Monday, 29 October 2007

Kim Hargreaves has a new pattern book out

It is The Darkhouse collection and you can see an overview of the patterns here. What to say? The designs are classic without being boring, enough gothic to give them an edge.

My PC is bugging, so I can't upload all the pictures I like. Boo. This one Emily suits me to the tee. Look at the scooped neckline, the sweet eyelet details at the cuffs and hem. Look at Storm, a cardigan done in Rowan's big wool. Kim Hargreaves makes bulky sexy, and slimming by adding shaping and eyelet stitches. Oh, I might not be as lithe as that lass to the right, but I know that that shape can work with me. Dammit, I knew I shouldn't have bought those other books on Amazon.

This book is direct from Ms. Hargreaves' website, which is unfortunate, especially since the WearDowney mavens (a far lesser effort) have their book on Amazon.

I can almost hear the platoon of knitters casting on now.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Consumption versus... another view?

Had to go to London to visit my stepdaughter, and it was lovely to see her, although I had to hid my knitting! Also went to Uniqlo to pick up some classic pieces. I bought:
  • a scarf that absorbs solar power to keep me warm!
  • a skinny black cardi (to look smart)
  • two tops.
All for under £30. Not necessarily a bargain, but for the quality, I'm happy. I love Uniqlo clothing: it's well made, doesn't fall apart or loose shape in the washing machine and has a sophisticated colour selection. I don't buy woolen goods from Uniqlo though, after the buttery softness of designer yarns, I find their merino/lambswool blend a tad itchy. I'd rather knit woolen cardigans for myself. Am I wrong?

Anyhoos, had a come to Jesus chat with my stepdaughter over the weekend. She seems to think that I'm letting myself go appearance wise. I don't dress up anymore, or shop, and she finds my hobbies of knitting and inline skating offputting. To be honest, since I've started recycling in earnest a couple of years ago, I've changed my consumption habits, some have been:

  • Not buying glossy magazines: I try and do most of my reading online. So for my gossip fix I'll go to ONTD, and for news, I'll look to BBC World. If I do buy papers, it's the Sunday papers. Then, I recycle them.
  • Buy the best clothes I can afford, and make them last: I've gone off stores like Primark and Topshop - where the clothes may be fashionable but they fall apart so quickly, and especially with Primark, where clothes can be as little as £1, it's really frightening. I'm trying not to buy clothes because I 'want' to be on trend. I'm trying to buy clothes that will last for years. In this regard, I'm following the lead of French women - buy the best clothes I can afford, and just make them last. This means taking control and responsiblity for what I put in my body and how I maintain it by making sure I stay the same size all the time.
  • Finish using whatever products I buy so that I can recycle the containers: I used to be a product gladfy - I'd buy a facecream this week, and one next week - only to have six opened bottles of product in varying stages of use. Earlier this year I've decided to use up the bottles, (and carry them to my local recycling facility) and oh my, I've been a bad girl! Now, I've decided on what my face product is going to be (Neal's yard - organic and the containers are recyclable).
  • I think twice about what I buy before I do: Will I wear this jacket/trousers/shoes everyday or almost everyday? Can this item of clothing go from smart/casual, and vice versa? Can I wear it layered? Alone or not? When I buy a garment, I now expect to wear it until threadbare. Same thing with shoes.
All these thoughts were in my head as I flicked through the magazines that my stepdaughter had. The articles were along the line of: How to get star style with high top swag? The makeup to buy/try NOW! These magazines seem to drive consumption by telling you what to buy and what to wear, all masked in the sly chatty tones. You get the feeling of derision by the fashionistas if you want to dance to your own stylish drum, although they do say otherwise by showing the great and good in the styles du jour instead of the classic and the quirk. Hmmmm.

Also, with the amount of money that you spend on fakes and knockoffs, if you save long and hard, you can have a stylish version that you can keep for years and years.

Anyway, lest our thoughts get serious, I've been knitting. Yayyy. Stuff I've been doing:

  • A charity square. My square was supposed to be 8 inches square. It ended up being 11 inches. Hmmm. I haven't the heart to rip it. Yet.
  • I now know how to knit continental. My tension is loosey gooesy in continental, but I can knit wicked fast. Faster than how I normally knit, and I'm relatively quick. I could see myself doing continental for a moss stitch - going down a few needle sizes.
  • I'm knitting Roza's socks. It's the first patterned sock knitting I've ever done. I've done a pair of socks before, but the basic Opal sock knit version. I can see why people like sock knitting: it's portable, doesn't call for much committment (mismatched socks are cool!), and you can use gorgeous yarn without breaking the bank. I only have 300 m of yarn, and grumperina's socks call for 394m. I might only do one sock with the yarn I have (70 percent wool/30 percent ramie) because it's sturdy and serviceable.
  • I'm waiting on my 3.75mm needles from get knitted. The knitpicks options needles never seem to be in stock. I do wish to start my icarus shawl. Never have done lace before, and my thoughts are of fear and trepidation.
Right! There are more things to say, but will keep schtum for now, for I shan't jinx them.


ETA: Oh my Lord, Kim Hargreaves has a new book coming out. I'm selling on my Weardowney book for this one. Oh yes.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Our love is a ball of yarn

Hello! Been trying to post to my blog from yesterday, but blogger wasn't having it. So, anyway, My Friend Pat came around to my house on Sunday with a suprise! It was an old fashioned ball winder! It's lovely, and although it doesn't have a clamp, and I have to balance it on my knee, it's all good. I've never wound balls of yarn so fast and so neatly!

So, here's what I did over the weekend, I frogged my topdown cardi, because it wasn't working. It was too chunky, and more for a 6mm needle than the 5mm I was working with. So, the balls have been wound, and am thinking of doing Japel's Cropped Ribbed Cardigan. It would be topdown as well as warm and relatively stylish. Then, I wound balls of yarn from wool to mohair.

Right now, I'm at the stage in between the major projects: you know, that stage where you have your tongue tucked in the side of your mouth as you consider what next to take on. Whatever shall I put your resources of time and yarn into? That rugged hooded Central Park Hoodie, or the smart Cherry by Anna Bell. Or, should I step off the ledge with only breezes to cushion me as I grab my needles and first lace pattern?

To be honest, I don't think I'm going to be doing as much knitting as I'd like to, because I'm still looking for jobs. *sighs*

Oh well, whatever next I knit, it will be using up the stash. I have some nice yarn and it's time to show it off. Stay tuned for the swatching sessions!

Friday, 12 October 2007

With me, you get feast or famine.

At last! Kim is done! Just a selection of poses I'm doing with my camera. Now that Kim's done, the day is balmy, almost tropical (despite the cloud cover, but then again, we have cloud cover in the tropics too). I do like the finished article! I think the best thing that works with this piece is proportion. If you must wear this boob tube, try to wear it with a volumious shirt, or something floaty. Also, try for long sleeves, and a T-shirt that is long in torso as well. You want this to have the effect of a cinched waist, or else you'll be sorry. So, I bring you four poses. This is how I'm going to wear my Kim: Cabled boob tube - over my hoodie (which is a lightly woven cotton). This top also works with negative ease. Although the finished size is 32.5inches (42.4cm) and my boob size is 35 inches, the negative ease makes the top stay up. I think I could have taken in the waist a bit more.

Enjoy the view!


Pattern: Kim by Sarah Hatton, from Rowan Studio 1
Needles: 3.25mm and 3.75mm straight bamboo needles + 1 cable needle.
Yarn: x3 balls of Rowan felted tweed in Pine
Time taken: officially? Six months in terms of someone casting on for me. Really? About 4 weeks.
Modifications: None. I am a lemming.
If I knew then, what I know now?: I'd have done it in the round, even though I don't have a 3.25mm circular needle. I probably would have gone down to 3mm.
Gripes: Pattern was awkward at the beginning. Once you get over that hump, it's all good.
Advice for anyone?: If you can, do it in the round. The seaming is important in terms of making sure the sides match. But ignore the palaver and do it in the round. I'd have done it on 4mm needles, since my gauge on knitpicks circulars tends to be a bit tighter.
Next on needles?: Nothing too demanding. Alas, I'm still suffering under the slings and slurs of unemployment, and that needs to change. I need to start contributing to craftser and ravelry, so I need a job, STAT! Will finish that hat.
Posted by Picasa

Book review: Weardowney's Pattern book

Behold, a post inspired by the Weardowney book I just bought yesterday. It's glizty, artsy, fashionable, flirting with pretension, off kilter and perhaps, to some of you, obnoxious. If you feel this way about the post, you might feel the same way about their book. It's really not for everyone. I will upload some straightforward fashion shoots into my flickr account and give you the link, but bear with me in terms of this post.

A potted history of Weardowney then. Two women: their combined histories include, being a former model, then a knitter to John Galliano, now a 'House' to lauded knitwear, as well as running their own knitting classes, and bringing out a biannual magazine which is a magpie of their influences: music, photography, catwalk fashion, and the environment. So, in retrospect, of course they would have done their book the same way. How silly of us to even think otherwise!

The first thing is, half of the book is devoted to knitwear: its history, new developments and the personae behind the fashionable movement of knitwear. We get essays on John Galliano, Jean Paul Gautier, Vivienne Westwood and Sonia Rykiel and how they changed knitwear. Then, there is a nod to the present new kids on the block like Claire Tough, and an overview on the knitting blogs and how their irreverence has changed the attitude and face of knitting (which is the weakest part of the essay).

Afterwards, there's a short lesson on how one can 'see' the knitting designs take form. On a flyleaf, Downey shows the anatomy of a knitting design - a mini dress/ tunic done in garter stitch scoop neck, vertical eyelet lace with garter stitch bands. Then, you flick over the fly leaf to see the completed design in all its glory. "Gorgeous," the reader breathes, fingers quivering on the edge for more - will we get the pattern? No, we don't. Curses!

In the other half of the book we do get the patterns. Of course, since these women are fashion mavens, the photography is moody. the models contorted into pretzel like shapes to show off a seam, or a particular technique. If you really want to see how the actual designs look on a dress form, go to the back of the book. That's really pragmatic and very forward thinking- a nice touch.

The designs are an interesting and surprising mix. In the Weardowney shows, their knit wear is more to do with a sort of quirk in mind. A bit of tongue in cheek, a kind of raspberry to the fashion establishment. They do knitted bloomers, knitted stockings with and without feet. They offer knitted shawl coats, which you throw over a confectionary of a dress so that you don't freeze. In their shops, they sell kits with funky accessories (scarves and the like). I expected to see more of that in this book. The quirk, the irreverence for the grandmother's knits. Instead, we get the flash of fashion with scoop neck tops and pretty eyelet skirts. There are some pretty striking cardigans, and then surprisingly, some conventional patterns. Two knitted tops for men, and an oversized cabled vest for women. I expected some accessories, like the cape they had on the Amazon cover (which, surprise! Didn't make this cover).

For designers who normally have a 'theme' in their shows, the patterns in the book did not feel so unified. Is it snooty, sexy, carefree, selfconscious or comfortable? I felt all of these things while looking at the patterns.

The patterns come with schematic diagrams (yayy!) a bit on the small side, but there. The patterns are mostly done on 3.25 -4mm needles. I think the cabled patterns were done on slightly bigger needles, but I need to check again. The yarns are mostly Rowan - cotton glace, bamboo soft, 4ply cotton, 4ply soft and Rowan felted tweed. There is a cool tunic dress of 4ply cotton in white, juxtaposed with a pink lurex shimmer. I rather like the effect it gives, and would incorporate it into my own knitting.

So, overall, do I like the book? Yes, yes I did. The essays are something to come back to and to digest accordingly. Would I knit patterns from the book? Again, yes, I've been itching to knit a skirt from hemp, and I think the peacock skirt in Weardowney is just the ticket. Do I recommend the book? Yes, but with reservations: if you want your books to be nothing but the knit patterns, no, don't get this book. If you are a basic jumper and jeans girl, who scoffs at fine gauge materials, look elsewhere. You might want to try before you buy with this one.


Pros: Good essays on knitting designers. Attractive display of images, good overview of the knitting culture as portrayed. The gallery of designs at the back is a nice touch. There are a lovely designs that feel 'dressy' in ways that a majority of the knitting designs don't. This is aided by the (relatively) fine gauge of the yarn used.
Cons: Duplicates of designs in some ways. Like, the waffle jacket is almost the same as the jacket with chevrons. The book could have been more 'tied' to their quirky personalities in terms of less conventional jumpers and such.

Rating: 3/5 stars. For such an enviable catalogue (present and past), the collection could have been stronger.
Posted by Picasa

Stitching and Knitting show

Helllo! I'm back from the Stitching and Knitting Show, held at Alexandra Palace, home to BBC's first TV arial in the 1930s, and a jolly part of London to visit: attractive, with wide spaces and some hills! Surprisingly (or not!) I didn't buy any yarn. Firstly, there was a lot of alpaca, which is a lovely yarn, but I can't really get on with it against my skin. There was a lot of sock yarn (A LOT of sock yarn), and space dyed yarn. I must say, I do like sock yarn in terms of the jewelled like colours and yardage, but enough withthe space dyed yarn already. Most times it looks terrible when knitted up (all. That. Pooling.) . I did not take many pictures because the stall owners didn't like it. A few had signs that discouraged such photography. Fair enough, I guess they wanted to keep their shots exclusive.

I saw the Habu knitting and saw what the hoopla was all about. Knitted steel, silk and figue (a relative of the pineapple plant) make such a lovely drape and fabric! But I didn't like the colours for me (my skin has orange tones, it doesn't get on with muted colourways and the bright ones were too bright). I also felt quivet for the first time. It's so LUSH! Unlike wool, or alapaca or any other animal fibre I've felt. It literally collapses into nothing on your hand but drifts like a fluffy cloud over your shoulders. The trader was Danish, and her quivet gathered from rocks and lichen in Greenland (that's how it's harvested, by gathering the bits of quivet down left on rocks and plants, then spun and dyed). She was selling 100 grams for quivet for £52 (104 US). Too rich for my blood (although I can see why the price is what it is). The quivet is the second picture on the right.

Rowan, Collinette, Get Knitted, Laughing Hens and a lot of other proprieters had stalls. Rowan (third picture) had a stall teaching people how to knit and crochet. So did simply knitting. There were a load of students at the show (quite a few were French) and they got busy with the sticks, to cast on and off.

I also saw a lot of knits on real people from Rowan Studio books 1 and 2. So immensely flattering! Please Rowan Studio books, go back to the fine gauged knits that you started off with. The big, chunky knits by the Royal College of Art and Design people were clumsily executed. I saw the Nora Gaughan knit from VK fall 2007 on a short, rotund woman. I like it! So beautifully skimming the figure and adding length and interest where there wasn't any. It was done in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran however, and as such, it started to pill. Ugh.

The last picture with the glass window is the hall of Alexandra Palace. It will be the last stitching show held there for a while, since the place is due for remodelling. From what I gathered by a stranger (when asking him for the directions of said place), there were plans afoot to tear a part of the building down for a leisure centre. Of course, the local community is in arms, and he thinks that the wolves of overhyped progress will be held at bay. I hope so, I'm all for tradition, it's what gives us identity and keeps us sane in this old world. Why has everything got to be new?

So, what did I buy? Just the Plassard Luminere yarn (reminded me of a Berroco yarn, the same one that Valpuri was done in), and a gauge slash needle sizer slash ruler slash magnifying glass by knit picks from Get I also bought a pattern book by Wear Downey, but that shall be in a different post.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The online knitting designer's handbook

So you wanna be an online knitting desinger? If so, you just need a dollop of creativity, and Barbarba G. Walker's Knitting from the top.

If you actually have this book to hand, and a modicum of creativity (or a few fashion magazines with knitwear to inspire you) you've got it made. Just an initial skim of a raglan topdown one button cardigan reminds one of a popular online designer's creation. The only difference is that the latter just throws a rib pattern below the bodice, but it's the basic shape and form (complete with button!)- but with short sleeves instead of long(p. 50, fig. 23).

Or if you want to make a cape/flared jacket, look at pg. 53-54 and you're all set.

It's not cheating per se, because it's a basic shape, but it just goes to show that with this book, you're already quids in on saving money buying the basic topdown patterns online, because Ms. Walker spells it all out for you. Yes, duckie, there is even a way to do topdown set in sleeves and it's very straightforward.

Knitting from the top is only 120 pages long, but oh my, what a lot of information in these pages! There are about 12 chapters, and each chapter covers a basic design element (raglan pullover, cardigan, seamless cape, seamless skirt, sleeves sweaters, pants and caps). Within each chapter, Walker breaks down the principles for you, and doesn't go further than third grade Arithmetic.

Ms. Walker's writing style is straight forward. She doesn't meander as much as Elizabeth Zimmerman, nor is she as overenthusiastic as Maggie Righetti can be at times. As a result, the prose is clean, and relatively uncluttered. In addition, the clean, basic diagrams help to bring her points across.

I'd say, if you had to choose between Knitting from the Top or Righetti's Sweater Design in Plain English, I'd go for the former- more bang for the buck and less Math if you're not that inclined. In addition, there's a simple stitch glossary at the front, about 20 different increases explained on page 20 and a short section on how to chart your own patterns, and how to convert piece knitting into the round.

I can truly see why most (if not all) the popular online designers cite this book (although not Chapter and verse). It really allows you to dictate your knitting. Immediately, I can see myself utilising the set in sleeve method (if I can avoid sewing in a set in sleeve, yayyy), or knitting Kim Hargreaves' Salina from the topdown, so that I can have perfect fitting shoulders!

Drawbacks? Well, the cover is old fashioned, the processes are shown in black and white photographs (when illustrations or coloured photographs would be better), and the typeface and the outlay of the papers are dated, but really, the information gleaned from the pages overshadows the frumpiness.

It's a really good book to have. Highly recommended.

ETA to add images from the book. Thought it would be appreciated. :)