Posted in Knitting, Magazine review

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 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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Posted in Knitting, Magazine review

Magazine review: Vogue Knitting Holiday 2009

When IK's winter issue landed it my mailbox a couple days ago, I realized I was behind on magazine reviews.  Again.  Good thing I don't get paid for this:  I'd starve.

First impression:  Wow!  That's some red lipstick.

Second impression:  Pretty sweater.  Not too sure about that bow.

What's New showcases an entire page of cable needles, made from materials as mundane as plastic and exotic as rosewood.  I especially like the cable needle as necklace:  an abstract silver and brass heart with a tail on a leather thong from Leslie Wind.

News:  After reading about Mary Taylor and her plans to knit her way through Nicki Epstein's Knitting On Top Of The World over the next four years, I've been vacillating between (a) thinking she is absolutely insane and (b) wanting to join her or, alternately, start my own similarly insane knitting quest.  That Rowan Vintage Knits sitting on my bookshelf might make a good candidate….  And, of course, now that I've taken a look at KOTOTW, it's gone on my list of knit books to buy.

Yarns: Bison and muskox yarns in a variety of weights and blends.  The more I read about these fibers, the more I want to buy a skein.

Library features books from several familiar names, such as Nicki Epstein and Debbie Bliss.  The most interesting offering is Knitting Art: 150 Works from 18 Contemporary Artists by Karen Searle.  Keep in mind, however, "interesting" doesn't mean "I like it."  Most of the knitted art pieces I've seen featured in magazines over the last couple of years are simply butt fugly.  Still, that chair and the abstract human forms on the cover are intriguing.  I wouldn't mind at least paging through the book, although it's not a likely purchase.

Spotlight on Regia Yarns, which celebrates its 60th birthday this year.  Did you know the company, founded in post-war Germany, pioneered the production of synthetic blend washable wool yarns?  Neither did I.  Considering I've heard nothing but accolades about their yarns, one day I must actually use Regia to make a pair of socks.

Meg Swansen
writes the second of three columns about family hat designs.  This month's featured design is a tri-color watchcap with a "belt" about the brim which can be made in multiple colors and switched out at the wearer's whim.  Okay.  It's kind of cute.  And the huge yarn means it's a superquick knit.  I'm beginning to think I'm some sort of knitting heretic, though, because I've yet to see a Zimmermann/Swansen design of any sort that impresses me.  But then again, perhaps I don't know enough (read: anything) about Elizabeth Zimmermann's contributions to modern knitting techniques.  Perhaps one of her books should be my next knit library purchase.

Speaking of Techniques, Jared Flood continues the "convert that flat knit to a seamless knit" tutorial he began in the VK Fall 2009 issue.  In this issue, he discusses yokes and sleeves.  Good stuff, with diagrams and everything.

Veronik Avery is the featured designer in KnitLife, discussing design, yarn, family, and launching her own company, St.-Denis.

Hey!  Patterns!  You can see the previews here, but probably only until the next issue of VK is published.

VK's first story in this issue is "Color Vibes" — an array of vibrant hues and bold patterns, both traditional and cutting edge.

#1 Empress Jacket:  15 different colors of a fingering-weight yarn, mitered squares, multi-directional knitting, wow!  A beautiful long-sleeve kimono-type tunic-length jacket.  Construction: multiple mitered squares make up front and back panels which are then sewn to each other and to the sleeves.  A project that will consume much time, but the result?  This is art that's actually wearable.  What a shame it's modeled over a badly-clashing orangy plaid jumper.  While I love this piece, and it's wearable, it's not something I would ever wear, nor would anyone else I love enough to invest the kind of time required to knit this.  So, let me express my admiration from afar, and not place it in the Ravelry queue.

#2 Slip Stitch/Cable Cardigan:  A long-sleeve boatneck multi-color cardigan with a cabled rib on the bottom half, and a slip-stitch Faux Isle pattern from the waist up.  With the bulky yarn specified, this should be a fairly quick knit.  Its predominately crimson color scheme is just the thing to brighten up a gloomy winter day.  Not in the queue, but it's a possibility.

#3 Heart Yoke Cardigan:  The most traditional piece in this story, this long-sleeve purple cardi is knit in the round and sports Fair Isle hearts in black and white on its yoke.  Traditional fit, raglan sleeves, sport-weight yarn, really really cute.  A plus-size pattern.  Not in the queue, but it's a possibility.

#4 Dolman Pullover:
  Your basic dolman-sleeve sweater rescued from the ordinary by its clever use of color.  To quote the magazine copy, Kaffe Fassett "reverses his intarsia stripes diagonally"…aw hell, that doesn't tell you anything.  Go look at the picture.  What's cool about this piece is it uses only two colorways of Rowan's Colorscape, and the yarn does all the color-change work for you.  Dolman sleeves do not flatter my figure, however; this particular piece will not go in the Ravelry queue, although I'm storing the stripe reversing idea in the back of my brain.  A plus-size pattern.

#5 Fair Isle Cardigan:  An all-over stylized-flower pattern in white and blue with brilliant orange on the button band and cuffs.  Very pretty.  Construction: knit in the round with steeks.  Eek.  I love this cardi but steeks?  *shiver*  I conquered my fear of DPNs.  I have not conquered my fear of steeks.

#6 Fair Isle Yoke Top:
  A short sleeve Tee (for winter?  really?)  in basic black with a traditional Fair Isle yoke pattern in multiple blues and white.  Knit in the round.  I like this a lot, despite the silly lace sleeved undershirt worn by the model.  Stylists.  Sheesh.  Sometimes I wonder about them.  Regardless, it's a possibility, although I expect if I make it I'll lengthen the sleeves.

#7 Fair Isle Hoodie:
  What is it with designers making short-sleeved winter wear?  A fur-trimmed hood on a short-sleeved zipped jacket makes no sense whatsoever.  Ahem.  Okay.  I love the rich brown body with orange, blue, and white Fair Isle detail around the yoke and above the deep ribbing at the bottom edge.  I even sort of like the furry hood.  I do NOT like the short sleeves.  Therefore, if I make this, sleeves will be 3/4 length at a minimum.

#8 V Neck Pullover:  A long-sleeved top with a rich cobalt blue upper body and a Navaho-inspired colorwork pattern in turquoise, cream, and gold below the waist.  This is flat gorgeous, even if the stylist did put the model in shorts.  (For winter.  Go figure.)  In my Ravelry queue.

For our second story, we are to Think Big.  Cowls knit from huge yarn.  I pretty much skimmed right past this section.  Remember how I'm not a shawl person?  I'm not really a cowl person either.

#9 Seed Stitch Cowl:
  A mitered ribbing yoke and a fold-over seed stitch collar form this shoulder-covering cowl knit  in bright neon yellow uber-chunky yarn.  This is so big the model can't put her coat on over it.

#10 Ribbed Cowl:
Another shoulder-covering oversized turtleneck of a cowl with a garter welt yoke and 2×2 ribbing on the fold-over collar.  Must be worn over the coat as well.  Which is okay, I guess, but I don't like it.

#11 Eyelet Cowl:
  The only piece in this bunch I gave a second glance.  A gorgeous multi-hued gold yarn in a bulky wool/angora/cashmere blend, knit in big eyelet with an I-cord drawstring, and deliberately constructed so it can be pulled over one's head as a hood (or wimple) or worn as a traditional neck-warmer.  The best thing?  It isn't soooo huge that it would prevent wearing a coat!  So, even though I'm not a cowl person, I'm giving this piece serious consideration.

#12 Cabled Cowl:
  A giant shapeless pink tube with cables and ribbing.  Woo.  More covered shoulders, too.  I suppose this piece could be co-opted as a hood like #11, but I'm not interested enough to even read the pattern.

The pieces in A Softer Shade of Pale, knit in quiet neutrals or pastels, provide a subdued and elegant counterpoint to the exuberant color we encountered several pages ago.

#13 Cable Tunic:
  A diagonal cable twisting across the front and along the 3/4 sleeves of this cream-colored knit is highlighted by the reverse stockinette background.  The deep asymmetric cabled V-neck adds a subtle finish to the tunic-length pullover.  Sophisticated evening wear as shown over a satin skirt, although I imagine it could be dressed down and worn to the office as well.  A plus size pattern.

#14 Diamond Capelet:
  A shawl by any other name would still smell like a shawl.  Dolman-shaped, with deep ribbing and an I-cord drawstring in a winter white alpaca.  I love the texture of the diamond stitch, though, and may adapt the stitch pattern for use elsewhere.

#15 Bow Neck Pullover:  Here's the cover knit with its richly textured cables and eyelets.  Knit from the bottom up with first three strands of sport-weight merino, then two, then one, and finished off with a laceweight mohair at the boat-shaped neckline.  Full length bell sleeves echo the triangular shape of the body.  Very pretty.  Again, this is modeled with a satin skirt as if for evening, but I can also see it with dark slacks or a slim skirt for office, and even with slim-legged jeans for weekend wear, especially if the mohair bow is left off and the neck finished with a few rows of ribbing.  Not in the queue, but still a possibility.

#16 Nordic Pullover:
  A 3/4 sleeve top with a square neck, cable and lace yoke, and a knit/purl "snowflake" pattern on the lower body and lower sleeve.  (I think they look like poinsettias myself.)  As shown in baby blue, it's sweet.  I'd rather make this in a deep rich jewel tone.  A possibility.

#17 Cable Cardigan:
  Cables, bobbles, and other textures give an Aran-like feel to this belted tunic cardigan.  Knit sideways for the most part using a sportweight merino, this is a piece I'd be tempted to make just to test the technique.  Sure, it's pretty, and I really like the stitchwork on the back, but the garter welts and bobbles around the neck will add unnecessary bulk to my top half.  That loopy freeform cable on the yoke, though, has really caught my attention.  A possibility.

#18 Lace V-Neck Top:
  Once upon a time, a long time ago, I had a lace V-neck pullover, knit in pure white cotton.  I wore that sweater everywhere: over blouses in winter, as a bathing suit coverup in spring and autumn, and sometimes, in certain circumstances, over nothing at all.  It was my favorite piece of clothing for many years.  One day, after one too many washes, it simply fell apart, and I never found another one like it.  Until I turned to page 66 in this issue of VK, and found my sweater again, this time done up with sumptuous Alpaca Silk in a gorgeous silvery oyster color.  Horseshoe lace, long sleeves, deeply scooped V-neck.  Oh yeah.  It's in the queue.

#19 Ruffle Edge Cardigan:
  Long sleeved fitted cardigan with knit ruffles along the neckline and front opening, and over the shoulder like epaulets.  Okay.  First thing, let me say I appreciate the creativity here, in both the design itself and in the fact the stylist put the model in a dress with soutache embroidery that mimic the ruffles on the cardi.  The curly-Q knitting around the neck and front aren't that bad, and the fact that the piece doesn't fasten in front is easily remedied with a little widening of the front panels and one hook and eye closure at the waist.  But seriously, knit ruffles over the shoulders and around the armhole seam?  That's just plain silly.

We now go beyond the pale where Plum's The Word.  One of my colleagues loooooves purple, and she is plumb tickled (*snerk*) that this shade is this year's "it" color.  These designs look great in variations of this royal hue, although they could be made in any color you choose.

#20 Crossover Top:
  Short sleeved V neck constructed of a yoke and raglan sleeves, with a long band knit separately, then wrapped around and crossed in front.  Really cute, and really young. 

#21 Cabled Yoke Pullover:  Gorgeous cables on this knit-in-the-round mock turtleneck.  I like the split neck opening with the oversized buttons.  I'm not overly crazy about the reverse stockinette body, but I'm gradually becoming accustomed to the idea of wearing knits that look like they're inside out.  A possibility.

#22 Cropped Cardigan:  All over cables, long sleeves, and a construction that allows the piece to be worn open with a deep front V, or closed with a boat neck.  Intriguing.  A possibility.

#23 Wrap Cable Jacket:
  LOVE!  More all over cables, sideways construction, and a wide V-neck in a one-button flyaway cardigan.  The recommended yarn is a cashmere/silk blend.  I think it would be equally gorgeous in bamboo.  In the queue.

Through The Looking Glass is the "what were they thinking?" section of this issue.  Not the designs so much, although a couple of them are questionable, but the theme.  Alice in Wonderland?  Really?  I'm a huge Lewis Carroll fan, but come on.  What does Alice have to do with knitting?  At least they didn't quote Jabberwocky.

#24 Lace Beret:
  "Too cute" copy doesn't take anything away from the gorgeousness of this cap and its pattern of traveling lace.  The recommended yarn is a sport-weight cashmere/merino/silk blend.  Not in the queue only because I don't know who I would make this for…this sort of hat doesn't look right on me.

#25 Fingerless Gloves:
  I finally figured out who wears this type of lace gauntlet.  The goths.  And maybe the Ren Faire folk.  According to the pattern, the gloves are constructed of different sizes of lace medallions, sewn together.  I think these gloves might be pretty, but I can't really tell because of the goofy way the stylist posed the model.  Drink me, indeed.

#25 Medallion Scarf:
  The trouble with this piece is: I can't see it.  Not very well, anyway, because it's made from a dark blue yarn, and worn by a model who is also wearing a dark blue dress.  Looks like we have circles and bobbles and dangly bits.  And it's worn as if it's a shawl rather than a scarf.

#27 Vintage Baby Dress:
  Utterly adorable dress with garter stitch bodice and eyelet skirt, and a velvet ribbon tie.  *sigh*  I don't know anyone with a baby young enough for this sweet piece.

#28 Lace Socks:
  LOVE!  Can't get enough lace socks, and this is a very pretty, criss-crossy lace down the back, front and instep, combined with an upside-down wishbone lace on either side.  In the queue.

#29 Braided Cowl:
  Skinny knitted tubes braided together.  Uh. No.  But this piece gave me a chance to take a good look at the model.  I think she's 12.

And finally, in Designer Details, we take a look at the cutting edge in knit design.

#30 Fitted Jacket:  Another example of the stylist mucking up the featured piece by dressing the model in a clashing and/or too similar print.  I think this salt and pepper jacket by Anna Sui may have been inspired by the jackets worn by My Chemical Romance in the video The Black Parade.  Unfortunately, the model is dressed in a splashy black and white print dress so it's virtually impossible see any real detail.  Too bad.  Because I think I like it.

#31 Ribbed Jacket:
  A short-sleeved jacket from Twinkle with all over 3×3 ribbing knit in super bulky Soft Chunky.  Structurally similar to #22 above, with the unfastened deep V front or fastened boatneck.  This isn't bad, but I still don't get the fuss over Twinkle.

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Magazine Review: Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 2009

After threatening you all with it for weeks, today I'll finally take the time to write the review of the latest offering from Vogue Knitting.

First impression upon retrieving the magazine from the mailbox:  "OMG, look at that cover knit:  it's gorgeous!"  Second impression: "OMG, look at that cover knit:  it's so complicated!"

We'll skip right on past the editor's column, the gadgetry plugs (some very cool scissors featured in this, umm, feature), and the news & notes columns because, frankly, there's really nothing worth noting here.  Except those very cool scissors.  Oh, and a link to download a sweater pattern worn in the film Coraline.

Silks are the focus in Yarns, with VK's top 10 culled from the usual suspects like Debbie Bliss, Rowan, and Nashua Handknits, as well as a couple of unfamiliar yarn companies.  I was especially intrigued by Tsumugi Silk from Habu Textiles, a laceweight yarn with some 40 colors, available in a 450-yard (50 gram) cone for about $14.00 per cone.

VK's Library column features the fabulous French Girl Knits by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes, which I purchased several weeks ago, after the first time I read about it in some other magazine.  Other noteworthy volumes include Knitting in Tuscany by Nicky Epstein (more about that later), and Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy D. Johnson. 

Although the sock book looked interesting, what really grabbed my attention was Country Weekend Knits by Madeline Weston, with its focus on traditional ganseys, Arans, and Fair Isle patterns.  I may soon be adding yet another book to the ever-growing avanta7 knit library.  Just don't tell my husband.

Frugality is the watchword in the Spotlight, with a special emphasis on repurposing old sweaters, especially those found in thrift stores, by frogging them and using the yarn for new modern projects.  The column includes a detailed how-to on taking apart that thrift-store find, information easily found on the web and elsewhere, but always good to review.

Meg Swansen's column discusses the Bohus Stickning movement of the late 1930s through 1960s, an era in knitting history previously unknown to me, and a subject which I found fascinating.  I only wish Ms. Swansen had gone into more detail; however, one of the column's purposes was to plug a book on the tradition available through Schoolhouse Press, so it's understandable she left some mystery in the subject.

Of course, this also means there's yet another knitting book to be added to the above-mentioned ever-growing knit library.  Again, please don't tell my husband.

Skipping over a lengthy article on internships for fashion students in the fiber arts industry (which I read but didn't care about), we come to the Techniques column, which talks about my newest love, skinny yarns!  Yes, it often takes longer to knit a sweater with a fine-gauge yarn but, as this article points out, the results are worth it: a more tailored garment with a more flattering fit that can usually be worn throughout most of the year.  Besides, who wants to wear a sleeveless tank or camisole made from some bulky wool?

Runway Trends:  Glitz.  *sigh*  If I have to read the word "bling" one more time in any article about shiny sparkly fashion items, I may commit a crime against humanity.

And finally, the patterns:  The first pattern offered in the magazine was back a few pages in between articles:  an excerpt from Nicky Epstein's Knitting in Tuscany, the Tuscan Sun Scarf.  The book itself is a combination pattern book/travelogue/tour guide.  The scarf is a sparkly thing constructed from multiple sunflower-shaped medallions knitted in a sequinned yarn.  Looks like a fun accessory, casual or glamorous as the wearer chooses.  Not to my taste, but I can see how other knitters might love it.

  1. Star Motif Pullover — Short-sleeved lace raglan-style top with deep ribbing at the hem and foldover neck.  Made from a cotton/bamboo blend.  Pretty lace pattern.  Unusual seamed construction, with a diamond-shaped front and back, and triangular-shaped sides.  Not currently in my Ravelry queue, but it's a possibility.
  2. Star Camisole — Pretty tank with a star-shaped medallion knitted from the center outward on the front, and a deeply scooped back.  I like it a lot but would never make it for myself, mainly because I can't figure out how I'd ever wear a bra with this piece.  Frankly, me sans brassiere = not a pleasant sight.
  3. Multi-Shapes Top — If ever a piece were aptly named….Constructed by knitting one geometric shape, then picking up stitches on a side and knitting another geometric shape, and repeat.  Beautiful design, and probably a great deal of fun to knit.  Drawback #1:  Comes in only two sizes, XS/S (31" bust) and M/L (40" bust).  Drawback #2:  The magazine contains instructions for the 31" size only.  The M/L sized must be downloaded from the web.  Still, it's another possibility not currently in the queue.  Perhaps once I reach my goal weight.
  4. Botanica Medallion Cardigan — LOVE!!!  The cover knit, and what a beautiful piece of work this is.  A completely circular knit, with an intricately detailed center medallion surrounded by an equally intricate wide band which makes up the shawl collar and lower half of the back, with slits left for armholes when attaching the band to the medallion.  If you plan to knit this, make note of the errata, and check out the step-by-step instructions.  In my Ravelry queue.
  5. Short-Sleeve Cardigan — Feminine, lacy, short-sleeved, crew-neck cardigan with intentional gaps between the front buttons.  Multi-directional knitting and construction, and a unique lace pattern.  I like it, after a fashion, but I'm just not crazy about gappy front openings.  A plus-size pattern, though, and that's a good thing.
  6. Feather and Fan Dress — Lace dress in a classic stitch knitted in the round from the scalloped hem upward.  Tiny cap sleeves and a scooped neckline.  I put this in my queue with the intention of making it much shorter and using it as a summer top.  I'll probably add set-in short sleeves, as well.
  7. Lace Tunic — Sleeveless tunic-length fastener-free cardigan would be perfect for the office over a dress, as shown by the model, or perhaps over a fitted shirt and slim-fitting trousers.  Very nice back yoke detail. A plus-sized pattern. In my queue.
  8. Lace Cardigan — Tunic-length flyaway cardigan with belled raglan 3/4 sleeves in eyelet lace for the body and what appears to be a mock cable lace for the bottom several inches of the hem and sleeves.  Moderate V-neck.  Depending on the yarn chosen, could be equally suited to the office or a night out.  Probably best worn with a skirt or dress — I think the dense pattern at the hem would make this piece too bottom heavy if worn with slacks.  In the queue.
  9. Laced Tank — Sleeveless V-neck tank with eyelet pattern and I-cord lacing on the front.  Nice summery piece.  A possibility, but not currently queued.
  10. Tie-Front Cardigan — Another 3/4 sleeve flyaway cardigan that escapes the mundane in its details: V-necked yoke in a slanting lace and cable stitch, and upside-down eyelet Vs on the sleeves and below the bust line.  The real surprise in this piece is its recommended yarn:  Patons Grace, a budget-priced yarn available at virtually any big box craft store, such as Michaels or Joann.  A plus-sized pattern.  In the queue.
  11. Feather Trim Vest — The defining feature of this A-line surplice-front vest is the ostrich feather trim around the front and neck edge, and that's the detail I dislike.  Feathers are just plain fussy.  Otherwise, this is a well-designed basic wardrobe piece.
  12. Lace Afghan — LOVE!!!  4' X 6' throw in a beautiful scallop lace pattern with ribbed edges.  In the queue, and likely to be the first major lace project I attempt.
  13. Drop Stitch Scarf — Simple, casual scarf in a dropped-stitch basketweave pattern that looks light as the feathers I disliked in #11 above.  The pattern seems to be a quick knit and requires less than 450 yds of sport-weight yarn, making this project a great choice for gift-giving.  Not currently in the queue, but it's a possibility.
  14. Bias Lace Shrug — VK almost always has at least one pattern per issue that I call the "What were they thinking?" piece.  In this issue, it's this piece.  The odd truncated body seems to have way too much fabric below the arms, but maybe that's just the way the model is sitting.  The set-in 3/4 sleeves are odd, too, for a piece they're calling a shrug.  It's as if the designer (Michele Rose Orne) couldn't decide between creating a shrug or a cardigan, and ended up with some mutant cross-breed of both.  Pretty lace pattern though.  And kudos for another budget yarn choice: Lion Brand's Microspun.  
  15. Lace Crochet Coat — LOVE!!!  Kristin Omdahl's below-the-knee duster is constructed of huge lacy crocheted medallions with belled sleeves and a tie front.  I have no idea where I will wear this, nor for what occasion, but I'm making it anyway.
  16. Vine Lace Dress — Knee length tank dress with a scoop neck and delicate eyelet vines from neck to hemline.  The pattern calls for patch pockets which, to my eye, are a completely unnecessary detail which interrupts the flow of the dress.  Otherwise, this is a beautifully simple design, and one I'd consider were I a more slender version of myself.  Even so, it's still a possibility in a much shorter length as a casual summer top.
  17. Ripple Pattern Cardigan — Standard-issue 3/4 sleeve flyaway raglan cardigan made special by the choice of yarn and the wide collared V-neck.  The more I look at it, the more I like it.  Not currently queued, but I haven't completely ruled it out.
  18. One Button Cardigan — Okay, so this issue of VK has two "What were they thinking?" pieces.  The chief problem with this otherwise interesting design is the wideness of the neck and the narrowness of the caps of the sleeves.  Yoo hoo!  I have sloping shoulders.  These sleeves would slide right off and droop around my upper arms rather than stay put where they're meant to sit.  They even look like they're about to do the same on the model, and we know she has nice square walking-clothes-hanger shoulders.  That's why she's a model.  I suppose if I really loved this sweater, I could widen that very narrow upper right and left front as well as retool the fit of the upper sleeves to make the garment sit properly on my shoulders.  But I don't love it.  I like the texture of the multiple stitch patterns, and the unique twisted cable at the top of the sleeves, but I don't love the sweater.  So I won't bother.
  19. Textured Top — Nifty tee with short sleeves and a Peter Pan collar, knit in several different textured stitches that unfortunately are mostly lost in the choice of a bi-colored yarn.  I like the yarn (which looks great in the ribbing and the cable stitch, BTW); I like the top, but I don't like them together.  Not completely.  In my queue anyway, because I'm sure I can find a better yarn choice for this pattern.  A plus-sized pattern.
  20. Halter Tank — I'm not entirely sure I understand the fuss over Twinkle, because I have yet to see a design from that source that I like.  This racer-back tank is no exception.  It's not ugly, but it's just not my taste.  Maybe it's an age thing. 
  21. Two Color Top — Top-down raglan with short sleeves and a cowl neck in a nylon/rayon metallic yarn.  Deeply ribbed hem, with the ribbing repeated on the sleeves and cowl.  Cute!  But not for me.
  22. Mitered Top — Scoop-neck sleeveless tank knit in metallic yarn with a sparkly spangled carry-along for the neckline and armholes. Ribbed waist detail, A-line shaping below the waist, and a scalloped hem.  Very dressy.  Not in the queue, but it's a possibility for the right occasion.  A plus-sized pattern.
  23. Pleated Top — A (barely) sport weight yarn in a mohair/silk blend knit on just-one-size-too-large needles results in a nearly sheer lightweight confection of a tee.  Pleated cap sleeves and Swarovski crystals decorating the pleated V-neck make this a sweet sexy special evening out garment.  Another piece I have no idea when or where I'll wear it, but I'm making it anyway.
  24. Ruffled Cardigan — Knit in a sequinned sparkly yarn, this cardigan has barely there cap sleeves and a ruffled neckline and button band. Rhinestone buttons and a split hem make this evening topper extra special.  A plus-sized pattern.
  25. Tank Top — Metallic yarn and a shaped silhouette give pizazz to this otherwise plain-jane tank.  The deep-scoop neck is bordered by ribbing, as are the hem and armholes.  A plus-sized pattern, and a possibility.
  26. Diagonal Rib Top — I put this short-sleeved V-neck tee in my queue because I love the diagonal stitch pattern and lace border around the neckline.  I think it will be just as striking, and more wearable, in something other than the shiny metallic and sequinned suggested yarn. 
  27. Fingerless Gloves — A leaf pattern on the back and an elongated ruffle at the wrist give extra feminity to these sweet mitts.  Pretty, but not for me.
  28. Lace Shawl — You know how I keep saying "I'm not a shawl person"?  This piece might make me change my mind.  Knit with an ultra-fine mohair silk blend, this rectangular shawl looks like it weighs no more than a feather ("feather" is apparently the word of the day) and might even qualify as a wedding ring shawl (which, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is a shawl knit so finely that it can be pulled through a wedding ring).
  29. Lace Socks — Pretty little anklets with several complementary lace patterns.  I just realized I haven't queued these.  Will remedy that as soon as this entry is finished.
  30. Lace Scarf — Simple lace repeats make up this straight-edged rectangular scarf.  Currently not in my queue, but I'm thinking I may have yarn suitable for this piece already stashed, so it is a possibility.  Another potential make-it-quick gift item.
  31. Lace Stockings — Spectacular thigh-high stockings with flowers on the back of the legs, leaves on the front…so demure, so sexy, so bridal!  Too bad I didn't know how to knit when I got married.  Spouse might have gotten the surprise of his life on our wedding night.  *grin*

I'm much more impressed with this issue of VK than the last.  Several plus-sized patterns, several "budget" pieces (either in yarn selection or yarn quantity), and some truly outstanding designs make this issue a real keeper.

Happy knitting!

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Posted in Crochet, Magazine review

Magazine Review: Crochet Today! May/June 2009

It took a while, but Crochet Today! finally put up the preview for the most recent issue.  They must wait for it to be available on the magazine stands before posting the preview, which is kind of a pain for those of us who might want to, you know, review the magazine in anticipation of its availability to non-subscribers.

Regardless, that's an adorably sweet toddler on the cover for this "Special Baby Issue", wearing a cute little summery tank dress.  Although, being childless, I doubt I'll find many projects I actually want to make in this issue, I'm still a sucker for adorable toddlers in dresses.

In Products and News, the usual assortment of gadgets, gizmos, and accessories prance across the pages.  Two in particular caught my eye:  a solid wood hook caddy and the Yarn Bra.  Cleverness! 

In the Reading section, one book in particular stood out: Heirloom Afghans is apparently filled with lace, pineapples, filet, floral designs and kitschy pictorial blankets.  I'm a traditionalist at heart, and love to make gorgeous blankets, even if I haven't the faintest idea who to make them for.  (I am a process crocheter, even though I'm a product knitter.  Go figure that one out.)  On the wish list it goes.

This issue's Crochet Class is all about seaming.  I don't know about you, but I can't get enough lessons on seaming.  It's my chief obstacle in finishing a piece, be it crocheted or knitted.  As is usually the case with this feature, the illustrative photographs are superb.

Next, in People, we meet a teacher and a group of Brooklyn high school students who have turned their "crochet club" into life lessons on charity and persistence.  Uplifting, to say the least.

In keeping with this issue's baby theme, the Crochet Doctor Q&A feature focuses on crocheting for little ones: lining baby blankets, adding a crocheted edging, fitting garments, and choosing yarn.  Seems like fairly basic info to me, but I've been crocheting and sewing a very long time.

So much for the articles; let's look at the patterns!

  • The Pepped Up Placemats are this issue's reworked vintage pattern, turning a boring 1970s vintage granny square table setting into something colorful and fun with #3 thread in punchy bright colors.  These placemats would be perfect for a patio party or the breakfast nook.  They're so dang cheery, I'm half-tempted to put them in my Ravelry queue.  If they were in the Ravelry database.
  • A Blooming Headband with interchangeable button-on flowers is our first project for baby.  Awww.  Too bad my youngest niece is too old to wear this sort of thing.
  • A-B-C-1-2-3 — Numbers and letters to sew onto a fabric pillow or perhaps a wall hanging or blanket.  Of course, there's nothing that says they can't be added to a plain crocheted pillow or blanket, either.  A cute and easy project to decorate any young child's room.
  • The cover piece, a Sweet and Swingy Dress, comes next.  I love the contrasting "piping" around the edges and the lacy shell-like V-stitch for the skirt.  This is really sweet.  Again, too bad my youngest niece is too old….
  • Swirly Bibs worked of alternating spirals of brightly-colored cotton yarn would be a fun way to liven up mealtime, methinks.  The pattern has an interesting construction technique, as well: the switch-off between colors is accomplished by dropping Color A's loop at intervals and picking up Color B; then dropping Color B's loop and picking up Color A.  Never seen that technique before. I may have to make these bibs just to try it out.
  • Frilly Feet might be the cutest crocheted baby booties I've ever seen.  They're certainly the most colorful!  Most baby booties are in dinner-mint colors.  Not these!  And they take only one ball of sock yarn: an economical project to "boot".  (Sometimes I'm just amazed at my own cleverness.  *snort*)
  • The Bunny Buddy rattle is so sweet it makes my teeth ache. I may die from the cute.
  • I must have the Diamond Back Snake!  It is utterly adorable and will be in my queue as soon as Ravelry has it in the database.  My husband will just have to get used to sharing the bed with me, the dog, the cats, and the snake.  What do you mean it doesn't match our decor?
  • Little Man Vest — Hey!  A baby item that isn't obviously aimed at the girlies.  This is a sweet little vest with its intarsia mock tie.  Are any of my grandnephews still young enough for this?  Must ask my sister.  (I'm afraid I don't keep track of her grandchildren….)
  • An amigurumi bunny and carrot make up the Garden Pals.  Truthfully, I thought the bunny was a mouse.  It's still abundant in its cute factor.
  • The Diagonal Baby Blankie is a welcome change of pace from the usual baby blanket offering.  I love the bright colors and slanted stripes.  And the shell border adds just enough touch of tradition to finish off the piece in style.  Very nice design.

And now, we leave the babies behind and enter the world of adulthood. 

  • The Summer Breeze Cardi is essentially like every other 3/4 sleeve flyaway cardigan pattern out there, with the sole exception of the bobble detail around the yoke and sleeve hems.  It's a good basic wardrobe piece, and probably  quick to stitch.  Not in my Ravelry queue, but it's a possibility.  I'd make it out of something other than Red Heart Designer Sport, though.  Bamboo/acrylic blend, maybe?
  • Summertime Dress — LOVE LOVE LOVE.  Not in dress length, although it's lovely as a dress, but I can certainly see myself making and wearing a shortened version of this as a summertime top.  It will be added to the queue as soon as the pattern is added to Ravelry.  (More about that later:  I feel a rant coming on.)
  • Believe it or not, the Romantic Wrap was the first (and as of the moment I write, the only) thing from this issue I added to my queue.  (Again, wait for the rant.)  Yes, I know I'm not a shawl (AKA wrap) person, but I looked at this and saw beyond the wrapness to its suitability as…wait for it…a lace tablecloth.  True confession:  I've been hunting and hunting, without success, for a thread lace tablecloth pattern that wasn't constructed of motif after endless motif.  This pattern, as beautiful as it is for a shawl, is perfectly suited for adaptation to tablecloth size.  Woo hoo!
  • Houndstooth Purse — LOVE LOVE LOVE!  To borrow the magazine's blurb, professional and chic.  I mean, be honest.  Who wouldn't love this bag?  It's small, it's sharp, it's trendy, it has leather handles…It's just perfect!  Will be added to the queue as soon as the pattern is in Ravelry's database. (Rant coming, seriously.)
  • Frankly, the Urban Wave Top looks unfinished.  Robyn, darling, normally I love your stuff, but this piece?  Where's the bottom half?  Oh, we're supposed to attach fabric to it?  Okay.  But why choose such a god-awful cutesy yellow and red floral print?  It's so incongruous that it looks like an afterthought.  OMG, we need some fabric on this piece for the photo shoot!  Wait, I've got this in the bottom drawer, left over from that quilt I made a few years ago.  A few quick stitches later, and voila!  Ick.  Still, I like the black and white color scheme and surplice front of the crocheted part, abbreviated though it may be.
  • I don't know that I will ever understand crocheted jewelry.  At least the Crafty Earrings look wearable and fun and not weird.
  • The Lacy Jacket is just the kind of crocheted piece I love, with lots of variety and texture in the stitch patterns and an end result that is versatile, easily worn, and looks great.  If I were to make any changes to this, I might lengthen the body, narrow the sleeves, and add a little waist shaping.  We'll see what happens once I get there.  To be added to the queue once it's in the database yada yada yada.
  • The Colorful Cushion is my least favorite piece in this issue.  I just don't like ripples.  And I'm not overly fond of the color choices for this pillow top…the blues, browns, and tans don't blend well.
  • On the other hand, the Grannies On Point pillows make me smile, even if they are made of old-fashioned granny squares.  Sometimes kitschy retro is a good thing.  These pillows would be perfect on the sofa in a screened porch.  If I had a screened porch.  If I had a porch.
  • The Green Dream Throw also employs granny squares…tiny granny squares…tiny fiddly granny squares.  Between 90 and 102 of them.  *shudder*  I'm sure I've mentioned my dislike of motif assembly.  I don't mind making motifs.  But I hate putting them together.  *sigh*  One day I simply must take the time to become familiar with the "seam 'em as you go" process.  Nice bright colorful greens in this piece, though.  At least there's one redeeming feature.
  • The Basketweave Blanket is another motif afghan, but one I'll actually consider making.  In this piece, the seaming is a design feature, using yarn in a high-contrast color to the motifs themselves.  Lots of visual interest in this blanket.  A definite possibility.
  • The last blanket, the Little Suns Throw, is constructed of motifs, as well.  Lovely lacy circles on the join-as-you-go plan become a light lacy coverup for that summer afternoon nap.  Very pretty.  But I'm not making it.
  • Our final project, a Trio of Vases, looks like it's a breeze to stitch but might be a tad fiddly in the finishing.  Balloons, cardboard, and fabric stiffener are involved.  Actually, the pattern calls for making one's own fabric stiffener out of a sugar solution.  If I made these, I'd use something less likely to attract ants.  The vases are striking and unusual enough to be a possibility.

As the cover promised, this is a baby-heavy issue and, as such, has some wonderful child-oriented projects.  The adult and home decor offerings are rather hit-and-miss, although there more hits than misses, even given my prejudice against motifs.  It's a failing, I know.  I need to attend motif-sensitivity training.

Speaking of failings, however, I promised you a rant.  You were warned.

First thing, let me express my love for Ravelry.  This website has been my greatest inspiration and motivator in knit and crochet work since joining in early 2008.  In the last year plus, I've completed more projects and learned more about yarncraft than I had in my entire life prior.  That is not exaggeration: it's truth.  Ravelry is a fabulous resource: knowledgeable members, helpful designers, and, to my knowledge, more yarn and pattern information than anywhere else on the web.  It's a treasure, and a privilege, and I'm ever so grateful to be a small part of it.

But.  (You knew there was one.)

Ravelry is so knit-centric that sometimes I just want to scream.  When a new knit magazine is released, most or all patterns in that issue are in the database almost before the ink is dry on the print run, while a crochet magazine is lucky if even half the patterns in a new issue can be found weeks after the magazine hits the news stands.  Case in point:  Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2009 was released at least a week, maybe two, after the Crochet Today! issue we just discussed.  As of today, all 32 patterns from Vogue are in Ravelry.  11 of Crochet Today!'s 24 patterns are in Ravelry.

Why the disconnect?  Where's the crochet love?  Don't crocheters rate any attention?  Our patterns are just as important to us as those of the knitters.  Why do knit patterns get top priority?  Are the knitters just that much more noisy?  Or numerous?  Do crocheters need to be more vocal?  Or active?  Who is responsible for getting the patterns into the database in the first place?

I know that Ravelry has some kind of arrangement with Interweave, which means both knit and crochet patterns from that source show up more or less in full, along with their photographs.  Has Ravelry made any effort to make the same kind of arrangement with other major crochet magazines?  If not, why not?

Perhaps this isn't so much a rant as it is a call to action.  What can we do to make Ravelry a more crochet-friendly place?  Perhaps we can each upload a missing pattern from a crochet magazine on a regular basis.  (There are four from this issue that I will take care of, simply because I need to queue them.)  Perhaps we can contact Jess and Casey and Mary-Heather and encourage them to get Interweave-style permission from other crochet magazines.  Perhaps perhap perhaps….I don't know what else.  Right now I'm tired and out of ideas.  Even though I knit (and love knitting), I'm tired of the sometimes overwhelming knit-snobbery.

I think I need a cup of tea.

And the above-mentioned VK will be reviewed in a couple of days.

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Posted in Crochet, Magazine review

Magazine review: Interweave Crochet, Spring 2009

Two, count 'em, two new magazines landed in my mailbox this week.  Let's take a look at the first to arrive, Interweave Crochet, Spring 2009:

Pretty cover!  Light and fresh and, dare I say, springlike?  I dare indeed.  The cover promises "Full Figure Fits that Flatter".  Hmm.  We'll see.

"Strands" (the editor's column) indicates a change in leadership.  Goodbye, Kim Werker; hello, Marcy Smith!  Ms. Smith points out a hitherto unknown-by-me connection between Interweave Crochet and CrochetMe! Interesting.  (I'm a member at CrochetMe, but don't have much of a presence there…I mainly use it to look for patterns I might want to make.  Don't find too many, sadly.)

"New and Notable" has the usual assortment of kits, accessories and hooks, plus a book that seems to be right up my alley:  Contemplative Crochet: A Hands-On Guide for Interlocking Faith and Craft by Cindy Crandall-Frazier.

Judging simply by the title and the brief blurb in the magazine, this will more than likely be the next yarn-related book purchase (the last being French Girl Knits).  Working with yarn gives me a deep sense of satisfaction and feeds my soul to a certain extent; it will be interesting to get another perspective on the spirituality of yarncraft, crochet in particular.

This month's "Crochet Around Town" column, written by fellow CLFer Aimee Woolwine, takes us to Atlanta, Georgia, on a jim-dandy yarn and restaurant crawl that even features the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Lorna's Laces Pearl shines in the "Yarn Spotlight."  A silk/bamboo blend that sounds simply lovely, it's a DK weight put up in 220-yards skeins.  Marcy Smith makes a point of mentioning its "precious price point", which led me on an unsuccessful search for the actual dollar figure.  If anyone out there can tell me the cost of a skein of this yarn in US dollars, I'd be most appreciative.

"Back to Basics" teaches us the "linked crochet" stitch with detailed pictures, and the "Reader's Gallery" shows us four projects from previous issues modeled by their stitchers.  I love this feature, even though this issue doesn't show any patterns I've considered making.  "Beyond the Basics" discusses crocheted lace, including exploding the pattern and reading the fabric.  Lots of good information in this article, and some great example photos.  An interview with Julia Vaconsin and an article on the history of crochet round out the non-pattern sections of this issue.

Before we go on to the patterns, however, I am compelled to point out an error in the history article, "A Tangled Trail to Crochet's Origin" by Dora Ohrenstein.  Well, not so much an error in fact as an error in interpreting a fact.  Ms. Ohrenstein quotes from the book Victorian Lace (by Patricia Wardle) that crochet arose from tambour work …"some time around the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century…." and "…may be found in manuals from the 1820s onwards…".  Ms. Ohrenstein then declares this dating is a discrepancy.  She writes: "If it appeared in manuals of the 1820s, why does the writer date the transition [from tambour work] several decades later?"  Um.  She didn't.  The late 18th century is also known as the late 1700s; and the early 19th century is also known as the early 1800s.  An 1820 date is perfectly in keeping with a date referenced as "early 19th century."  In other words, the dating is internally consistent within Ms. Wardle's book, and Ms. Ohrenstein needs to review basic historical date terminology. 

Ms. Ohrenstein's error is bad enough.  What I really want to know is where was the editor?  The fact checker?  The typesetter, for Pete's sake?  This piece had to have crossed multiple desks and been read by multiple pairs of eyes and no one caught this boo boo before publication?  'Scuse me?  I certainly hope this blunder is not an indication of a quality shift due to the change in editorial staff.  </end gripe>

Okay.  Patterns.  This is what we're really here for, right?

  • Forest Flower Pullover by Kristin Omdahl — Kristin has another winner here!  I love the slimming vertical striping (worked in the linked stitch method mentioned above), made by working the body from side to side; and the lacy flower motif yoke gives this pretty piece the perfect springtime touch. In my Ravelry queue.
  • Rib & Fan Socks by Carol Ginsberg Brown — The very idea of crocheted socks sort of creeps me out….I like very smooth delicate [read: knit] socks, and crocheted fabric by its very nature is relatively thick and bumpy:  I don't think my tootsies will like such footwear.  Therefore, I've never crocheted a pair of socks.  I'm sort of open-minded, though, in a creeped-out manner of speaking, but I'm not likely to crochet these socks as my first attempt.  They look more like my husband's gym socks than anything I'd wear.  But they look interesting.
  • Glittering Capelet by Lily M. Chin — I am not a shawl person. (Is there an echo in here?)  However, I was up late reading in bed the other night, the heater had turned itself off for the evening, and my shoulders got cold.  "Gosh," I thought, "I need to make myself a bedjacket so I can read without fighting with a blanket around my shoulders."  If this little cape, with its delicate filet yoke and open shell body, had sleeves, I'd consider it for that very purpose.  Otherwise, sorry, Lily.  It's pretty, but it isn't for me.
  • Simply Bibs by Lisa Naskrent — Aaauughhh!  I think I just died from the cute!  Okay, not so much from the bibs — they're fairly basic — but that baby!  I just want to eat him up nom nom nom, oh lookit dose toesies, nom nom nom, and his wittle bald head nom nom nom… ahem.  'Scuse me.  Got carried away.  Sorry.  Nice bibs.  Yeah.
  • Malabrigo Top by Julia Vaconsin — Hey!  It's our interviewee!  No, not the model, the designer.  Nice design on this vest, too, with vertical ribbing on the body and a delicate shell-stitch V-neck bodice, all done in laceweight yarn.  Perfect for the office over a blouse or under a jacket or both; or perhaps over/under nothing at all for an evening out.  The length as shown is a tad short for my taste, so I'd lengthen it by at least a couple of inches.  In the queue.
  • Amazing Grace Wrap by Ellen K. Gormley — A "Plus Size" pattern, up to a 56" bust.  Personally, I'd call this a cardigan rather than a wrap.  It's got sleeves.  To my way of thinking, the defining characteristic of a wrap is the lack of sleeves.  But maybe I'm just a pedant.  Anyway, lacy join-as-you-go motifs, long belled sleeves, and a single tie closure at the scooped neckline make for a sweet just-light-enough layer on a breezy spring day.  Deep slits at the hem allow for plenty of ease over the hips.  I like it, but I don't want to make that many motifs for anything, join as you go or not.  (This from the woman whose last several afghans have been constructed with either motifs or strips.  Which is why motifs are currently on my not-to-do list for the near future.  Seaming is a pain in the…ah, neck.) 
  • Tremendous Tote by Marlaina Bird — LOVE LOVE LOVE!  About the top third of this bag is felted, with the remainder done up in colorful stripes according to the Fibonacci sequence.  (NOTE TO SELF: Someday do a little research and find out exactly what that means when it comes to striping, because it's a phrase that gets slung about all over the yarn world.)  Inexplicably, the pattern doesn't give the finished dimensions, but I think the bag may be bigger than what I usually carry.  Otherwise, with its leather handles, an interior pocket, and a magnetic closure, this is just about the perfect bag.  In my Ravelry queue.
  • Seaside Throw by Rhonda Davis — Want to know the colors and theme in my guest bath?  Look at this blanket.  Blue, cream, chocolate, with a hint of gold, and the suggestion of starfish.  This couldn't have been more perfect as an accessory to drape artfully over the etagere had I designed it myself.  Of course it's in my queue.  Even though it is a motif design.  A girl can make exceptions, can't she?
  • Fan and Petal Neck Lace by Doris Chan — Although this side-buttoned lace collar is beautiful, I honestly can't think of an occasion when I would wear such a piece, nor with what I would wear it.  The pattern calls for a cashmere/silk blend yarn, which would make the collar deliciously fuzzy and soft, though….
  • Sólás Caomh by Jodi Euchner — A cabled Celtic knot-inspired baby blanket in a beautiful shade of green.  I know just the Irish baby (and her mama) that this blanket needs.  In my Ravelry queue.
  • Spring Shell by Simona Merchant-Dest — A "Plus Size" pattern, up to a 52" bust.  Call me a pedant again, but if it has sleeves, it's not a shell.  And I'm not crazy about this particular type of sleeve anyway; from past experience, I know they are not flattering on me.  Otherwise, I really like this top.  The varying stitch detail means it will be a fun-to-make project, plus it's interesting to look at.  Pffth to the sleeves.  Sleeves are easy to modify.  In my Ravelry queue.
  • Audrey Hat by Christina Marie Potter — I want to like this hat.  Really I do.  I wear hats like this all the time, both because they keep the sun out of my eyes and because of a family history of skin cancer.  (I don't go outside without sunscreen.  Ever.)  But floppy brims drive me insane.  The pattern calls for starching the crown and brim with heavy spray starch.  If I decide to give this pattern a try, before committing to the entire project, I'm likely to swatch and test with real liquid starch, like I used on my candy-striper hat way back in the dark ages when nurses and their aides actually wore starched caps.
  • Blossom Kimono by Robyn Chachula — A "Plus Size" pattern, up to a 57" bust.  More motifs.  (And more pedantry — this is sooo not a kimono.  I owned a kimono once: a real one with an obi and everything, made by a Japanese pen pal.  Sadly I was too young and stupid at the time to store the 100% wool garment properly; it was utterly destroyed by moths.  But I digress, as usual.)  One of these days I must get over my dislike of seaming.  A lot of very nice patterns out there are constructed of motifs.  Like this one.  Its long sleeves and deep scoop neckline with that center fastening just below the bust line make this an elegantly wearable cardigan for office or special occasion.  The main colors chosen for the sample shown are subtle enough that the black accents really pop.  In fact, they're almost jarring.  I love the black on the border and around the hem, but I think I'd leave it off the sleeves.  Not in my queue, but it's a possibility.  By the way, be sure to download the charts from the Interweave site.  The charts in the magazine are nearly too small to be read without a magnifying glass.
  • Tulip Skirt by Annette Petavy — A "Plus Size" pattern, up to a 48.5" hip.  More vertical striping, with a flared hemline and a drawstring waist.  This is another pattern I want to like.  It seems easy to wear and the vertical stripes would help hide an expansive backside (mine, that is).  My main objection is the drawstring waist.  I think it looks sloppy and I can't stand loose floppy ends dangling in front of me like that.  So, if I made this, I'd have to modify the waistline to lose the drawstrings and insert elastic instead.  Probably not too difficult a modification, so it's a possibility.
  • Still Waters Shrug by Ellen K. Gormley — A "Plus Size" pattern, up to 2X, up to a 17.5" upper arm.  This is probably the pattern I ought to make as my reading-in-bed jacket.  Too bad I don't really like it.  Oh, the stitch pattern is lovely, and the pattern looks like its a breeze to make, but the garment itself just doesn't seem quite right.  Or maybe it's just that god-awful empire-waisted paisley dress the stylist made the model wear.
  • Emerald Scarf by Tracy St. John — A delicate shell stitch in laceweight Alpaca Silk makes for a beautiful spring scarf, just the right touch of warmth for those chilly spring mornings.  I bet Mom (maybe not mine, but somebody's) would like one of these for Mother's Day.  A possibility.
  • Spring Market Bag by Carol Ventura — Hey, a grocery bag in Lenten colors!  I often wonder how many variations on a market bag designers can create.  Apparently there was at least one more: this colorful Tunisian crochet bag with a drawstring closure in 100% linen.  I'm not quite prepared to spend upwards of $70 USD to make a grocery bag, but it's still awfully pretty.  
  • Snuggly Hoodie by Lisa Naskrent — And there's that edible baby again, this time in a beyond-precious sleeveless hoodie with patch pockets and buttons up the front.  What a sweet little outfit.  Why are all the moms I know with infants young enough to wear stuff like this so far away?
  • Adalia Tank Top by Marikka Hughes — A "Plus Size" pattern, up to a 54" bust.  It doesn't happen all that often, but every now and then a pattern comes along that elicits an automatic "ugh."  This was one of those patterns.  The front view isn't all that bad: it's actually kind of cute with the skinny straps, scoop neckline and flared A-line shape.  But the back?  Racerback style I can deal with, but racerback crocheted lace motifs?  Not so much.  I'm sure someone somewhere thinks this is the greatest pattern ever.  But not me.  Even when I was young and skinny, I wouldn't have worn this.

Overall, I think Interweave did a great job with this issue, with only the one real clunker of a pattern and barring the time reference fiasco.  I especially appreciated that many of the "Plus Size" patterns were actually modeled by someone with a little meat on her bones, although she could only be considered plus-sized in comparison to the usual walking clothes hangers (I mean, let's get real: a 38" bust is plus sized?).  Regardless, thanks, Interweave, for acknowledging that not all women are walking clothes hangers, and the majority of us haven't worn a size 2 since we were, umm, two.

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Posted in Knitting, Magazine review

Magazine review: Interweave Knits Spring 2009

I've been a subscriber to Interweave Knits for about a year now.  I liked enough of what I saw that, several months ago, I ordered six or seven back issues, thus adding to the evergrowing library of knit/crochet books and magazines.  Luckily my husband doesn't see them all at once:  they're organized in magazine holders and tucked away in a cabinet in my computer cubby….Looks like I need to buy another couple of magazine holders soon, though.

Anyway, here's another lovely springtime magazine cover, and it feels Irish to me.  I've never been to Ireland (although I'd like to go someday) and I have no idea if the spring sky is such a lovely pale blue against the new grass.  Regardless, this photo says Irish countryside to me, even if it was shot somewhere in Pennsylvania.  Pretty cover sweater too:  deceptively plain with subtle detail.

This choice for the cover sweater excited some pretty heated commentary in Ravelry's Patterns forum.  I got the feeling I was the only person who actually liked it.  Apparently the majority of readers (or at least those who are vocal in the forums, which I am not — I'm more of a lurker, although I put a word in now and then) thought that virtually any other item in the magazine would have been a better choice for the cover.

Onward to the inside….

Ooooh, Spotlight on Ecco Cashmere by Plymouth Yarns.  Mmmmm, cashmere.  But it's laceweight.  *sigh*  I'm not up to dealing with laceweight yarn.  I have enough trouble with sock yarn as it is.  But someday….

Artist Spotlight on Michelle Vitale Loughlin:  As I've noted in previous entries, yarn/knitting as "high art" generally isn't something that floats my canoe.  But the Jackson Pollock-inspired "Bound" and the enigmatic "Shroud 1" pictured in this article piqued my interest.  But the third featured piece?  A beautiful crocheted pineapple lace blanket covered in paint, and titled "Knitting Lessons 2".  I can deal with the paint bit ("Shroud 1" was also a painted crocheted blanket) but….It's crochet!  Do NOT call crochet knitting!   And don't give me that "artistic license" line of BS.  You will be pilloried by the Crochet Liberation Front for this!  (Trust me on this one, because I'm gonna tell 'em.)


Okay, yarn review feature:  This issue Interweave takes a look at cotton yarns.  Nice variety from several manufacturers, including a budget-priced yarn from Lion Brand ($6 USD for 103 yds).  Knit magazines which acknowledge not everyone can afford Rowan and Blue Sky Alpaca and other high end yarns earn my respect.  Now, if only they'd feature these budget-priced yarns in their pattern offerings more than once in a blue moon….

Vicky Square tells us to "Start as many NEW projects as you can!"  Umm.  No.  I have too many UFOs right now as it is, and I find it frustrating to have them all clamoring "Finish me first!  Finish me first!" every time I open the door to the yarn closet.  Once I get everything that needs finishing finished, my goal will be to have only ONE knit project and ONE crochet project going at the same time.

Book excerpt:  A pattern from French Girl Knits!  LOVE LOVE LOVE!  The pattern is Delphine, a pretty lacy tank vaguely reminiscent of a Victorian undergarment, and it's in my Ravelry queue.  I've been wanting this book since I first read about it.  Must. Buy. Soon.

Beyond the Basics feature:  A lesson in shaping circular lace shawls with short rows.  While I am sure this lesson will be most helpful at some point in the (far far distant) future, I have no plans to knit lace shawls, much less lace shawls that require short rows, any time soon.  Excellent illustrations and diagrams, though.  Plus a math lesson.  Nifty!

And now, the patterns:

The Florist Knits — Wearable pieces with floral inspirations.  I queued only a couple of these, but I liked most of them, even if the designs were intended for a younger version of me.

  • Silk Cocoon Cardigan — A simple wrap cardigan, mostly stockinette stitch but with pretty detailing on the shoulders and cuffs.  I liked it well enough to put into the queue, but I'm not in any hurry to make it.
  • Millefiori Cardigan — LOVE LOVE LOVE!  This was the piece most people in that Patterns forum discussion mentioned above thought should have been the cover.  I don't necessarily disagree, although I was perfectly satisfied with the cover as it was.  Regardless, it's beautiful with a jewel neckline and 3/4 sleeves and that pretty bit of lace above the ribbing.  It was the first thing out of this issue I put in my queue.  When I make it, though, I don't think I'll have quite so much negative ease (wait, the pattern says it's modeled with 2" positive ease?  Huh?), and I'm more likely to use Patons Grace instead of the Rowan Milk Cotton specified in the pattern.
  • Blooming Cotton Scarf — Pretty, but otherwise, as shown, meh.  Interweave's added a nice touch, however, by listing alternate colorways for this scarf in the preview.  I suspect I'd like the "Peacock" version, judging by the colors listed, so this scarf isn't completely out of the running.
  • Posy Slip — Once upon a time, I would have jumped all over this understatedly elegant slipdress.  Sadly, I no longer have the necessary body proportions to carry it off.  I think a solid yarn, rather than the variegated colorway shown, would show this dress and its stitch pattern to much better advantage.
  • Petal Halter — A beautiful piece with intriguing (and probably challenging!) overlapped construction.  I wouldn't in a million years make it for myself, but I can certainly see it being worn by some sweet young thing.  Perhaps in slightly brighter color, though.
  • Fountain Pen Shawl — I am not a shawl person.  This is lovely, though, and if I were a shawl person, I'd be tempted to make it.  And I'm giving extra points to the stylist who put the model in a print dress that echoes the shawl's stitch pattern.  Clever touch.
  • Sweet Tea — When I was a teenager and into my early 20s, I wore this type of cap-sleeve modified-jewel-neck form-fitting top all. the. time.  And so, I like this.  A lot.  Because my mind tells me I'm still 17 years old.  It is betrayed by the 47-year-old body it sits atop, however, and that 47-year-old body would look ridiculous wearing this.  Still, it's a pretty little knit with that ring of posies around the neckline. *sigh*

Clean & Simple — Exactly what the name implies: knits with clean lines and simple details.  I liked every piece, and put two of them in my queue.

  • St. John's Wort Cardigan — At first glance, this is a "no".  Although I like the color, and the stitch detail on the sleeve, and the wide collar, I do NOT like the gathered hem or the fact that it ends right at the natural waist.  It's not a flattering fit at all, even on the model.  But then I read the pattern.  Hey, it's a top down raglan!  Which means I don't have to use that gathering bind-off stitch at the hem, and naturally it's a breeze to knit to whatever length I prefer.  So, it's a possibility.
  • Jeff's Pub Sweater — I wish my husband wore sweaters.  Or any of the men in my family.  Because I would sooo like to make one of them a casually simple unfussy cardigan like this one.  And it's reversible too!
  • Diminishing Rib Cardigan — The cover sweater, photographed indoors this time.  I really like this piece, and it's in my queue, although I want to modify the front so it buttons at least as far down as the beginning of the midsection ribbing.  I do not want a cardigan that I can't fasten.  The suggested yarn is a worsted silk/wool blend.  I'm tempted by the idea of using a silk/bamboo blend instead.
  • Soap Bubble Wrap — A beautiful wrap cardigan with a delicate lace detailing over one hip and the opposite shoulder.  Although it's modeled in a casual manner over a teeshirt and slacks, I can see it worn in a much dressier environment as well, perhaps over a swirly black skirt and shimmery camisole for a special night out.  In my Ravelry queue.  PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  If you like this cardigan, you better download it now, because the pattern is not in the magazine.  It is only available online and free until May 14, 2009.  (After that date, it will more than likely still be available, but I sincerely doubt it will be free.)

Side by Side — Um.  Color me not impressed.  In fact, this segment on accessories could have been left out of the magazine entirely, as far as I'm concerned.

  • Saoirse Shawl — First thing, why is it called a shawl when the model is wearing it around her hips?  Second thing, Norah Gaughan, what were you smoking when you designed this?  I must be hopelessly out of touch with what those skinny young things (like I used to be) think is fashionable and hip, because this looks to me like a completely shapeless waste of good yarn.
  • Sweet Lily Shawl — Did I mention I'm not a shawl person?  This pattern puts the lessons learned in this issue's circular knitting with short rows segment to use.  But I'm not a shawl person, and I have absolutely no desire for this piece.  I'm not even sure I like the lace patterns.
  • Net Duffel Bag — Marginally worth considering, but that's an awful lot of very expensive yarn to use for a grocery bag.  If I ever decided to make this, I'd substitute an inexpensive DK cotton instead.
  • Baa Rug — Knitting with unspun roving and then needlefelting make this project seem like a mind-blowingly time-consuming and fiddly piece of work.  I still kind of like it.  But not enough to consider making it.

Sheer Bliss — More pretty and (mostly) wearable pieces with lightweight yarns, generally intended for much younger (or at least thinner) folks than yours truly.

  • Whisper Cardigan — Pretty little sweater with a shrug-like construction.  However, I'm even less of a shrug person than I am a shawl person.  And I don't like sweaters that I can't fasten.  I'm sure I've said that before too.  Still, it looks wonderful on the model, although I'm curious why the stylist felt it was necessary for said model to wear an apron.  Outside.
  • Sculptured Lace Scarf — Nicely detailed unisex scarf combining cables with a teensy bit of lace and made with a bamboo/wool blend yarn.  A possibility, and I wouldn't change a thing about it, except perhaps the color depending on its eventual recipient.
  • Watered Quartz Tee — I think I'd like this better if it had actual sleeves instead of just the extended shoulders.  It's a possibility even without them.  I especially like the contrast between the tightly knit ribbed stripes and the loosely knit stockinette stripes.
  • Float Stole — I may have mentioned once or twice that I am not a shawl person.  That includes shawls that are otherwise called stoles.  Regardless, the alternating eyelet and welt construction of this wispy piece is visually striking.  But I'm still not interested.
  • Bettie's Lace Stockings — Bettie can keep them, based on this photo shoot.  Lace kneehighs worn with open-toe ankle strap heels and a knee-length dress?  This has got to be the most unattractive styling I've seen in a long time.  I understand wanting to show off the featured knit, but there had to have been some other, more appealing way to shoot these stockings.  
  • Parker Cardigan — LOVE LOVE LOVE!  Deep V-neck cardigan with an unusually solid lace pattern below the bustline to the hem and on the sleeves.  And it's so versatile!  The pattern calls for a cotton/linen blend, but I think a silk and/or bamboo yarn would be equally suitable.  Depending on the yarn chosen, I can see wearing it to the office, or on date night with my husband, and even casually with jeans and a tee shirt.  A definite must-make.
  • ZickZack Tunic — While this lace tunic with a cowl neck and a banded and buttoned ribbed hem looks great on the model, it's not for me.  I'd probably like it better if it were long-sleeved (somehow, cowl necks and short sleeves just don't work together for me), but even then, it's a "no."  Not because it isn't pretty, mind you, but because I'm 5'2" and round.  Even when I was a sweet skinny young thing, tunics looked ridiculous on me.  I just don't have the height to carry them off.

So, out of 22 patterns (23, if you count the book excerpt), I queued six, or just over 25%, with several others under consideration.  Not bad!

I am not someone who expects to love every project in every issue.  Sometimes I do, and then my Ravelry queue grows and grows and grows, but I'd be a fool to expect such a thing every time.  Each issue of each magazine must appeal to a wide variety of individuals:  some issues may focus a little more on one particular segment of its readership while other issues focus on other segments; but each issue generally offers a little something for everyone, including pieces which utterly baffle me (Saoirse shawl, anyone?) but are adored by the young and hip and trendy. One out of four patterns in this issue appealed to this round middle-aged woman.  That's a perfectly acceptable percentage for my money.

To close the issue, Beth Hemke Shapiro reveals her knitting journey in a column entitled "Late Bloomer".  I too did not learn to knit until my 40s, and I appreciated every word.

And that's it for this spring's round of magazines.  Well, except for Interweave Crochet's spring issue, which hasn't come yet.  I think it arrives next month.  In the meantime, I have knitting to finish.

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Posted in Crochet, Magazine review

Magazine review: Crochet Today! Mar/Apr 2009

I love it when the spring magazines start arriving in the mail, especially if one arrives on a cold wet windy day.  The covers are generally so bright and cheery; my mood perks up right away!  Such was the case when the latest issue of Crochet Today! came a couple of weeks ago.

Doesn't this cover model remind you of Rachel Weisz?

After the usual product pitches and book reviews, the first article gives us a primer on embellishments for finished pieces, such as embroidery, beading, or cross-stitch.  Good information and excellent "how-to" photos.

Second article introduces us to Todd Paschall of Crochet by Numbers, a man who, for some inexplicable reason, took it into his head to recreate photographs in single crochet.  Yeah.  I don't get it either.  But then again, I'm not hip to this "high art" business.  However, this artform has become Mr. Paschall's passion, and more power to him for pursuing his passion.

Next, the Q & A feature which, in this issue, explains magic rings versus chain-stitch rings among other, less important, tidbits of information.  (And now that I've provided you that link, you probably don't need to read the article.)

And so, the patterns:

  • First up is the re-worked vintage pattern, the Reshaped Shell.  A sleeveless 1960s-era shell is revamped with filet sleeves and neat filet inset just below the bustline.  Cute, and a possibility, although I'd lower the neckline some.
  • The Lacy Cropped Cardi from the cover.  LOVE LOVE LOVE, and in my Ravelry queue.  Love the V-neck, the curved front, the 3/4 sleeves, the crocheted ribbing.  I even love the raspberry color!  It's just about the perfect spring cover-up.  The pattern calls for a bamboo/wool blend yarn.  I'm more likely to make it from pure bamboo, or perhaps a silk/cotton blend.  I'll figure that part out later.
  • The Versatile Vest.  I don't much care for dolman sleeves, even if they are barely there.  Still, this is a possibility, with the caveat that I'd probably do something different with the side seaming to create a true sleeveless vest.  The boucle yarn elevates this piece from the mundane.
  • The Crafty Headband.  I am not the best person to review headbands.  Even when I had long hair, I seldom wore such items:  my hair is very fine and they never stayed on.  That being said, this is pretty with its multiple-sized medallions, although I'd never in a million years make it for myself.
  • March Motifs.  A very pretty lacy shawl that looks too small even on this size 6 model.  I'd definitely need to make it larger, if I were to make it, which I doubt because I can't even remember the last time I wore a shawl.  Maybe I should convince my husband to take me out more often to fancy restaurants and other places that require dressing up.  *snort*  Who am I kidding?  The pattern calls for a wool/nylon yarn in fingering weight.  Again, I'd change out the yarn to a silk and/or bamboo blend.
  • Ring Around the Rosy.  I have one question:  Why on earth would anyone want, much less wear, a thread-crochet ring?
  • Sunny Shoulder Bag.  Bright and cheery tote, constructed of multicolor hexagons.  I like the wide strap, and it looks roomy enough to use not only as a casual about-town bag, but also as an overnight bag for quickie trips, and even sturdy enough to consider for a grocery tote.
  • Weekend Pullover.  Casual, roomy V-neck with long raglan sleeves and top-down construction.   A definite possibility.  I like it a lot, but haven't put it in my queue yet.  Nice contrast in stitch patterns between the yoke and torso.
  • Blooming Clutch.  It's cute, and I appreciate the thought put into the design (fussy as it is), but let's be real.  I don't know anyone who would carry a purse like this.  Except perhaps a teenager or the elderly lady who sits in my pew at church.  Someday, however, I'll be that elderly lady, and I may have to eat these words.
  • Stones and Stitches NecklaceAgain with the crocheted jewelry.  I must be hopelessly not cool for preferring jewelry made of precious metals.  Or maybe I'm just too old to get it.  (It is kind of pretty, though, with that nice jade pendant….)
  • Embellished Sampler Pillow.  Here's where we get to apply the embellishments we learned in the article mentioned above.  I like this a lot: not only does it look like fun, it's an easy and inexpensive way to change the look of a room or make extra decorative pillows for a bed.  Plus it's a potential stash-buster for all that extra yarn left over from other projects.  A definite possibility.
  • Airy Spring Throw.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  This is not in my Ravelry queue right now ONLY because no one has added it to the database and I haven't made the time to do it myself.  (However, as soon as I'm done with this review, I will do that very thing.)  Beautiful lacy shell pattern for the blanket itself, with a vintage-style lace scalloped border.  And the featured color is the same shade of green I used in my wedding.  Perfection.
  • Flower Box Blanket.  Another colorful and happy project that lends itself well to using yarn leftovers.  The plain jane granny squares are enlivened with a three-dimensional flower in the center.  Although this isn't necessarily something I'd make for my home, I can certainly see it as a gift, especially for someone in a nursing home or other assisted living situation who can use all the cheering-up one can provide.
  • Stitchy Scrubbie.  Colorful cotton dishcloth with bobbles to scrub away the grime. Maybe I'd be more enthusiastic about these little do-dads if I actually washed dishes by hand.  But that's why I have (a) an automatic dishwasher and (b) a husband I can guilt-trip into washing them himself.  Still, it's an interesting idea, possibly worth exploring for its afghan potential….
  • Everyday Edgings.  I love the old-fashionedness (yes, it's a word!) of this project.  Take some ordinary linen or cotton dishtowels and make them special with a snazzy crocheted trim.  The pattern calls for a worsted cotton blend yarn.  I'd be more inclined to use size 3 or 5 cotton thread.
  • Bobble Star Afghan.  Highly textured single-color throw constructed of large square motifs, edged with a bobbled border.  The contrast between the nearly solid "bobble stars" and the lace which joins the motifs is striking.  Looks like fun, even if it is a motif afghan.  A possibility.
  • Angular Granny Throw.  Triangles!  Not squares!  Very cool, and very pretty.  If I didn't dislike motif afghans so much, I'd consider making this.  I still may consider it because I like it so much.  But stitching together this many (52!) motifs is not my idea of a fun time.
  • Flower Power Skirt.  Crocheted flower appliques for a skirt, or a shirt, or a jacket….Cute idea, and an utterly adorable model.
  • Granny Girl Cardi.  Despite the name, this cardigan is not made of granny squares, just the triangle stitch used to make granny squares.  It's darling.  And there's that adorable model again.  Why don't I have a daughter?
  • T-Rex Tee.  When my youngest nephew was in his "I love dinosaurs" phase, this T-Rex skull would have been the perfect appliqued tee shirt for him.  However, he's a teenager now, and would be utterly mortified if Auntie Avanta made him something like this.  Oh well.  I still like it.
  • Baby Blues.  How many granny square baby blankets does the world need?  Apparently, at least one more.  BORING.  Except for the boucle yarn, which makes it marginally less boring.  And there's that Rachel Weisz model again, with the sweetest-cheeked baby I've seen in a while.
  • Itty Bitty Booties.  Cute as can be tootsies for infants from newborn up to 9 months.  I'm puzzled by the yarn choice, however.  A worsted weight?  Really?  For booties as tiny as these?
  • Ruffled Bottom Onesie.  Omigosh.  I may die from the cuteness.  Hmmm…I have several friends who have had babies in the last year.  Perhaps they need yet another baby gift from me….
  • Lacy Lilac Blanket.  This is soooo pretty that I may disregard my usual distaste for motif-constructed blankets and put this one on my project list.  Look at that shell and picot border!  Simply gorgeous.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the newest Interweave Knits.

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Posted in Knitting, Magazine review, Work in progress

Magazine review: Vogue Knitting Winter 2008/09

I don't read too many knitblogs ("So why would you expect anyone to read yours, missie?"  "Shut up, negative self."), but now and then I run across one that makes me smile or gives me an idea.  Such is the case with Dr. Girlfriend Knits. I went to this blog seeking help with the Treads socks, which Kim (we exchanged e-mails, so we're on a first-name basis; we're buds, you know) designed for Son of Stitch 'n Bitch.  The pattern is written with some kind of short-row mitered heel that I just couldn't figure out.  Sadly, the response from Kim didn't help much either, and I ended up doing a flap and gusset heel because I know that technique.  Anyway, the point is, while I was perusing her blog, I ran across a review she had written of a knit magazine, and thought to myself:  "Hey!  I can do that!"  Especially since knit and crochet magazines are virtually the only thing I read these days (hangs head in shame).

And so, without further ado, this is one of the latest 'zines that landed in my mailbox, and what I think of it:

Love this cover shot.  Very wintry and cozy with the whole "bundled up against the Arctic" esthetic.

In the "News" section, among other tidbits, I found a brief mention of the film Coraline, which is based on a novel by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, and which apparently features some exquisitely tiny handknits worn by its title character.  Very cool.  (And ha!  I found a way to mention a book and author that had nothing to do with yarn.)

This issue's focus is on bulky knits, so naturally the Yarns section features bulky yarns.  Wow!  Vogue actually recommended a budget-priced yarn:  Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick.

Interview with Sandra Backlund:  Meh.  I don't care about what makes designers tick, but OMG the photos of her work?!  What the hell is that?  Mounds and mounds and folds and folds of fabric over the bust and hips and shoulders?  These aren't garments.  They're monstrosities!  Oh, but she says they're intended as "high art" and not as wearable pieces.  So what's the point, I ask?  Obviously, I have low-brow tastes.

Okay, onto the the patterns:

  • Meg Swansen's Snail Hat — Cute, and it does indeed look like a snail or conch shell, but otherwise, meh.
  • Jared Flood's Almeara Gloves — Gorgeous, challenging, and someday I will tackle them.
  1. Lace Scarf — The cover piece is such a huge HUGE scarf/shawl/wrap that, if I made it, I would just go ahead and make it wide enough for a blanket.
  2. Cropped Turtleneck — Side to side knit with bobbles and cables.  Looks like fun, but not for me.
  3. Textured Cape — I love the fact that this cape, which is more like a coat, has slits for arms/hands to slip through.  I can see myself making this, if not for me, than for my mother.
  4. Raglan Jacket — Flyaway-style cardi with big lace pattern on lower half.  Pretty.  The big yarn and huge buttons set it apart from the run-of-the-mill. A possibility.
  5. Round the Corner Hoodie — LOVE LOVE LOVE!  Nice shaping, cut-away front, 3/4 sleeves, lace shoulders…the only thing that gives me pause is the endless endless seed stitch.  But it's in my Ravelry queue.
  6. Medallion Jacket — Unusual radiating rib design on the back, nice shawl collar, but it doesn't interest me.
  7. Pullover with Scarf — Shapeless and oversized, and the scarf looks like yarn barf.  Someone must have liked it, but I don't.  Interesting yarn, though.
  8. Wrap Coat — Belled sleeves and a herringbone stitch pattern, but I really dislike coats with no fastenings.  And it's too short to call it a coat, anyway.
  9. Cropped Hoodie — I gotta tell ya, I don't understand the huge fuss people are making of this piece on Ravelry.  What is the point of a long-sleeved hoodie that ends just below the bust line?  My reaction when I saw the photo:  "Where's the rest of her sweater?"
  10. Cabled Jumper — First, let's specify that this is a "jumper" in the American sense of the word:  A sleeveless dress intended to be worn over a blouse or top of some kind.  I'm not overly fond of knit dresses, but this one interests me.  Except for that banded cable and ribbing at the hem, which turns the piece into a bubble dress, and I hate bubble dresses (hates them hates them my precioussss….'scuse me while I stuff Gollum back into his book).
  11. Eyelet Cable Cardigan — Cute!  And in my Ravelry queue.  I think I'll make it a little longer, though.  From the photo, it looks like it ends just below the waist, and I prefer cardigans that are at least high hip length.
  12. Cabled Pullover — Mock turtleneck with lace panel at front.  Pretty, but not for me.  And pockets?  I suppose they're an interesting design element, but these are utterly useless, and pockets should never be useless.
  13. Buckle Trim Pullover — Lots of texture and a variety of cables.  The deep slit neck is fastened with a strap and buckle, hence the name, although this trim could be left off.  Looks like it would be fun to knit.  I'm not crazy about the belled sleeves, but this is a possibility.
  14. Cabled V-Neck Pullover — LOVE LOVE LOVE!  Flatteringly wide but not too deep V-neck, and covered with narrow cables.  In my Ravelry queue.
  15. Belted Cardigan — Tunic length wrap cardigan with cables and a notched collar.  Nothing special here. In fact, I bet I could find a similar piece at virtually any large department store.
  16. Cabled Tunic — Cowl neck and done up in a pretty gold mohair yarn. The model is dressed as if she's headed to the office, with a midcalf pencil skirt and short wool blazer.  If I wore this to my office, I'd die of heat prostration.
  17. Bulky Coat — Bubble coat.  'Nuff said.  At least the pockets aren't useless.
  18. Cabled Wrap — Oh, is that what this is?  It looks like a shapeless rectangular piece of something with slits for armholes and held together in front with a giant safety pin.  Which only proves once more that I don't get "fashion".
  19. Squares Scarf — Oversized scarf that could easily double as a wrap with lots and lots of multicolored intarsia squares, 20 different colors in all.  Why, yes, it is Kaffe Fassett, how did you know?  Beautiful, but not for me.
  20. Fair Isle Cardigan — Very colorful and interesting Fair Isle pattern.  However, it's a zippered front, which intimidates me, and the pattern calls for steeks, which scares the hell out of me.  But maybe.  Someday.  A long long time from now.  I'm not quite that fearless yet.
  21. Zig Zag Dress — Again with the knit dress.  Pretty, with a V-neck and a Southwestern flair in the coloring, but not for me.
  22. Felted Bag — More Southwestern-influenced colors and patterns.  Interesting metal brads and post-felting embroidery.  A possibility.
  23. Opera Gloves — Beautiful delicate cable pattern and virtually the only piece in this issue NOT made with a bulky yarn.  These would make the perfect gift for a particular friend.  A possibility.
  24. Cabled Socks — I believe I've seen a similar sock pattern in Two At A Time Socks.  Nothing special here.
  25. Bulky Hat — You know those hats worn by the Sherpa guides on Mt. Everest?  The hats with the little pointy tops?  I googled for a picture and I can't find one.  Anyway, that's what I thought of when I saw this hat.  Again, someone must have liked it.
  26. Lace and Fur Scarf — I'm sorry, I just can't get my head around yarn made of beaver fur.
  27. Cabled Belt — Even if I still had a 24-inch waist, this ultra-wide belt would be a "no".  How does one sit down without that 5-inch buckle digging into one's innards?  
  28. Fair Isle Scarf — Sized for children but easily made longer for adults.  Simple and traditional two-color Fair Isle pattern.  A possibility.
And that is Vogue Knitting Winter 2008/09.

(I originally intended to review two other recent magazines in this entry but, given the length of time required, those will have to wait until later.  Besides, I need to pull out the thesaurus and find suitable synonyms for "interesting".  Tune in tomorrow!)

P.S.  Getting back to those Treads socks, a kind person in the LiveJournal Knitting community pointed me in the direction of an online visual tutorial of the type of heel the pattern describes.  Next time I'll know what to do.

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