Well kids, it's time once again for a Vogue Knitting review. As always, anything in quotes is from the magazine. Photos are off the website, and patterns are referred to by number, not page.
The title of this issue is "Bold and Beautiful" and the idea is to convince us that bulky knitting is wonderful great fun and totally flattering. I can only think that the yarn companies paid for this issue as advertising (it happens), because super-bulky knitting is a pain in the keester in terms of technique, AND unflattering 90% of the time.
No matter how great the fitting is, no matter how clever the pattern, physics is against you with super-bulky knitting because the resulting fabric is at least an inch thick (more for texture stitches). Would you make yourself a pullover out of inch thick foam rubber? Of course not. So why would you want to knit one?? The inch thick fabric creates huge problems in technique, too. Think of the seams. No matter how good you are at seaming, you're joining two inch thick fabrics and are going to wind up with a two inch thick seam. (Or thicker, depending on what you use to seam with.) Again, this is basic physics. You can't bend the laws of physical reality for fashion, no matter what those models look like. The same general problem exists with darning in ends - it doubles the thickness of the fabric. You've got to separate the super-bulky yarn down into separate plies and darn in each one separately. Oh, sorry, dealing with a single-ply? You're screwed. If you do figure out how to make this work? Call the MIT physics department. They'll want to know.
Speaking of models bending the laws of physics (or at least their spines), I've taken the time and space in this issue to show how models 'sell' some of these patterns and make them look more flattering than they really are. Over and above the fact that they're skinny rails and most of the rest of us aren't.
There is the usual advertising disguised as articles in the front, 'what's new', etc. Yarns displayed are, ha, super-bulky ones. It's interesting, looking at the advertising, that EVERYONE seems to be going to thinner yarns and more draped fabrics, including LION FREAKING BRAND. But not VK, no way. They're off on super-bulky. Some may argue this is 'cutting edge'. I counter this is 'totally out of touch'. You be the judge.
The Meg Swansen article is about EZ's snail hat, which is, to my knowledge, the only bulky-knit anything that EZ ever produced. Even then, this is at 2.5 stitches/inch, and some of the later patterns in the magazine range from 2 sts/inch up to 1.5 sts/inch. So this isn't QUITE super-bulky. Anyway, it's a clever design (as usual) that takes advantage of all the properties of bulky yarns, including how stiff they are when knit up. Bulky yarn isn't the root of ALL evil, and EZ here shows how it can be used effectively. Of course, how many designers are as skilled as EZ was?
There is an actual article about Jared Flood (blogger Brooklyn Tweed). I've always had mixed feelings about his designs, but I do appreciate his photography and enthusiasm. He's got a pair of gloves in this issue that are kind of interesting. Cables all over the back. Fantastic from a technical viewpoint, but I wonder how comfortable they are; all those cables probably feel pretty stiff. Can you make a fist with that glove on? I dunno. At the least they're knit at the sane gauge of 18 sts over 4 inches/10 cm. He's too smart to try knitting gloves with super-bulky. I'm betting someone else tried. Oy vey.
In an attempt to find a super-bulky designer who is not Wenlan Chia or Tom Scott, VK found a woman named Sandra Backlund. She doesn't do ready-to-wear, or even custom knits for regular sale; she does ART.
She's got a degree in design. Her stuff is really interesting, not in an 'I wanna wear that' sort of way, but structurally it's fascinating. My favorite is the dark green one.
Since this is art, not clothing, I've got no idea what in hell it's doing in VK, except that they're trying to flog their high fashion rep. None of this will ever be seen on a city street. But as art, it's kind of cool.
Article on Sonia Rykiel, who has been doing knitwear - some of it vastly wearable - for forty years. She's an icon. She does knitwear. She needed an article.
And then, THE PATTERNS:
Section one, "Glow with the Flow". The shoot itself isn't quite as stupid as what VK has mustered in past issues. Plain gray-blue backdrop, models in fitted, plain dark tights and dresses to accentuate the knits. The giant balls of yarn are obvious to the point of insult, but at least it's not live chickens or packing crates. The intro copy uses the words "handstitched hauteness". VK just can't face the fact that knitting is used to make underwear, can they? Oh, and it's all super-bulky yarn.
1. Light blue scarf in super-bulky yarn. The cabled leaf pattern is almost identical to the "Embossed Twining Vine Leaf" pattern on page 238 of Barbara Walker's second knitting treasury (it was altered for shorter leaves). The obvious drawbacks are twofold; first the super-bulky is, well, super bulky. See how the model looks like she's swimming in it? That's because inch thick fabric doesn't drape for shit. The other problem? The wrong side of this scarf will look like ass. It's not remotely reversible.
2. Yellow pullover knit in super-bulky wool at 8 stitches to 4 in/10 cm. Bust sizes available, 34 and 38 inches/86 and 96.5 cm. Looks kind of cool, doesn't it? Sort of flattering? Sure. If you're a size eight fashion model able to pose perfectly. Take a look at how she's standing.
See the green line? That's roughly the line of her spine. The way she's standing pulls her neck away from the bulky tube of the sweater's neck and makes it look draped instead of standing straight up in front of her mouth. And the lean forward with her chest pushes the bottom hem of the sweater against her waist, making her look like she has one. Her left arm, conveniently, is in the way so we can't see the back. I'm betting the bottom hem is sticking out stiffly, in a straight line down from the neck of the sweater.
3. Lavender cape knit with super-bulky yarn at 8 stitches to 4 in/10 cm. Two bust sizes are available, 53.5 and 61.5 inches/136 and 156 cm. This is never going to be flattering in a million years, but it WILL be warm. Your call. (It IS possible to do warm AND flattering. This just, uh, isn't it. )
4. Peach-colored long coat sort of thing, knit at the going super-bulky rate of 8 stitches to 4 in/10 cm. Bust sizes, 34, 42, 50 inches/86, 106.5, 127 cm. At first glance, this looks kind of cool, sort of like a super-bulky duster kind of thing. A good deal of the good looks is due to the model.
See the green line? Due to the gigantic buttons, that's where everyone's eye will be drawn when they look at you. If you don't mind people staring at your chest, that's okay. But see how the model has her hip cocked out, to make it look like there's a waist? Yes. But even with the hip cock, the jacket hangs almost perfectly straight on the other side (red line). Hanging strait means any waist you've got will be lost. The front opening is also problematic. See the blue lines? It arrows the eye upward (which is good), but the eye then gets stuck on those buttons and you're back to people staring at your boobs. The front opening will accentuate any kind of belly pooching out, so unless you've got abs of steel (or a pregnancy you're proud of), well, it will accentuate your belly instead of covering it up.
Section two, "Attention to Details". Which isn't bad, considering most of these designers really did pay attention to details. This is the best (read: wearable) section in the magazine. The entire photo shoot seems to take place outside one gothic building, but for the most part, the models are again wearing reasonable clothes with the knits; fitted dresses or skirts and blouses in darker colors that make it possible to see and understand the knits. The introductory blurb mentions "unusual hemlines" and "unexpected shapes", but only one of these patterns is remotely unusual or unexpected. There's not a lot that hasn't already been done. As for the styling... what's with the model's HAIR? Looks like Louis XIV's wig. Well, he was French. So maybe that makes it fashion.
5. Semi-fitted jacket. This is the pick of the issue, in my opinion. Knit at a sane gauge of 16 stitches over 4 inches/10 cm. Unfortunately there are only two bust sizes, 38 and 42 inches/96.5 and 106.5 cm. Check it out.
See the green line? That's the model's spine. It's straight. She's just standing there. AND SHE STILL LOOKS LIKE SHE HAS A WAIST - see the red line? You can't see it in the photo very well, but there are darts made in the jacket along the yellow line, that FIT IT. There are darts along the back, as well, that do the same thing. Yee haw. You'll look like you have a figure in this one.
6. Circle coat with cables. Gauge is 19 stitches over 4 inches/10 cm. One freakin' bust size, 38 inches/96.5 cm. I suspect there are structural problems with this coat; see how the back has excess fabric kind of puffing around? That's making the model look hunch-backed. There are no photos available, on line or in print, of the front, which gives me pause. The description claims there is a 'center back crochet medallion' (is this Vogue fucking Crochet?) which may be the issue. There are dozens of these patterns available; Elann offers several without the puffing problem, for free.
7. "Pullover with scarf" is what they're calling it. Yuh huh. Even sitting here looking at the schematic, I'm not quite sure how it goes together. Knit at 10 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes 52, 54.5, 59, 61 inches/132, 138, 150, 155 cm. Clearly they're out to make plus-size women suffer for their fondness for cake. Because of the wide armholes that stiffly pop out, wind will get under the edges of this thing and make you wonder why you're wearing bulky yarn and still cold. There's no waist shaping. I can't possibly imagine how this would be flattering on anyone. But statistically there's got to be one woman out there who can carry it.
8. Vogue is calling this a wrap coat. I think it looks more like a kimono. Knit at 27 stitches over 4 inches/10 cm in the herringbone stitch pattern. Sizes are disappointing, just 32, 36, 40 inches/81, 91.5, 101.5 cm, meaning my size ten body wouldn't fit into the largest size available. For those who CAN fit into it, the design is flattering and pretty clever. See?
There's a texture pattern in a V over the chest (red lines). Makes the shoulders look wide and the waist look small, like an optical illusion. Very old, very classic patterning method. And it's old and classic for a reason; it works.
9. "Cropped hoodie". I think it's more like a shrug with attitude, but okay. This is pretty cool, though not something most people could wear. Knitted at 19 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes 32 and 34 inches/81 and 86 cm, which is about right, I don't think anyone much larger could pull it off. Maybe a 38 inch/96 cm size would do it. Anyway, you'd need to wear this over something very fitted, just like the model's doing. Since we're learning how to 'read' the poses models do, here's another we can learn from.
See how her spine is pretty much straight, even at that weird angle? That means that this SHOULD fit about the same, even when you're standing upright.
Section three, "A FRESH PALETTE: Wintry whites". Because no one in the history of the world has ever thought to wear beige in winter before. And oh my god, BEIGE CABLE KNITS! I HAVE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE IN MY ENTIRE FUCKING LIFE! "Knitters return time and again to skeins of winter white." THEN IT ISN'T NEW OR FRESH, IS IT? This photo shoot is in a white room with fake white rocks. Yuh huh.
10. Cabled frock. Knit at 24 stitches over 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes, 34, 37(?), 39 inches/89, 94, 99 cm. NO idea what's up with the freaky sizing. So. A cabled overdress. Not automatically a bad idea, but cabled fabric is, by nature, thick, and most of us don't need to be draping our asses in double-thick fabric of any kind.
The model's cocking her hip out to look like she has a waist (green spine line) because even she doesn't want her ass draped in double-thick knitting. The pose works on the hip side. But look at the other side (red line). Straight as a board. And that's with the crazy pose - imagine if she were just standing there. Both sides would likely hang straight. Not flattering. The ribbing at the bottom sucks in and gathers the fabric (blue circle), which leads to a mushroom shape which is, again, not flattering to anyone but mushrooms. To add insult to injury, the bottom has a cable worked sideways. Not only unflattering, but complicated.
11. Lace-and-cable cardigan. Eh. Not bad, but not spectacular either. It just is. Knit at 16 stitches over 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes - hey, real sizing! - 30, 32, 34, 36, 45, 51 inches/76, 81, 86, 91.5, 114, 129.5 cm. Not bad. The collar's kinda... flippy, but that's easily fixed if you've got your heart set on this thing. There is no waist shaping. The model gives the illusion of it.
With that lean (green spine line) she curves her torso and creates a big dip in the waist on one side (blue line), but the other side still hangs straight as a board (red line). Good modeling. Not good shaping.
12. Run of the mill cabled pullover in earth-shattering beige. Knit at 22 stitches over 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes 34.5, 37,40, 48.5 inches/87.5, 94, 101.5, 123 cm. Nice enough. To further the 'pose reading' lessons, it's very obvious there's no shaping at all and the fabric is kind of stiff:
The hand on hip is a classic pose to emphasize the waist, and it works on that side, but the other side is still straight as can be.
13. Pullover with buckle-thing at neck. Knit at 25 stitches over 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes 36, 38, 41, 47 inches/91.5, 96.5, 104, 119 cm. Vague bit of waist shaping that doesn't show on the model.
She's doing the Arm Thing again (red line) that draws the eye in and makes the appearance of a waist. Yet the other side (blue line) is hanging straight. Even WITH waist shaping. This is another design that is what it is; a fairly casual pullover that's nice enough but not industry-stopping high fashion. I'd be careful when putting on the tab and buckle to make sure the buckle didn't sit on my left nipple.
14. Cabled V-neck pullover. Gauge, 31 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes, 32, 37, 42 inches/81, 94, 106.5 cm. I like it, but again, there's nothing new about it; other pattern books are full of this kind of thing. I do wonder what's wrong with it, though. They've got the model wearing a coat, that disguises a lot. The magazine has a no-coat version, but even in that photo the model is doing the Arm Thing, so I assume there's no visible waist. The pattern has very marginal waist shaping but probably not enough.
15. Knitted jacket, the likes of which we see in every issue (ergo, not terribly original). Gauge, 16 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes, 36, 40, 44 inches/91.5, 101.5, 115.5 cm. Again, it is what it is. If you're looking for a casual cabled jacket, this is as good a pattern as any other (though I suggest a color less cliched than beige). The drawback to ALL these types of knits is this:
See that? That's approximately how much width you're adding to your butt. No way to avoid it, but there it is.
Section four, the beloved (my ass) guest designer section where they get Real Big Names to come in and show us how it's really done. They're calling it "American Woman". Very original. "She's confident, composed, complex. She owns her style. [??!??] And she demands nothing less than knitwear perfection." Yeah, she does. So why are they foisting this stuff off on us? They've brought in three Big Names to show us how super-bulky yarns should be done. If you ask me, the relatively unheard of designers in the first section did a better job of it.
16. Fuzzy orange big-butt-length pullover by Michael Kors, whose history with bulky yarns should have taught him to know better. Knit at 8 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes 32, 34, 38, 42, 46 inches/81, 86.5, 96.5, 106.5, 116.5 cm. The front cable is nearly identical to "Enclosed Cable Version 1" on page 81 of Barbara Walker's third (charted) treasury of knitting patterns (unfortunately for Kors, I've spent six months knitting "Enclosed Cable Version 2" on my father-in-law's sweater and I know what I'm looking at). He skipped one cable twist in his version, which I suppose makes it 'his' and stunningly original. Or something.
Interesting, in the photo on the web site, how they work it to make the hips look slimmer. With the jacket and the arm, they draw the eye inward, making the butt look smaller (red lines). But of course, you really can't see how big the butt really looks. And the model has her shoulder thrown back (blue line) to stretch the sweater tight across her boobs so it looks like she has some. This actually wouldn't be a bad sweater, if knit at a shorter length. And you didn't think of it as anything other than a knock-around sort of pullover.
17. Super-bulky coat (what else?) by Wenlan Chia. Knit at 11 stitches to 6 inches/15 cm (which of course comes out to not quite two stitches per inch). Bust sizes, 44, 46.5, 49, 51.5 inches/111.5, 118, 124.5, 131 cm. At least it's a coat, which is an appropriate use for inch-thick (or more) fabric. There are shoulder and underarm seams, though, which would seriously screw with the comfort of the fit. It may well fit, but the wad of four corners of inch thick fabric meeting in the armpit has GOT to be uncomfortable. Knitting the sleeves in the round would reduce that a little. Sorta.
I don't know quite what's up with the model's pose, leaning toward Chia with her knees spread, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to know. No. I'm positive I don't want to know.
18. The insult of the issue. IT IS A SQUARE. A GODDAMN SQUARE WITH GIANT BUTTONHOLES TO PUT YOUR ARMS THROUGH. They're calling it a wrap. I'm calling it bullshit. Knit at 5 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Oh, in three sizes, so we can ALL Knit one. Bust sizes, 36, 40, 44 inches/91.5, 101.5, 111.5 cm. There should be more sizes, considering the effort it takes to SIZE A BLOODY SQUARE. Take a look at this.
See how the model's arms are? She's following the lines of her body, so your eye does too (dark blue line). She is also physically PULLING ON THE SWEATER to stretch it over her waist so she looks like she has one (red line). But even with all that effort, look at the actual LINE of the 'wrap' that's visible (light blue lines). Sticking out behind her, stiff as a board, angling out at least six inches from the body in an unholy, awkward fit. If anyone but a Real Fashion Designer (Tom Scott, though I'm not sure he meets MY criteria for 'real') had submitted this to VK, they would have been laughed out of the office. But because a Name put it in, here it is in the magazine. Which means VK is more interested in names than fit or fashion or anything else. Great. They got their name. I hope everyone else is as insulted as I am. (Actually, I know people who cancelled their subscriptions because of this issue.)
Section, uh, next, "Color Works". This is another inoffensive (mostly) section. I'm not sure any of it is original or high fashion (is a two hundred year old folk sweater high fashion? ever?), but most of it is wearable. "Multiple hues knit together in unexpected ways for a true spectrum spectacular." Right then.
19. Unusually wide scarf knit in intarsia squares of umpteen colors. Kaffee Fasset did this, what, thirty years ago? Anyway, the only real problem with this thing is, there's no BACK. It's not reversible. You know what the back side of that kind of intarsia's going to look like? Ass. That's what it'll look like. Fixing it would require knitting two scarves and seaming them together at the sides, or just looping it on itself and seaming it up (it's wide enough to do that, actually). They're calling it Very Easy, but doing straight lines in intarsia and having it look good is kinda tricky.
20. Multi-colored fair-isleish jacket with shoulder yoke. Knit at 19 stitches to 4
inches/10 cm. Bust sizes, 32, 35, 38.5, 42/81, 89, 98, 106.5 cm. Who in hell wears a 32 inch/81 cm bust size in a JACKET over OTHER CLOTHES?? The human race has been knitting variations on this theme for at least a hundred and fifty years, probably more (it's hard to track back 'cause they're casual wear and are worn until they fall apart). But the zipper, well, that's kind of new. Zipper technology has only been around a hundred years. That's kind of fresh, right? This isn't a bad pattern, it's just a casual folk design is all.
21. "Zig-Zag Dress". The zigs do a little to reduce the big horizontal line effect, but not enough. Gauge, 24 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Bust sizes, 39, 41, 43 inches/99, 104, 109 cm. A dress of the style I think of as 'overgrown tee shirt'. I actuallly like these types of dresses and own several of my own. I'd consider knitting this in a solid color, with a yarn that has more drape than the wool/silk blend it's knit in. See?
The model's arms are angled down (light blue lines) to try to thin the look of her hips and push down the fabric so it looks like it's hanging right. But see the skirt BEHIND her arms? It's sticking out rather stiffly (red lines) and is in fact not draping over her hips but sticking out away from them (green circles). There are four photos in the magazine, and every one of them has the model doing outrageous, sneaky model things to make it look like she has a waist.
22. Felted bag. Nice. If I tried to make it, I'd turn it into a cat bed, but if you've got the felting mojo, it's a nice project.
Last section: "Highland Fling". Yet again with the stunning originality. This is the Small Kine section, with a bunch of little projects I imagine thought to be quick knits.
23. Opera-length gloves. Does anyone wear opera length gloves any more? Gauge, 32 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. One size allegedly fits all, hand circumference 7.25 inches/18.5 cm. These are knit from fingertip to cuff, so you could knock off knitting at the wrist, throw on some ribbing, and produce something useful.
24. Cabled socks. Gauge, 16 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Size again, one size allegedly fits all (yeah, right), foot circumference 9.5 inches/24 cm. I have grave doubts about a sock knit at four stitches to the inch; more precicely, I doubt it will fit into my shoes. Probably nice enough as a slipper, worn over other socks like in the photo.
25. Hat. Knit at 10 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. Sizes, 20-21, 22-23 inches/51-53, 56-58 cm. See how the fabric of the hat is sticking out about an inch from the model's head? Um. Yeah. I'd just go with EZ's snail hat, myself.
26. Yarn company special scarf. Silk lace interspersed with rows of "short sheared beaver fur" yarn. That stuff that looks like bobbles? Fur sticking out in all directions. Gauge is 22 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm. They're claiming the beaver fur is 'humanely harvested'. No detail on how. ...yeah. Moving on, then.
27. Cabled belt. There are no words. Except to point out that the buckle that's wrapped in yarn has bits of plastic showing at the corners and I'm betting it took hours to get it to look that good.
28. "Fair Isle Scarf" that is in fact Norwegian-inspired. This is, well, disgraceful. It is KNIT FLAT and the wrong side of the stranded fabric is left to hang out and look like ass on the wrong, non-reversible side of the scarf. Who in HELL knits a stranded color scarf like that?? Anyway, if you're going to knit this, cast on twice the stitches called for and work it in the round. Good gods. There ought to be a law.
That's it for this issue. We got ripped off a couple patterns, and I'm thinking it was a mercy. If you doubt I love my readers, may I remind you I paid seven bucks for this damn thing.
I'm gonna go take some Tyelenol.