Saturday, 29 November 2014

Looking Through the Wardrobe for Knitwear Design

Today is C.S. Lewis's 116th birthday, so I thought I'd do a post of Narnia-related projects. There weren't too many Narnia-themed knitting patterns out there. For that matter there aren't too many commercially made Narnia products out there, period. When a former co-worker of mine hosted a birthday party for her Narnia-obsessed nephew some years back, she ended up creating all the decorations and games herself. And she did an amazing job of it. She wheeled a garment rack full of coats in front of the entrance to her living room, so that the birthday boy and his guests had to walk "through the wardrobe" to get to the party. She made cute invitations, party favours, and decorations using images downloaded off the net. She had the children decorate their own crowns. She dressed up as Jadis the White Witch and played a game with them in which they had to dance to music and "turn to stone" every time the music stopped, and each time the Witch paused the CD, the last child to stop moving was eliminated from the game. When I remember seeing the pictures of all this and the obviously thrilled birthday boy, I think perhaps after all it's better that there isn't much mass produced Narnia paraphernalia. Some things are so much better for being homemade. That party was much more memorable and charming (not to mention less expensive) than any party with overpriced Aladdin stuff from the Disney Store could ever have been. I will say though that a book or magazine of Narnia-themed knitting patterns would be a nice-to-have. Maybe Interweave Press will do one sometime...?

But to get to the Narnia patterns I did find. Some knitters have replicated Lucy's 1940s-style sweater from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as shown above, as well as other knitwear from the Narnia movies, but I was looking for patterns that more directly referenced the original text.

These are the Lantern Waste Mittens, designed by Kjerstin Gjengedal, and it's exactly the kind of Narnia-themed design I'd like to see more of. This pattern is available for €4.00(EUR).

If you like picture knits and Narnia, the Dégel à Narnia (or "Thawing Narnia") vest, designed by Isabelle Allard, may be right up your alley. This pattern is available for C$3.00(CAD).

I always picture Mr. Tumnus as being a more elegant, graceful creature than this Mr. Tumnus doll, designed by Neil James, but the doll is certainly adorable and cuddly and probably much more appealing to a child, which is much more to the point. This pattern is available for £1.99(GBP).

This is the Edmund Crown/Hat, designed by Nikol Lohr, and it will be a nice way to keep your little pretender to the Narnian throne warm and happy this winter. The pattern was published in Literary Knits: 30 Patterns Inspired by Favorite Books, which I've written about previously.

I found this photo of Narnia Chronicles stitch markers on Pinterest. They were listed on Etsy and have been sold, and I wasn't even able to figure out which Etsy vendor made them. However, I just had to include them because they're such a perfect fetish notions for the Narnia-loving knitter, and some of you may have the skills to make use of the idea.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Knit Simple Winter 2014: A Review

Knit Simple's Winter 2014 issue is out. Let's have a look at it, shall we?

The combination of the prim collar and the pom pom on this capelet makes it look like something that might have been worn by a seventeenth century New England cheerleading squad. There not being many athletic sports played in New England at that time, this would be a cheerleading squad that appeared at other public entertainments such as quilting bees, pig slaughterings, and the occasional hanging.

This isn't such a bad piece. It's got a certain minimalist style. Done with a beautiful, interesting yarn, it could look quite good.

Ponchos should not look like repurposed afghans or Christmas tree skirts.

This isn't bad. I suspect the cowl neckline could be arranged to sit better than it does here.

This is... okay. I don't like the string ties. I'd figure out a way to button the wrap at the sides, and then, if done in a lovely yarn, it could be a useful little piece.

Super cute toy mushrooms and hedgehogs. Though I don't quite understand the pairing. [Googles.] Ah, it seems hedgehogs do eat mushrooms.

Very cute child's blanket. And I must give this designer credit for an original theme. Teddy bears and kittens are so been there, done that.

The stripes, hedgehogs, and mushrooms translated into a hat and scarf. The theme works quite well in these pieces as well.


Does anyone really have a heart-shaped water bottle?

I... don't know what this is, and as of this writing, the pattern isn't on Ravelry. I think it's a neck pillow. Whatever it is, the design is pretty cheesy.

I'm guessing this is a hot pad? It looks more like a doll blanket I might have knitted at ten or so. Most adults would probably like something a little more sophisticated for their table.

I think the design to look at here is the cowl. I like it. Nice colourway, shape, and texture.

Not a bad little piece for casual wear. The stylist was absolutely right to put this one with a denim jacket.

Pretty lace-edged cowl.

This one's okay too. I suppose this style would generally be worn by itself over a top rather than over a coat.

I'd be inclined to put a coat over this one, and button the coat at the waist to hide the bottom of the cowl. Cowls of this style always look a little too much like a deflated inner tube.

I rather like the concept here. The idea of a breastplate-style cowl that lies flat is something I don't recall having seen before. However, I don't like this particular execution of the concept. This looks a bit crude and unfinished. Some interesting colourwork would probably help.

A sweater with a simple shape done with four necklines. I like the ribbed turtleneck (at bottom left) and the cowl neck versions (at top right). The high necklined version (top left photo) is too simple to have any visual interest. The hooded version also looks a little short on visual interest and also uncomfortably tight around the neck.

It always makes me very nervous when I see handknitted light shades of any kind. Commercially made light shades have to pass certain fire safety regulations; handmade light shades do not. Therefore I never advocate that anyone make homemade light shades, and I never link to knitted light shade patterns either here or on this blog's Facebook page, no matter how many pretty little lacy candle holder cozies I come across. Of course it's totally up to you what you knit and it *might* be safe enough, but I'd encourage you to at least think twice before you do so. Better safe than burnt to a crisp is my motto.

Again, I'm not quite sure what this is, but I think it's supposed to be a hanging storage bag for t-shirts or undies or something of the sort. It doesn't really appeal to me as a storage option. The contents of that bag will be a jumbled mess most of the time.

I suppose this is a rug? It's not a bad-looking one, though I would be tripping over it constantly.

A cup cozy with a holding strap for one's stir stick or spoon. I'm not the target audience for this kind of thing as I seldom have a hot drink. Coffee drinkers, what say you?

Sometimes the Knit Simple designs are just too "home ec project". Even if you are a beginning knitter, I'd urge you to insist on better designed patterns than this.

This place mat is a little better than the hot pad that preceded it, but still... there are much better easy patterns available, beginner knitters.

I like the concept here, but not the granny square design.

I have no idea what this is. My best guess is that it's some sort of blanket. The edges look rather rough and unfinished.

Not a bad little tablet case. It's dead simple, but the coordinated toggle elevates the look and it's neatly finished.

Not a bad looking scarf, though I think I'd be inclined to go with tassels on the ends rather than pom poms.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Yarning

In this stop motion animated short by YouTube user lapendule100, a skein of wool explores a knitting basket and finds the horrors that lurk within it. If skeins of yarn had sensibilities, they'd probably report all of us knitters to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Inanimate objects.

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Head for Trouble: A Review

Today we're going to have a look at the newly released A Head for Trouble: What To Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders, by Julie Turjoman, AKA Ravelry user juliebean. The book is available on Amazon as well as via Ravelry, and I've also been authorized to offer a free e-book version of it on the Facebook page for this blog. I'll be picking a winner this Sunday, so be sure to pop over to the page if you want a chance to win the copy!

The book contains twenty patterns for hats and other accessories, each set of which was inspired by a specific character from a "lady detective" novel set in the 1920s, which is a fabulous concept for a knitting book. There is definitely something irresistible about the idea of a woman who can solve a murder and accessorize her outfits with style. Wouldn't we all like to either be or to date such a woman? Julie Turjoman provides biographical detail on each character as well as the name and the author of the book she is from. (Favourite detail: One character has a pet cheetah named Biscuit.) Given my love for both mysteries and 1920s and 1930s fashions, this concept is so on point that Turjoman may have hit one of my arteries.

My love of vintage style and detective stories was instilled in me at a young age. Back in the eighties I read the Nancy Drew books with the sixties-era yellow-spined cover designs, as exemplified by the The Secret of the Old Clock cover on the left. When, in my twenties, I first saw the original thirties cover art such as that on the right, I was very aggrieved. Why did I have to grow up with a flip-haired Nancy in prim little dresses when I could have been imagining her in clochés and thirties sportswear? Is there even a contest between these two covers in terms of style and visual interest? I think not. But let's get to the review.

The Daisy Cloche and Collar. I like the cloche on the whole, with its appliquéd beaded leaves and added emblem brooch, though I'm not liking that slightly unfinished-looking rolled brim. I'm not quite sure what to suggest in terms of an alternative, however. I'd perhaps add a full brim, borrowing the design from one of the other designs in this book. The collar is very pretty, even elegant. If the added scarf isn't to your liking, it can be left off completely as it's designed to be attached to the collar by way of slipping the scarf's loops over the cowl's snaps.

The Phryne Head Wrap and Wristlets. This set is quite fetching and looks like a good way to add some extra warmth while leaving a woman's hands free and her hair more or less unflattened, and how perfect is that little Art Deco silver brooch? (Though good luck finding one like it.) There might be better colour combinations for this set, though.

Kate Toque and Camera Bag. I love the toque, which is faultlessly stylish, but the camera bag (read: iPod cover) looks like something out of Knit Simple. I'd have designed the camera bag to more closely resemble the touque.

Georgiana Cloche and Scarf. I quite like this set. The hat has a good shape. It features another rolled brim, but this one is even and flattering. I like the idea of making embellishments by attaching a button to a crocheted flower. Julie Turjoman's eye for added embellishments is obviously very good, and adding things like brooches and buttons or other crafted touches is an excellent way to lend style to a knitted hat or other accessory. It's making me do some project planning regarding a certain vintage seed pearl and peridot brooch that's in my jewelry box and that I love but never seem to wear because I can't stand putting little brooch holes in my clothes.

The Verity Tam and Scarf. This is the most striking set of all those in this book and the one I would have chosen for the cover look. The tam is adorable and the scarf, which is practical because it will stay securely in place and not wind up in one's coffee, is so very thirties I half expect it come across it some old movie sometime. My one nitpick is those buttons, which aren't adding much to the look. I'd have found some buttons or beads that matched better, or left them off entirely.

The Jade Cap and Fingerless Mitts are perhaps the simplest and most easy to wear of all the accessory sets in the book, and they still have their share of style.

Mercy Cloche and Cuffs. Nice set. The hat has a very smart shape. The mitts can be worn flounce up or flounce down as you choose.

One modification I would make to this hat is close the slit in the back of the brim, because it makes the hat look like it's coming apart.

The Dandy Cap and Binoculars Bag. I'm anti-doily, so I can't sign off on the embellishments used here. I'd have gone with flowers, and done a more interesting shaped bag.

The Maisie Cloche and Driving Gloves. This set is one of my favourites in this book. The hat and gloves are both well-shaped and nicely detailed, and I particularly love the button tab detail on the driving gloves. They're perfect for driving your runabout off to the latest crime scene.

The Jasmine Pillbox and Scarf. Hmm. The ripple stripe here is more than a little afghan-y, and the embellishment doesn't quite work with it. The colours are good and the hat does look okay unembellished. I think I'd advise that if you want to stripe this hat, don't add anything too frou frou to it (i.e., buttons would be fine) and wear it with a parka, but if you do want to add a flower or a brooch and to wear it with a dressier coat, make the hat in a solid or at least merely variegated single yarn.