Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Friday, May 19, 2006  

My impressions of Interweave Knits Summer issue

Continuing with yesterday’s theme of what floats my boat when it comes to fashion, and in particular, patterns, I offer here my review of the summer issue of Interweave Knits.

I’ve been meaning to write a review of it for a few weeks because this issue really wowed me. The summer issue of a knitting magazine has to be the hardest thing to produce. For 70% of the world the word association match to “knitting” comes from a list that includes sweater, hat, mitten, scarf plus wool, snuggle, cozy, kitty in your lap and fire in the fire place. None of those are words I want to even see from mid-June through Labor Day.

I know subscribers expect year round offerings and I even understand how much knitters need inspiration fixes. I cut the publishers a lot of slack with their summer issues. My expectations are low and I’m slow to give up my entrenched opinions. But this issue kicked me out of that trench – it actually whisked me out. I think this is the best summer issue of a knitting magazine I’ve ever seen. I thought I’d give it an itemized review since, this is my forum and I can talk here as much as I want.

So let’s start with the cover. This issue is focusing on lace – good pick for summer knitting. The cover garment is a lacy tank with raglan shaping in a medium blue. It has wide shoulder straps that would cover any bra – a must for women of a traditional build (what a jewel of a metaphor). Cover model is one of the familiar IK models – quite pretty and the top fits her. It looks like silk yarn was used, but I’ll have to look inside to find out. Happily, I’m tempted to because this is a garment that is pretty, not too outré, neither impossibly difficult looking, nor boringly easy.

Time to probe a little deeper. Whoa! On the contents page are 3 photos. A top with short sleeves knit with a very interesting looking paisley cable. I’ve never seen that before. I wouldn’t wear it where the garment has it placed, but I am tempted to try it somewhere. Then a camisole that I immediately dismiss because I couldn’t wear it – though it’s put together in an architectural way that appeals to the mathematician in me. I don’t do spaghetti straps. But I am not the only customer for IK either. I give them points for a design for the young and the slender. The third garment is a tank top that makes my eyes pop. It shares that architectural quality in the camisole but it’s far more versatile with its wide straps. It’s shapely, it looks like it’s knit with thick yarn so it would even be a quick knit, but it’s that careful shaping detail rising from the v-neck that really grabs me. Some kinda clever woman came up with this so I check out her name: Katy Ryan. You go girl! And I’m ready to go on myself.

I always read the editorials, book reviews and commentaries in knitting magazines. At least, I always start them and this issue Pam walks us through the process of putting out a knitting magazine. If you’re already media savvy this may be old stuff for you, but her point is that at every step of the way individual creativity and imagination are added to a garment and she welcomes the consumer’s addition to each garment offered. You, the knitter, are going to put your stamp on anything you chose to make. You become part of the whole design team. Sort of like the 6 steps away from Kevin Bacon, hmmm?

I love the fitted Tank in the Blue Sky alpaca add on the facing page. Another classic.
In the New & Views section I have to give a grin because though the article is about Gina Pinnock, who knits for British film and theater productions, it’s the photo of Toby Cockerel that made me stop and read. I’ve saw him on stage at the Globe Theater a few years ago. He looks a little like Julia Roberts – proving that some are closer than 6 steps away from ….

The librarian in me always has to pour over the book reviews and I particularly appreciated Clara Parkes’ review of all the good stuff. She didn’t limit herself to the latest thing on the bookshelves, even including an OOP title Knitting Lace by Susanna Lewis.
Miss C knows that you can borrow out of print books via inter-library loan. That’s how I got to read Principles of Knitting. Just because you can’t own it doesn’t mean you can’t glean from it. Yea Clara!

The featured garments start on the following page. The first one is okay – neither a wower nor a dud. The criticism I have of it is that there is a very fancy detail at the neckline but the photograph doesn’t bring it off. I know I know – photographers love to show you the feel, the aura, the soul of fashion. Big booboo. Heads up editors – I promise you. Nobody buys a knitting magazine looking only for auras, feelings or souls. First and foremost we are looking for close up photo of that special detail.

Theresa Schabes’ Pink Mimosa sleeveless knitted top is a wower. It’s a wowziewower. Best of all she offers it in sizes small (34”) to pretty big (49”). It’s a sleeveless shirt with a fabulous lace band that goes up the front, around the neck and down the other side. It closes like a shirt front. There is a pretty edging around the armholes. It’s reeeeealy gorgeous and it looks intermediate on the difficulty scale. It’s a knock-out. I will make it.

The Marseilles Pullover by Kathy Zimmerman is very nice. It’s a classic boatneck cabled sweater. It’s knit in alpaca and you can tell that in the photo when you look at the garter filling in the wide diamonds of the large central cable. There are not too many cables in this sweater – but the look of texture is carried throughout by wide ribbed sides and sleeves. Again – a challenge, but not a headache of a sweater. And Thank you Kathy – for offering it in size 34 through 50.

Norah Gaughan designed the t-shirt with the interesting cabled paisleys. Wedgwood Blouse she calls it. Lots of sizes. Not something I would make because I don’t add texture around the shoulders like that – not and then go out in public. But that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. The wide scooped neckline of this seamless circular sweater design would make it cool for summer but appropriate for the office.

The man’s sweater jacket by Ann Budd is something BD would wear. Only – he already has a sweater knit by me. Yep. He sees no point in owning two sweaters. One is enough. I can but shrug. But now that I think about it, LD would look fabulous in this. A little ribbing on the shoulders, a lot of stockinet, a front zipper. Yep. This is a very manly sweater.

The next item is a knitted bag. I’m not much of a knitted bag person. I don’t make ‘em. I don’t carry ‘em. In fact, I try to find someone else to carry things for me. I flip past that quickly. If you’re looking for a boxy tote or a first intarsia project, it’s here.

Another page over and there are some darling socks by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts that look like they’d use up all the leftover balls of sock yarn in your stash. The baby sweater is cute. There’s a toy and some crowns – all the patterns are available either on-line or via snail mail. Quick gifts you might call them, but quick is on the needles of the knitter.

The only thing in this issue I really didn’t’ like was the Brooklyn Cap by Laura Irwin. It’s a felted knitted helmet and I think it’s butt-ugly – even if it is in olive green. There is a weird needle felted stripe across the front that serves no purpose I can see. I’m confused about why this even made it into the magazine.

Joan Forgione’s Thorn and Thistle Twinset is a conjoined outfit that should be separated. Each piece is lovely by itself, but it makes the model, and we know they are the thinnest upright ambulatory bi-peds on earth, look like a linebacker for the home team. Do NOT put nubby cotton and silk blend knitted lace jackets over nubby cotton and silk blend knitted tank tops. Unless you want to look like a member of the defense. Other than that, I think both pieces are lovely and if they had been knit from drapey rayon they’d be just fine.

One page over is a Skacel add with a poncho that is so been-there – and the ad says “for a new generation!” It ought to read “For those old baby boomer farts.” Then again, I guess you can’t put farts in a magazine ad.

The Mommy Snug sweater by Kate Gilbert is too tight for the model. She’s pregnant, so I’m not talking about the wide spread over the tummy. It’s the sleeves. They are too tight on the model. The buttoned sides are very clever, though and make for a maternity sweater with lots of wear to it.

Evening Star Top by Esther Yun-Mancini is another good classic summertime garment I could at least see myself wearing. The yarn – Tahki Select Yarns Star – 60% nylon, 40% polyester – might keep me from trying. The gauge is 5.5 st. to the inch. Probably don’t have anything in my stash that would knit up at that gauge. Still. It’s a nice garment.

Then there is Annie Modesitt’s Bias Corset. This is so teen and twenty something that, other than to admire the architecture, I pass it over. Annie has the most brilliant knitter’s math mind and I love to see what she does with shaping. This camisole is a worthy addition to her cleverly structured pieces. It’s just that I will never wear spaghetti straps – I am too big and too old. Too bad.

Another garment whose technical structure I can admire even if the end result leaves me flat is the Fairy Net Blouse by Robin Melanson. There’s something wrong with the photo – Again, I suspect the sweater is too small for the model. Perhaps the next size up was so much more too big that the snug fit was selected. But it’s not flattering to the girl wearing it and I can tell by looking that the surplice across the top would not land in a good place for me. What’s worthy of note is the clever lacing at the side. It’s a pretty detail and you could use it somewhere else in your knitting.

The primer on knitted lace by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer is sandwiched between the previous garment and a lovely lace shawl. I confess. I haven’t read it yet – but I see in a quick glance that there is a section on reading charts and some tips on how to get back on track when you flub up – including the famous life line technique. I’m getting so close to knitting my first fine lace shawl. Will it be the Icarus Shawl by Miriam Felton? Who knows? Maybe. That back view, with the lovely silhouette of the model showing through, is high temptation.

The next item up is that ab-fab tank by Katy Ryan: Brioche Bodice. Yummy. And yes. It’s knit at 3 stitches to the inch and it’s just about the first bulky yarn garment I’ve ever seen that tempted me. I don’t like knitting on needles above size 8 so getting me to handle double digit needles takes something special in either yarn or pattern. She used a Colinette yarn, “wigwam” 100% cotton. It doesn’t look too heavy for summertime. The ribbed tank hugs the model and the way the ribs on the sides tuck into the ribbed v neckline is truly graceful. Again, it’s in lots of sizes from 30” to 51.5” Yea Katy!

High fashion gets a nod with an article about Wenlan Chia whose clothing line Twinkle offers lots-0-knits. The wide scooped necked cabled sweater has a very runway look to it as do all the other sauntering poses. Her pattern for the Seaberry Shell doesn’t do much for me – it’s knit up at 2.5 stitches to the inch. That sort of bulkiness leaves me cold. Blue is pretty. The textured front is lacy enough but I’ll pass on this. It’s too bulky for any but the tiniest of people and too much of anything is bad design in my book.

I must confess here – my reading schedule for magazines almost always follows the same steps. First I skim the featured garments. Then I read the editorial and book reviews. Then I go back over the patterns I liked and really study them. Last of all – often weeks after the magazine arrived, I go read the technical articles. I always do read them and in some cases, they are the most important part of the magazine for me, but those articles are what keep me enthused during the drought period between issues. Hey – I’m never said I was any different from your average eye candy knitting magazine consumer.

All that is to say I haven’t read the article about the knitted bathing suits.

But that Bonita Shirt by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark that’s next in the lineup is pure loveliness. It’s also something I would wear. It’s something I might make. It’s dainty too. There are cap sleeves, lace panels and delicate but easy embroidery adding color to a soft cream top. The more I look at this the more tempted I am to give it a try. Not that there is any cotton in my stash – but this is a bulls eye hit for some alpaca I have. I can skip the embroidery and I’ll end up with a perfect under a suit jacket kitted top – for 3 seasons of wearing. Pretty Pretty Pretty. If only it will make gauge – of 6 st. to the inch. Cross your fingers for me.

The cover garment at last has its chance for perusal. Lotus Blossom Tank by Sharon Shoji is a bamboo lace piece with interesting raglan shaping. It’s interesting because one doesn’t usually bother with raglan in a sleeveless garment. It works here, flaring a bit at the shoulder line to hint at a cap sleeve, without actually requiring that you make one. That slight flare balances out a similar line of the lace below a rather high bustline. It’s that high division that might stop a fuller figured woman – I’d probably add another inch of stockinet bodice if I were making it for me. But I can think of a good dozen of my friends who would look stunning in it – from the willowy thin ones to the more rounded gals. The pattern is sized in 4 steps from 33.5 to 48 inches.

There are a smattering of lace examples knit by IK staff, all following the same pattern, but each free to use it in a garment of choice. Fun to look at and a fun idea to try with my knitting group. Hmmm. In fact – I think I’ll suggest it at our June meeting.

The last garment in this issue is a pretty little eyelet thing – Eyelet Chemise, designer Therese Chynoweth calls it – too young for me, too high waisted, and all that, but very very pretty. And you could add a few more inches to the body if bare midriffs are not your particular fashion statement. I love that 3 hole eyelet stitch, lace without being see through. It’s a youthful design with a little room to grow.

So – 18 patterns, 4 of which I can see myself knitting, 2 more I might knit. Nine more garments had knit-worthy features valuable for studying and only one that I flat out rejected. In a summer issue of a knitting magazine! In addition, 3 Good Ideas popped into my head as I turned the pages over. My goodness! Interweave – you have outdone yourself.

As I continue to leaf through the magazine, just in case any ad leaps out at me, I find Lorna’s Hand-dyed Yarns puffing out of ice cream cones – yummy – and sitting right beside the Blue Moon Fiber Arts socks that I know I must make for myself. At least, I must make something like them. I’m always tempted by the white Lies Designs – the Krista Tee is very pretty, very lacy, yep yep – another good’un.

I see a promo code IKSMO6 for – worth checking out the website to see what the deal is. Interweave has two ads for itself – Knitscene’s fall issue – coming in June (?) and Interweave Crochet … puhleaze – stop with the ponchos. Have that cover girl pull that thing off her shoulders and down to her waist and you’d have one helluva great skirt – put a little silk tiered thing underneath as a petty coat and you’ve got Princess! I also like the hairpin lace skirt in Stitch Diva Studio’s ad. and what do you know! Another knitted skirt – from It’s just a sketch but hey, a knit skirt is just a tube. I see a knit skirt in my future.

I am getting an idea for a fun afternoon on-line. I think one rainy Sunday I’ll just start going through all the websites in the marketplace pages to see what’s out there. What I know is at the very end is Ravelings; the last thoughts about knitting in each issue. This one is Amy Swenson’s account of a trans-Siberian stash enhancement. I will leave you with only that title to prick your curiosity. Who knows what sort of stash enhancing journey you might find yourself on?

posted by Bess | 3:53 PM