland and frumpy in this sample knit. I'd shorten the sleeves a few inches and go with a sharper, more interesting colourway.

The Tulips Tunic. Sheer lace (and this lace pattern is lovely) does make a drapey style easier to wear. I don't care for the styling here though. I'd wear this over a simple fitted dress, as though it were an alternative to a lace shawl. And I would shorten the sleeves. That just above the elbow length is difficult to pull off.

Chevron Skirt. Oh honey, I know your grandma made this for you for Christmas out of one of her rec room afghans, and that you really love your grandma, but seriously, you don't need to actually wear it. If your grandma thinks this is attractive, she probably also thinks the Cold War is still on and you can tell her it came in handy as part of your bomb shelter wardrobe stockpile.

Daring Dashes top. Hmm. I'm not crazy about this, but I suppose it isn't terrible. I'm trying to figure out what the model has on underneath this top that would show black around the waist and near the shoulders but is looking like skin tone at the chest and midriff. A solid colour tank top would be the best under layer for this top, and I'd make sure that it was of a tone to work with whatever the knitter chose for the single-ply dashes. Black and dark purple really don't do anything for each other.

The Blue Helix sweater. Quite like this one. I do wish there were better or other views of it though. It's hard to get an idea of how something flatters or looks from just a side view.

The Mesa Tee. A nice-looking top with a definite southwestern vibe.

The Lolita sweater. I rather like this one. Not all women care to bare their midriffs of course, but the top has enough going on that it could be made with a straight, full-length hem in front rather than this curved and cropped one, and still be an interesting look. I like the idea of contrasting colours in the ribbing.

Ombre Fans afghan. Very pretty, and a great way to showcase a variegated or hand-dyed yarn.

Flashes and Dashes top. This is pretty, but it does fit like a Hefty bag. I'd make it standard fit.

The Flip Side pullover. This is an attractive and interestingly textured sweater.

The Lucerne vest. This is a polished, classic piece that will never go out of style.

The Slip Shape top. This is quite a smart graphic effect and has a good shape. I'm envisioning this top in a number of bright, pretty colourways. (Not that there's anything wrong with gray and white — I just can't wear it myself.)

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Jeff Pony

Jeff Pony is an animated short about a knitted horse and his secret talent. This short was written, directed and animated by Erica Akerlund, with sound and compositing by Matt Law.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Oh Darn

If you've got a favourite pair of socks or sweater that have tragically acquired a hole or two, you may want to acquire the homely accomplishment of darning. I've gotten extra years out of a beloved sweater this way, and was once even able to save a sweater I'd made for my father that had had an unfortunate encounter with a table saw. If you made the sweater or socks yourself, you'll be at an advantage because you're very likely to have at least a small amount of the same yarn left over.

This image and the one above are from government-issued pamphlets that probably date from World War II, when the populace was being encouraged to "make do and mend" in order to conserve resources for the war effort. If you'd like a more modern tutorial on how to darn, Twist Collective has a good one.

If you're the sort of learner who likes to have something demonstrated for you, this video clearly demonstrates the process of darning.

Darning is definitely a low-cost option. Besides the matching or near matching yarn that you need and may well already have on hand, you will need only a needle with a sharp point and an eye big enough for whatever fibre you are using, and a darning egg. A plain wooden egg or mushroom such as those above will do.

Though there's no reason the wooden egg has to be plain. The eggs above were made by my father. As you can see, that sweater of his did not meet that table saw in vain.

You might also treat yourself to a covetable antique darning egg such as the Victorian-era sterling silver-handled and hand-painted darning eggs above.

If you find you really love darning, it's possible to take the technique to a higher level, as has been done in the case of this 1841 sampler, which features silk, wool and cotton threads embroidered in running and cross stitches on a plain weave foundation. A hole in a prominent place can become an opportunity to really break out your imagination and fancy stitchwork so that the darn becomes an adornment.

Researching this post led me down a rabbit hole of truly fascinating information on and examples of how to take mending and making do to a whole new level, to the point where it's an art and a source of pleasure rather than drearily frugal. I have a passion for salvage and thrifting and hate waste, so the topic is as catnip to me. I especially loved blogger Susannah's account of her year's experience in shopping and sewing within the limits of the British wartime clothing ration of 1941 on her blog Cargo Craft Cult. She tells us that before this experiment, her wardrobe consisted of vintage costume-type outfits that she had lovingly made but had little chance to wear, and the boring nondescript clothes that she actually wore. The discipline of shopping and sewing according to strict guidelines forced her to make vintage clothes she could actually wear every day, and to make her purchases more carefully as she would need to wear them often. The result was a wardrobe that was not only more practical but more interesting and attractive, and that she got much more real enjoyment from. And I'm not surprised to hear it.

Working within restrictions is actually good for creativity. If you gave me limited materials and set me a specific task to achieve with them, I would do better and more creative work more quickly than I would if you were to turn me loose in a large room full of varied craft materials and just told me to make something. The human psyche seems to need limits to kick against.

And then too, getting the most out of your belongings by mending and making do has a number of other rewards and benefits. It's environmentally responsible. It'll save you money, and possibly also time, since you might be able to mend or alter something faster than you could go to the store and shop for a replacement. And it's so satisfying. Anyone can slap down a credit card and buy something new; it takes skill, creativity and intelligence to figure out how to turn an item that seems bound for a landfill into a useable, attractive piece.

Researching and writing this post generated lots of ideas for future mending and making do posts, so look for more posts on how to get the most out of your knitwear.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2014 Issue: A Review

Vogue Knitting's Spring/Summer 2014 issue is available. Let's have a look at it, shall we?

A mesh cowl. I'd say this more or less works because the yarn used here is so interesting, but that the yarn itself deserved a better pattern.

Pattern #1, the Scoop-Neck Pullover. This isn't bad. It sits well and has very decent lines except for that shoulder seam halfway down the arm. I can see why this sweater was made that way — because the lace strip across the body would otherwise have been seamed together with stockinette sleeve, which would look awkward — but I'd have solved the problem by extending the drop shoulder into a seamless sleeve with a lace strip running its entire length. Or by leaving off the sleeve entirely and letting the drop shoulder become a cap sleeve.

Pattern #2, Cap Sleeve and Cowl. This top is rather nice if you don't mind figuring out how to wear one without showing visible bra strap in the back. I don't think the cowl (which is fine by itself) adds anything to the design, though.

Pattern #3, Short Sleeve Raglan Tee. This one's okay too, if a touch on the cropped and boxy side. And again the wearer might have issues with bra visibility. One way to solve the problem is by wearing a layer underneath, but who wants to wear layers in hot weather?

Pattern #4, Fitted Cropped Cardi. Not a bad little spencer.

Pattern #5, Fine Mesh Pullover. Basic, wearable mesh pullover with a ballet neckline. My only quibble is that I'd make the sleeves more fitted, because it looks out of place to have them belling out over the cuffs when the rest of the design is so clean-lined.

Pattern #6, Mid-Length Tank-Style Sundress. This is actually a rather nice piece of work. I'd suggest something other than black for a sundress, though, as black doesn't look all that good in the sun.

Pattern #7, Lace Duster. This one is shapeless and unflattering even on the model. It looks like something one of the The Golden Girls would have worn, and while it's possible to reference lines from The Golden Girls to happy effect, trying to dress like them will go over less well.

Pattern #8, Mesh Bomber Jacket. This isn't bad, though I'm not sure I'm sold on the cut-out effect at the bottom.

Pattern #9, Crew-Neck Pullover. This is rather eighties, isn't it? I'm not terribly taken with this, but I must admit it's eye-catching, and I keep thinking that if done in a slightly more summery colourway such as turquoise, green and white, it might look rather sporty and cute.

Pattern #10, Lace Scarf. This is a lovely lace stole, though it might be more wearable if it were made shorter.

Pattern #11, Wing Lace Tunic. This is quite pretty. I'd be inclined to make this a few inches longer and wear it as a dress.

Pattern #12, V-Neck Tee. The lace stitch used here is lovely, but between the horizontal stripes and the slightly boxy, cropped shape, this isn't going to be a flattering item on anyone. I'd be inclined to make this slightly longer and more fitted and to use the yarn employed in the mesh cowl pattern that appears at the beginning of this review.

Patterns #13, #14, and #15. A trio of lace stoles. They are all quite pretty, though the first one with its delicate fan and mesh stitch is definitely the loveliest of the three.

Pattern #16, Macrame Vest. The macrame open work back on this top makes it one of those high-concept knitwear designs that aren't for every woman, or even for more than a low single digit percentage of women, but still could be dramatic and interesting on the right person. But I don't know why the designer saw fit to shape the front in such a roughly obvious way, which really detracts, and leave all those dangling ends at the back, which just looks ridiculous. It's like releasing some showy new luxury car design minus its hubcaps and with matching fuzzy dice dangling from the rearview mirror.

Pattern #17, Sheath Dress. This isn't really working, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to tweak it so it will. I do like the top part, but the skirt portion isn't working out so well. I especially don't like that rough-looking ridge at the waistline. I think what I'd do here is continue the navy and aqua colourblocking throughout the whole length of the dress and just add a border of the electric blue ribbed stitch at the bottom.

Pattern #18, Crew-Neck Pullover. The colour blocking and double line of eyelets add a little interest to a pretty basic piece. Done in your favourite colours, this could be a useful item to throw on over a t-shirt and jeans or to dress up with a coordinating skirt for work.

Pattern #19, High-Low Hem Tee. The colour blocking here isn't bad but the shaping isn't good. I remember reviewing a lot of these "long in back and short in front" mismatched hemline pieces last summer, but haven't seen one for awhile. I was hoping the trend had died a deserved death but here it is again, and with dropped shoulders to boot. Did the mullet hairstyles and oversized sweaters of the eighties teach us nothing? If you want to make this sweater, I would clean up the shaping by raising the dropped shoulders, making a fitted cap sleeve, adding waist shaping, and making back and front hems the same length.

Pattern #20, Mosaic Lace Shell. Here we are with more Golden Girls attire, slightly modernized by omitting the sleeves. Or maybe this is supposed to be a homage to samplers and lace curtains. Either way, it's not exactly working as a piece of apparel for real world purposes. It looks like a home ec project even on a model who's hired for her exceptional abilities to make clothes look good.

Pattern #21, Sculptural Shell. This one isn't bad conceptually, but the execution is a little crude and the result looks rather rough and amateurish. A finer gauge yarn and better finishing details would have helped.

Pattern #22, Patchwork Pullover. Hmm, shaker stitches and a bright colourway that's pure eighties, with nineties-style colour blocking (although of course I realize colour blocking is back). I'd say this needs a more subtle or sophisticated colourway than the one used here to make it look truly current and attractive and less like something off the cover of a remaindered 1990 knitting booklet.

Pattern #23, Hooded Pullover. I actually rather like this one, which has good lines, an interesting texture, and is pretty wearable. The colourway is a little on the dreary side, but that's easy to remedy.

Pattern #24, Hooded Raglan Pullover. This one's rather nice. The lace gives it a suitably pretty, summery look.

Pattern #25, Zip-Front Hooded Vest. Can't say I care much for this one, which is just rather coarse and uninteresting looking.

Pattern #26, Hooded Button-Front Vest. This is much better than the above hooded vest. It's got some visual interest and polish, and you won't get sunburnt through this as you would through all the little mesh holes of the design above.