Friday, 12 October 2007

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.
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JayJay said...

Hmm, I wonder why more books and magazines don't just give us pictures of the knit on a mannequin? That would really help see the whole design. It sounds like a cool book! I imagine you must have quite the library of knitting/crocheting books, based on all your reviews. I am quite admiring!

cranberry said...

Yeah, I do. :P. But I'm trying to get rid of the older books I got off ebay before I knew better. :)