Saturday, August 04, 2007

Vogue Knitting 25th Anniversary Issue Part One

It's that time of year, gang. Time for the fall review of VK. As you can see, I'm going to split this into two parts. Whatever else you can say about Vogue, they really have pulled out all the stops on this issue and there are SIXTY patterns available, if you include the ten cover patterns that are available for free on line. (Click here if you want 'em.) This part of the review will include the articles and the cover shots, and then the NEXT review will cover the actual patterns (all fifty of them!) If you live entirely for the knitwear reviews, there are the cover sweaters on this post, but you'll have to skip ahead for the full review.

As usual, images are from the VK web site, and everything in quotes is from the magazine. All other text is my own. I may break down later and scan the photo of a scarf the husbeast said looked like 'a fistfull of monkey's assholes'. It will depend on how outraged I am by the time I get to the real reviews, and whether the scanner looks friendly today.

Anyway. The magazine.

There are actually eleven covers stacked, one on top of the other, at the front of the magazine. The actual, legit COVER, cover pattern (a scarf by Nicky Epstein) is found back in the regular patterns. But the other ten are not in the magazine, but available free on the web site. The styling on all these is over-the-top. I'm not sure if I should be outraged; it's supposed to be high fashion, and it's freaking Vogue, and it's their anniversary edition, and maybe I'm just a plebian middleclass nobody, but all that silver eyeshadow makes the models look like Vegas hookers.

Pattern one, a big, fuzzy, full-length coat, worn over a very nice sequined dress.

If you need a big fuzzy coat, I suppose this is as good a pattern as any. The gray is probably not the most flattering color, but it's a THEME, damn it. And in all seriousness, having worn beaded clothing before, there'd be a real risk of snagging the sequins on the fuzz and trashing the dress. ...and I'm not sure a big fuzzy coat is up the the glamour.

Pattern two, another grey coat, this one with a cabled lace pattern and pockets really down low where no one can reach them.

I suspect the model is hunched over in that awkward, dorky-looking pose in a desperate attempt to look like she has a waist. And I'm still not sure that grey wool knit coats are up to the glamour of evening gowns, but it's VOGUE, dude!

Pattern three, a partly-sideways knit short cardigan with really clever waist shaping.

This would be really flattering to plus-sizes and ladies who have big bums, though of course, the color is wrong for 90% of the population. (Who looks good in gray? Seriously?) If I were gonna knit one of these sweaters, it would be this one. It always cracks me up when the models look pissed, like this one. Maybe it's the satin turban?

Pattern four, a cape knit with LION BRAND.

This isn't a bad pattern, really, but who the fuck is going to wear it over a satin ball gown with long gloves and a headband??? I can see a kid wearing it to school over jeans and a sweater, sure, but yet again, the glamour thing comes off looking silly. I doubt they set out to make knits look ridiculous, but they accomplished it. Probably not what they should be shooting for, as a seller of knitting patterns. Oy.

Pattern five, a classic knit dress of the variety I call 'overgrown turtleneck'.

The odd, twisty pose probably means that the model thinks she looks fat in the dress. 'Nuff said. The choice of yarn, resulting in horizontal stripes, was pretty stupid, too. But if you're a skinny rail, it probably wouldn't be bad in a solid color.

Pattern six, massively, hugely, ginormously overgrown raglan cableknit.

Because of an utter lack of shaping, I don't think this would be flattering to anyone, not even plus-sizes or pregnant women. The neck is horrifying. No idea what the idea was behind this. Maybe someone wanted a tent with a chimmney?

Pattern seven, stranded-color dress.

As in other photos, the model ties herself into a knot, desperate to look like she has a figure. This kind of thing is what drives me batshit about Vogue. Glamour is all very well, but who is going to knit this and wear it? Seriously? No one. Not even skinny chicks. Because it LOOKS STUPID. Oh, and as for BEING stupid... if you look closely you can see a seam up the side. Stranded color, KNIT FLAT. Who was smoking crack?

Pattern eight, a mystery knit. You can't tell from the photo whether it's a poncho or a sweater.

Looking at the pattern, I've found it's a sweater. Doesn't the model look delighted? How is it that the movement toward fitted knits exists just about everywhere in modern hand-knitting EXCEPT the VK office, which is supposed to be cutting edge? None of these patterns are properly fitted, not even the dresses.

Pattern nine, overgrown shrug coat.

Back to no fitting again. It is what it is; though I think it'd be better in more flattering colors. And worn with jeans and a tee shirt.

Pattern ten, Kaffe Fassett retread with NO FITTING.

Finally, some color. Even if it is on a GIANT SACK. I've never been impressed with Fassett's pattern-making skills, and here's fine evidence of why. This would be flattering to no one. Though of course the flowers are pretty. Is that supposed to be a lotus?

There is a LOT of advertising, of course, much of it containing sweaters as weird as those above.

Letter from the editor, calls the people responsible for the above photo shoot "The Glam Squad". And there's a cute little sentimental photo of a bunch of editors and former editors, all wearing silver (can we get over that yet?).

"Very New, Very Vogue", a section on what's new that's probably more advertising revenue for them. Nothing's really new; silk flowers, pewter stitch markers, beaded yarn. There's a cool photo of a kajillion knitting needles of all different types, labeled.

New yarns. Instead of making puff balls out of them, or other stupidity, this time they actually KNIT SWATCHES. Useful information. I may swoon. (Lots of beaded silk stuff. I imagine it's more advertising.)

The usual jumble of reviews of books and yarn stores.

An article on hairpin lace and how we should still be making it. With directions. First of all, this isn't knitting, and secondly...

Yeah, right.

A new thing they're making a big deal about is the "Sweater Map". They take an oddly constructed sweater from the issue and lay it out and stick labels on it, like 'moss stitch' and 'reverse side of cabled collar'. Nothing earth-shaking, but given the usual bad photography of the knitwear, getting a good look at something is always helpful.

"Fits that Flatter" by Lily Chin is a useful article about choosing construction methods that flatter you. (No squares or dropped shoulders, etc.) It's a beginner level article, but if you really have no idea where to start when it comes to design or choosing a pattern for yourself, it's useful information.

Meg Swansen's article is "25 of her favorite things" which mostly comes down to EZ techniques like jogless stripes and applied I-cord and the Zimmermania blog.

Nicky Epstien does a technique article on how to knit flowers for her cover scarf. With silk. Yeah. Right.

"Vogue Knitting, Cover to Cover" is an article about how an issue gets put together.

The next two articles are the only reason I'm REALLY glad I bought the magazine, and spent the evening, last night, reading them. I think they were worth the money I paid for the magazine.

"Knitting's Old Guard". It's an interview with Kaffe Fassett, Mari Lynn Patrick, Meg Swansen, and Alice Starmore. Yes. They managed to get Alice Starmore involved. Stop the presses. Anyway, they all discuss how things have changed in the last 25 years and what they'd like to see happen next. Interestingly (when compared with the next article), they all seem to remain very committed to on-paper publishing and traditional copyright law. There doesn't seem to be any need to branch out, for them, though I hear Meg's enjoying the Zimmermania Blog (a bunch of fans, me included, post photos of all the EZ-based things they knit). Alice does manage to get in how mean the industry has been to her, and how rude people are about copyright. (Hey, Alice, if you reissued your books, so we could BUY THEM, we would, instead of bootlegging copies.) They were rather down on free patterns and the quality of them, though they remained polite about it.

The next article, really predicably, is titled "Knitting's New Guard." Another interview, this time with Vickie Hohwell, Adina Klein, Shannon Okey, Clara Parkes, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. As you can imagine, they were much more community-minded and internet based, and talked about all the ways to make money in the biz other than selling traditional, copyrighted patterns (though of course there's still a market for that too). The different tones of the two interviews was really amazing. Neither was particularly negative, but the younger folks (young? I know Stephanie's my age, or close to it, and the others are around there or older) certainly 'felt' a lot more dynamic.

There's an ad for a company called "Signature Needles" that offers custom-turned aluminum needles, including three kinds of points; stiletto, middy, and blunt. So far they only offer single-points. Double-points are 'coming soon' and no mention at all of circulars. If they ever get it together and do circulars, they're going to be my new favorite needle.

The Fall Forecast is predicably depressing; sloppy, oversized, weirdly shaped knits with no color. Lots of gray, white, and black, with just a tiny bit of blue. Though they might have chosen those colors for this stupid issue theme.

Next up, the patterns!


Catie said...

I love your reviews. I will likely drag my husband to Chapters to get a copy so that I have the articles, they sound interesting.

NeedleTart said...

Oddly enough., I look good in grey. Maybe because my face is usually red?

Amy Lane said...

*snork, laugh, sniff* Okay, I'm over that 'fistful of monkey's assholes' thing...(snicker) maybe not...

And needletart must be BLESSED because I'm a large sized woman, and in gray, I look like a battleship. A sick battleship. With really big, uhm, guns. But I can't wait to read the article w/Steph... I'd like to see how knitting has changed!

Anonymous said...

i'm soooo not shaped like a vogue model (do you know the "i'm a little teapot" song? that's me, short and stout.) so even if vk did patterns that would fit their models and look good on them, i'd still be s.o.l.

so snark 'em all you like. i'll sit here and applaud -- it's a SIN to kill trees for that.

ellen in indy

Anonymous said...

You are a total HOOT!!! I look good in gray -- the whiter my hair gets..... BUT, I do not look good in horizontal stripes or ginormous overgrown knits. Loved the review!

Anonymous said...

Vogue Knitting and Vogue Patterns are things of the past. It's now all McCalls -- and it was never known for glamour. McCalls and Butterick sewing pattern books are now being combined. The Family Circle knitting magazine I once subscribed to became Vogue's "Knit Simple." We're lucky there are other knitting magazines.

Please keep doing your hilarious reviews -- they're better than the actual magazine.


Alwen said...

The stranded-color dress model, oh dear. Makes me want to feed her fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and baking powder biscuits with butter & honey. And pie for dessert, honey, eat, you need your strength.

Crivens. My verification word is "ngmgznud", I kid you not.

Anonymous said...

The "Fashion is Not a Luxury" it is actually really nice in person.

Louiz said...

Grey looks good on me - reddy colours make me look like I have sunburn (but pastels make me spit)

sienna said...

I liked the article by Lily Chin...and especially 'liked' the way that most of the patterns in this issue completely ignore all the ways she suggested to make knitwear look slimming!

Anonymous said...

I think patter 7 would make a really cute toddler dress. Not an adult one, though.

Lola said...

Yeah, what you said about AS. You're 150% correct about reissuing these books as there's a pent-up demand for these. Sometimes it's better to swallow one's pride and get on with making more $$$. And I'm not surprised that she said what she said. I'll stop now before I get even more snarkier.

debsnm said...

The thing I like about "over-sized" fashion that I stand half a chance of finding something I like that might actually fit. I downloaded that ginormous cabled sweater, and I'm going to look at the yarn requirements (haven't had a chance yet). BUT, living in NM, it will probably be WAY too heavy to wear here, except maybe as an outdoor over-sweater. I did notice that several of the patterns are sized for larger than a 38" bust, and I'm always encouraged when they take that step.

Anonymous said...

You all seem to miss the point. 25 years marks the SILVER anniversary... 50 years is gold. I think it was clever of Vogue.

Anonymous said...

I find your reviews to be sad. It is always easier to be critical, cynical, and superior and crap on other people's work. If there's nothing there for you in the magazine, why keep fucking BUYING IT? Ahhh... to shit on it in a public forum to make you seem clever and smart and a good writer. Well, sorry, you didn't succeed. I think it's a miracle that Vogue costs only $7. Part of iot is because they don't pay the "regular" designers much money to design a sweater according to pre-decided trends, knit the photoshoot sample, and write the pattern in all sizes. I may be in the miinority, but I think Vogue knitting has more nice designs per issue (mabe two or three per issue - still, that's much cheaper than buying patterns individually)than the other magazines out there.

Julie said...

Anyone else wanting to comment on this review is welcome to e-mail me at

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