Magazine review: Interweave Knits Winter 2009

All my knitting and crocheting is taking place behind the scenes recently.  I have lots of FOs to show off.  I just haven't taken the time to upload the pictures from the camera.  Too busy finishing projects and ….gasp…. getting ready to move across country.  More on that some other time.  In the meanwhile, let's take a look at IK's winter issue.

At first glance, I fell in love with that cover knit, and had high hopes for the rest of the projects within.  "Best knits for winter warmth" sounds pretty good to me.

Beginning at the beginning, the first article we come to is the Artist Spotlight on Mark Newport.  Unlike many of the textile artists IK has featured in the recent past, I actually kind of get this guy.  He's turned his fascination with comic book superheroes into knitted superhero costumes.  Click on the link to see what I mean.  I never really read many comics outside of Archie when I was a kid, but maybe the fact that I think these are kind of cool is an indication of my inner geek.

This issue's Yarn focus is on camelid products: camel, alpaca, llama, and their cousins.  Luscious yarns such as Rowan Lima or Cascade Pastaza cause my fingers to twitch and reach for the credit card.  I love how IK introduces me to yarns I would never otherwise encounter.  My only quibble with the feature is the lack of pricing information.  It would be most helpful to know the retail price of these yarns, and thus be able to budget for what could be a costly purchase.

Vicki Square discusses designing with ethnic motifs in her Thinking Knitter column.  Interesting insight to a working designer's process.

Hey!  Patterns!  In the Fall 2009 issue (which I did not review….laziness and procrastination R us), IK changed its format.  Instead of showing all the pretty pictures of the featured knits first, with patterns following at the back of the magazine, IK now prints each gallery or "story" with its patterns in a self-contained section.  In other words, several pages of pretty pictures followed by the patterns for those knits, then several more pages of pretty pictures followed by patterns, and so forth.  It's not a bad change but it will take some getting used to…I'm accustomed to picking up a magazine and flipping immediately to the back half to find the instructions.

Onward.  Our first story:  A Stark Contrast, which highlights the positive and negative space in cables, lace, and other knitted textures.

  • The first knit featured is that cover piece, Nora's Sweater, a gorgeous royal purple tunic-length cardigan with a pleated back beneath its Japanese-inspired sideways-cabled yoke, and an open collarless front with an intricately cabled border.  Elegant and easy to dress up or down.  Suggested yarn: Misti Alpaca Worsted.  Have I queued this yet?  *checks*  Apparently not.  Will remedy that situation forthwith.
  • The Syrup Pullover, so-called because of its predominant use of a waffle stitch, is a V-neck pullover with long sleeves that puff out at the elbow and draw back in at the long cuff.  The pattern copy calls it a "poet cuff."  Looks kind of like an upside down Juliet sleeve to me.  The bodice is knit in smooth stockinette with that aforementioned waffle stitch giving texture and eye appeal below the bust line to the hem and on the cuffs.  Meh.  Not to my taste, but it's not ugly.  Suggested yarn:  Lorna's Laces Green Line Worsted.
  • The Aquitaine Pullover's wide boatneck and chunky lace at the bodice and on the cuffs of its long sleeves make for a striking and unusual tunic-length pullover.  I'm a sucker for boatnecks anyway…so flattering on my figure…and one glance at this piece was enough to qualify it for queue status.  A second look reveals that it's SEAMLESS (!) and has a subtly textured vertical stripe from below the yoke to the hem.  Love!  Suggested yarn:  Classic Elite Kumara.
  • Alma's Scarf is more wrap than scarf, given its generous proportions.  Easy eyelet lace and lacy V stitch panels at each end echo the textured panel of knit/purl chevrons that make up the main body of the piece.  Very pretty.  Suggested yarn:  Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend.
  • As mentioned in the review of VK's Holiday Issue, purple is this year's "in" color.  The Alpaca Pleats Jacket is the second piece in this issue made of a purple-hued yarn.  This short-sleeved collarless cardigan features vertical pleats around the front and neckline, and a skinny column of eyelet lace tracing the path next to the pleats.  Classic tailored styling and a hook & eye closure make this a good choice for the office, but would look equally great paired with jeans and a tee.  Suggested yarn:  Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk.

Pattern break, and time for an article.  Real Knitter introduces us to another artist, Sharon Kallis of Vancouver (the article doesn't specify whether that's British Columbia or Washington, though) who crochets with natural materials such as morning glory vines and ivy.  Oooo-kay.  People fascinate me.

Back to the pretty pictures.  Next up:  All Tangled Up, a story in which (according to the magazine copy) "…cables and texture get playful with innovative constructions and patterns."

  • The Braided Riding Jacket, a glorious riot of cables and bobbles and waves in a fabulous green tweed yarn, is a must make.  Long sleeves and yoke use a wrapped stitch to make a bubbly bumpy simple texture which offsets the highly detailed cables on the main body.  Stunning.  Recommended yarn: Tahki Tweedy Alpaca.
  • More tweed, this time by Debbie Bliss, makes up the Floating Spiral Hat, a simple beanie of swirling cables which would make a good companion for the Braided Riding Jacket. Or not.  It's your choice.  The stitch pattern doesn't scream "GIRL!", so this might make a good cap for a fella.  Suggested yarn:  Debblie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed.
  • Big yarn in an oversize lace pattern plus satin lining plus beaded handles equal the Art Lace Bag.  It's big enough to use as an overnight bag, which may be its best purpose, because I can't imagine being able to find anything in it easily.  Even the model is pictured as digging through the purse as if in search of her keys.  Suggested yarn: Loop-d-Loop Granite.
  • More Japanese inspiration results in the Wave and Dimple Kimono, a three-quarter sleeve tunic-length cardigan.  The construction is similar in appearance to Nora's Sweater above, except it's done in two pieces rather than six: the yoke and sleeves are knit from wrist to wrist, and the body is knit from hem to yoke.  Wide cables give a gentle rolling feel to the finished fabric.  Very nice.  Suggested yarn: Trendsetter Yarns Merino VIII.
  • The Dusseldorf Aran is a jewel-neck pullover with long belled sleeves and a doubled diamond cable centered on front and back.  I'd like it if it weren't for the belled and pleated sleeves.  Of course, sleeves are easy to customize, so this piece is a possibility.  Suggested yarn: Zitron Gobi.

Another break for pattern instructions, and a close-up of the cables featured in the previous knits.  Instructive.  Speaking of instructive, our next article, Beyond the Basics, offers "A Guide To Reversible Cables."  Fascinating tutorial on how to knit cables that look good on both sides, including exercises to swatch with.

Back to the patterns for All In One, a story featuring one-piece knits.  Yay for seamless!

  • The Deep Texture Tunic has a foldover buttoned and ribbed turtleneck, raglan sleeves, and an all-over basketweave-ish textured pattern for the body and sleeves.  The recommended yarn is Elsebeth Lavold Calm Wool, but I'm guessing this would be exceedingly cozy and light in a pure alpaca.
  • The name, Shredder Pullover, made me smile and brought to mind those long ago days of sun and surf, when the surfer dudes of my acquaintance couldn't wait to get out on their boards and shred some waves.  While this sweater isn't exactly surfer dude apparel, it's still a nifty garment in a 5×2 rib, made reversible by an unusual ribbed cable along one shoulder and down the side.  Coincidentally, I used this very same ribbed cable for a pair of fingerless mitts I made a couple of weeks ago.  Pictures, eventually.  I promise.  Oh, before I forget, the suggested yarn for the pullover is Elann.com Peruvian Highland Chunky.
  • I'm not a fan of cropped cardigans, but the Bells of Ireland cardi is pretty enough and simple enough that it would be worth the lengthening.  Short raglan sleeves and a button front are set off by bobbles and traveling stitches reminiscent of the namesake flower.  Simple garter stitch finishes off the wide ballet neck, sleeve edges, and hem.  In the queue.  Suggested yarn: The Fibre Company Road to China Worsted.

After a break for pattern instructions, we consider Weighty Matters, a story of texture and weight and combinations thereof.

  • Lacy Ribbons, a crewneck pullover knit of a laceweight silk/mohair blend, has semi-solid bands knit with doubled yarn circling the yoke and an all-over lace pattern resembling dotted swiss.  As a study in texture, it's appealing.  As a wearable useable garment, not so much.  At least, not for me.  Pretty purple hued yarn though.  Suggested yarn: ShibuiKnits Silk Cloud
  • The Half-Felted Knapsack is precisely that.  The bottom half of the bag is felted while the rest of the bag is not.  An I-cord strap secures the opening and makes the bag easy to carry over one's shoulder.  As a purse, I think it's too shapeless to be functional, but I can see it as a grocery bag.  Suggested yarns:  Louet Clyde and Louet Bonnie.
  • The Fiery Ruche Scarf is knit in brilliant shades of orange and red and uses elastic thread to create the ruching effect.  Striking and original.  Suggested yarn:  Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport Weight.
  • When is yarn not yarn?  When it's paper!  The Paper Lanterns use three different stitches to create open patterned structural pieces to ease over purchased paper lanterns.  A neat idea.  Wouldn't work in my home, but on the patio or in some modern industrial loft space, they would be perfect.  Suggested yarn: Louet Euroflax Sportweight.

A break for pattern instructions and now we are Stranded, with colorwork taking center stage.

  • The Icelandic Star is a bright red seamless raglan cardigan with a turquoise, gray, and gold Fair Isle treatment around the yoke and hem.  I like the reversal of the Fair Isle coloring: bright for the body and more subdued in the colorwork, but still with sufficient contrast to make the colors pop.  Suggested yarn:  Reynolds Lite-Lopi.  
  • The solid brown cuffs and collar on Miss Michelle's Jacket anchor the deep turquoise and camel colors of the herringbone-ish body.  The cardigan is shown without front closure, but I bet a zipper could be inserted easily.  I'm not overly fond of the elbow length sleeves.  If I made this, I'd either shorten them to above the elbow, or lengthen them to wrist length.  Suggested yarn: Harrisville Designs New England Shetland.
  • The Heritage Cardigan takes Fair Isle colorwork and turns it on its head.  Or at least its side.  This cream-colored sleeveless vest is knit sideways, beginning at the left front edge and ending at the right front edge.  The Fair Isle pattern in varying shades of gray appear as vertical stripes when the vest is worn, one stripe on each front piece and one center stripe down the back.  The deep ribbed collar and ribbed armhole edging are picked up and knitted after the fact.  A stellar accent piece when worn over long sleeves.  I love it.  I'm not quite fearless enough to tackle Fair Isle yet, but this piece will certainly go on the queue once I'm ready.  Suggested yarn:  Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds.
  • The men get a treat with the Aspinwall Pullover, a half-zip, collared, long sleeve sweater with a deep ribbed body beneath a smooth knit yoke, separated by a surprising narrow band of Fair Isle in orange and light gray.  Very simple styling, no fuss, no frills, just that pop of color against a deep gray background.  Pieces like this make me wish my menfolk wore sweaters….although nothing says this couldn't be made in one of the smaller sizes for a woman.  Suggested yarn:  The Fibre Company Terra.
  • The little girls aren't neglected, either.  The sweet Hearts and Flowers Cardigan is sure to please that little lady with its all-over Fair Isle pattern of, well, hearts and flowers in bright pink against a white background.  Narrow accent stripes in yellow and more tiny flowers in greens and purples keep the pink from being too overwhelming.  The long sleeves are plain with a bit of colorwork at the cuffs.  The sizing appears to accommodate about ages 2 yrs to 5 yrs.  I wish it had been sized up a little more.  I know some 7- and 8-year-olds who would love this cardi.  Suggested yarn:  Cascade Yarns Heritage.  (Personal note:  I've used Heritage to make socks.  This is a great yarn, and has enough nylon in it to make it machine washable: a very handy thing for children's clothing.)

Another break for pattern instructions and then, an article on modern Cowichan sweaters, in which a Canadian knitwear company has taken traditional Cowichan motifs and interpreted them in modern colors rather than the naturally-occurring hues of sheep fleece.

To wind up IK Winter 2009, we are treated to a couple of pages of staff projects: 3 scarves and a hat in varying shades of blue, all of which take advantage of that reversible cables lesson in Beyond the Basics.  Cute, except for that Corseted Necklet (Sandi, what were you thinking?), and quick to knit.  I especially like the Whispering River Cowl, a generously sized circular scarf…unlike most cowls I've seen which cling a little too closely to the neck for my taste.  Instructions for each of these projects, as well as photos of all the featured knits in this issue can be found at Interweave Knits.

So, lots of lovelies in this issue, and only a couple of items that caused head scratching.  Ya done good, IK.

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