Friday, October 23, 2009

Vogue Knitting, Holiday 2009

I've worked hard, over the four years (!!) that I've been doing these reviews, to strike some sort of balance between what I really think (apparently that's offensive) and straight tech (that's boring and not too informative), and you know, I've decided that it's the nature of a review to piss people off. My epiphany came after that last review, when I got another e-mail, and... well, fine. It's a review. It'll piss off someone.

That said, this issue isn't bad. I can't think, off hand, of one of the patterns in the issue that are High Fashion, but a few come close. Much of it is wearable. But it is becoming clear that the editorial staff has little to no technical understanding of knitting, and certainly don't get the history.


Lots of good-looking, knittable, wearable stuff in the advertising. Gives me hope for the world.

Trisha Malcom, in her letter from the editor, mentions cruising Ravelry and reading knitting blogs... I wonder if she's comparing VK stats to Interweave and Knitty? She also tells us cowls are big this year (that's funnier once you read the actual magazine) and all over the runways. She calls them a "gown up scarf". (I think of them as a way to mess up your hair 'cause you have to pull them over your head. But I'm not fashionable.) Then they push a couple new titles from VK Books.

Lots of advertising disguised as articles (Regia sock yarn turns sixty).

The second of the three-generation Hat Series installments is from Meg Swansen. The first was of course from EZ, and was the Ganomy Hat. I somehow got my wires crossed and thought all three generations would work with the Ganomy, but not so. Meg offers a completely new hat of her own design. Not only is it cool, but now I'm really curious to see what her son turns out, for the next issue.

Seamless part two with Jared Flood.

Designer article this issue is about Veronik Avery, which is cool. Avery does neat designs and is launching a magazine, St-Denis, and yarns to go with. Should be interesting to see what happens; I've always liked her designs.

PATTERNS: (Please be aware I am now rounding sizes; I am tired of typing out crazed fractions.)

First pattern section, "Color Vibes". "Every spin of the kaleidoscope reveals exquisite and unexpected knittable colorscapes." I asked the husbeast, "What do you think of when I say the words 'Color Vibes'?" He said "I'm not answering that out loud." I said, "Okay, just checking to make sure I'm not completely insane." We were both thinking of these. (Link absolutely, totally, positively not safe for work.)

All non-knit clothing in this section by Anna Sui and Nanette Lepore. I wonder if this was part of the deal for the sweaters in the last issue, or if they're making more advertising revenue off it.

Right then.

1. Empress Jacket, by Maie Landra. Uses Koigu in umpty-eleven colors (okay, fifteen). Shown in size large on the model; available in bust sizes 40, 43, 46, 49, and 52in/103, 110, 117, 124, 132cm. The pattern is extreme, but if you've got a lot of Koigu and an urge to knit mosaic, go for it.

2. Slip Stitch Cable Cardi, by Deborah Newton. Bust sizes 38, 40, 43, 45in/96, 103, 109, 115cm. Has a wide boat neck, and I'm not sure it would stay on your shoulders if it was unbuttoned.

3. Heart Yoke Cardigan by Kate Gagnon Osborn. Bust sizes 32, 36, 40, 44, 48in/91, 101, 111, 122cm. Cute. Possibly too cute; I guess that's something we each have to decide for ourselves. Knit with alpaca, which is hot to go with your cute. Again, you decide. It's knit flat, in the pattern; I'd seriously consider knitting it in the round and steeking the front. Only way to stay sane with stranded color.

4. Dolman Pullover by Kaffe Fassett. Bust sizes 54, 56, 59, 61in/137, 142, 150, 155cm. Because plus sizes are JUST the people to be wearing horizontal stripes. Kaffe Fassett knits with self-striping yarn and everyone goes ooh-ah.

5. Fair Isle Cardigan by Laura Grutzeck. Bust sizes 34, 39, 45in/86, 100, 114cm. This puppy is knit with alpaca/silk/cashmere blend, and then STEEKED up the center. They use a machine-stitched steek because that yarn's too slippery for regular steeking, but otherwise, it's a traditionally knit sweater. I love this stuff, I knit it all the time. I had no idea I was High Fashion. (Please note heavy sarcasm.) Still, it's an awesome traditional Norwegian-style cardigan, that avoids a heavy horizontal line.

6. Fair Isle Yoke Top by Fiona Ellis. Bust sizes 35, 37, 39, 41in/89, 94, 99, 105cm. Knit with superfine merino at 22 sts to 4in/10cm. Nice. Could use some more sizes, but all these sweaters could use some more sizes.

7. Fair Isle Hoodie by Heather Carlson. Bust sizes, 33, 35, 39, 42, 45in/83, 90, 100, 106, 115cm. Now, here's the thing that makes no sense to me. It's not a short-sleeved cardi. I get that. Those are nice. I've knit some myself. What I don't get is the HOOD. If it's cold enough to need a hood, why doesn't it have long sleeves? Or is the hood just some styling point, like belts that aren't used on coats? If that's so, why is the model wearing it up? Is it possible I think too much? Nah, can't be that.

8. V-Neck Pullover by Mari Lynn Patrick. Bust sizes 37, 39, 41, 45in/94, 99, 104, 114cm. No idea why anyone needs a big band of double-thick knitting around their waists to emphasize it, but the sizes are small I guess there's no danger of anyone looking fat. They're calling a 45in/114cm bust extra large.

Incidentally, nothing in this section that's labeled "Fair Isle", is. I assume the designers knew better and it was the magazine that did it. Fair Isle is a very specific form of stranded-color knitting. Not all stranded-color knitting is Fair Isle, and they are not interchangeable terms. I'd have thought editors of knitting magazines would know that.

Section two, "Think Big". "Knit larger than life, cowls are what's next for necks." Cathy Caron designed all four cowls in the section, and I give her points for creativity when faced with four super-bulky cowls. (Cowls are big this year. HA.) Takes creativity to find four ways of doing it that don't all look the same. All but the last are considered "Very Easy, Very Vogue" to which I think "yeah, right", because bulky yarns are hard to work with, but never mind. Cowls. Cowls it is.

9. Seed Stitch Cowl. One size allegedly fits all. Uses five balls of chunky merino which I would hope would keep your neck warm. I wanted to list the cost of knitting these, but this yarn, "Be Sweet Chunky Merino" is almost impossible to find. Especially since I don't read any Scandinavian languages.

10. Ribbed Cowl. Yup. That's what it is. Knit with Mist Alpacas "Hand paint super-chunky", bringing the cost of this neck-warmer to $152USD to knit. I confess I snickered a little when I did the math. Gorgeous yarn, but damn.

11. Eyelet Cowl. Because putting holes in something always makes it warm. Knit with a hand-spun yarn from Tanglewood Fiber Creations, $264USD for the cowl. I'm SERIOUSLY undercharging for my handspun. Even if it's not merino/angora/cashmere blend like this is. Y'all might wanna try knitting one of these with your own handspun, though.

12. Cabled Cowl. $60USD to knit. Nice if you go for cabled cowls.

Section three, "A Softer Shade of Pale". "A touch of tint is all it takes to light up a room. Our wintry knits take their place in the spotlight." Yuh huh. And just to confuse the issue, they stuck fake snow and fake flowers all over. I've said it before and I'll say it again... OMFG, BEIGE IN WINTER, HOW HIGH FASHION, HOW CREATIVE, I'VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE EVER! That said, there's some nice stuff in here.

13. Cable Tunic, by Nicky Epstein. Bust sizes 36, 40, 44, 48, 52in/91, 101, 111, 122cm. Something claiming to have plus sizes, that DOES. Amazing. Although. You see that, right where the neck cable meets the styling cable? They stuck a honkin' big flower on it. Wanting to know why, I hit Vogue 360 and watched a video of this sweater, and you know what? THEY LEFT THE FLOWER ON. Looks like an awful lot of bulk on the right boob, and a flower on top... I seriously wonder what is wrong. APPROACH PATTERN WITH EXTREME CAUTION.

14. Diamond Capelet by Coralie Meslin. Width at shoulder, 34, 36in/86, 92cm; lower edge 51, 56in/129, 142cm. Cute little jacket-thing to put over your evening dress and keep you warm. It's even knit out of alpaca, to suit the purpose. It's... like... perfect. I even hit Vogue 360 to see it from the back. There's nothing wrong with it. If you're looking for a wrap, this is a really nice one.

15. Bow Neck Pullover, by Shiri Mor. Bust sizes 30, 34, 38, 42in/76, 86, 96, 106cm. Knit with an involved and tricky method; you start the top at the neck with size two needles and gradually work down and out, shifting through every size known to man until you get to size tens at the bottom hem. Great when it works, bad when it doesn't. If your gauge is unusual, beware.

16. Nordic Pullover by Tanis Gray. Bust sizes 35, 37, 40, 50, 54in/89, 95, 101, 127, 137cm bust. (Sure hope you don't have, say, a 42 inch bust, like the AVERAGE SIZED WOMAN does, huh?) Uses Mongolian cashmere. $410USD to knit 40in/101cm bust size. $615USD for the largest size. "And it's big butt length!" the husbeast added. (Bet you fifty bucks the yarn company paid to have their yarn used.)

17. Cable Cardigan by Jenn Jarvis. Bust sizes 34, 38, 42, 45, 49in/86, 98, 106, 115, 125cm. Not bad on sizing. The copy writer called it "on-trend". WTF? It's knit side-to-side and would be flattering for many body types if it was shortened a bit. (On a personal level, I usually hate bobbles, but those are used in a cute sort of way.)

18. Lace V-Neck Top by Pam Grushkin. Bust sizes 29, 32, 36, 40in/73, 83, 92, 101cm. Apologies to thin people out there, but TWENTY NINE INCHES??!!?? Come ON! Anyway, this is horse shoe lace, the pattern is older than dirt, can be traced in Shetland knitting WAY back. Used to be used for shawls. It's also really easy, and the pullover has minimal shaping, so if you've wanted a beginner lace garment, this is probably it. (VK claims it's experienced level... bah.) I'm betting the square styling makes it hang a bit. Judging from the contortions of the model.

19. Ruffle-Edge Cardi by Shri Mor. Bust sizes 32, 34, 36, 40in/81, 86, 91, 101cm. "Vivacious waves and graceful piecework unite in enticing knits." Oh, puh-lease. I've got a love-hate thing going with this cardigan. It looks cool. I'll be the first to admit that. When it's hung on a size, what, four model with no excess body fat, wearing a tissue-thin dress. Sure. However. Ruffles add bulk. 99% of us real people don't need bulk. Added to that, the ruffles (THREE of them), are knit separately AND THEN SEWN ON. I don't know about you, but I don't like to sew. I like to knit. If I liked to sew, I'd sew a ruffled shirt.

Section next, "Plum's the Word". Everything's purple. Har. "Plumb the depths of the color purple - regal, romantic and just right for lush and luscious knitted designs." Not the worst copywriting ever.

20. Crossover top by Cathy Carron. Bust sizes 32, 36, 40, 44in/81, 91, 101, 111cm. Just what it looks like. With a double layer of knitted ribbing over your boobs for emphasis, and big gaping holes under the arm pits where the sleeves don't meet the criss-cross.

21. Cabled Yoke Pullover by Helen Sharp. Bust sizes 32, 36, 40, 44in/81, 91, 101, 111cm. Now. If you went to the trouble of knitting an elaborately cabled yoke on a sweater, would you want the wankers in the art department to photograph it so you couldn't see anything but some buttons on the shoulder??!!?? I had to look at Vogue 360 to get a good look. It's okay. She didn't incorporate the yoke shaping into the cabling, so it looks a little awkward.

22. Cropped Cable Jacket by Michele Rose Orne. Bust sizes 34, 38in/86, 97cm. On Vogue 360 the model has a hard time keeping it on her shoulders (I suspect spirit gum or two-sided tape) and it bagged rather dramatically at the bottom hem in the back.

23. Wrap Cable Jacket by Shiri Mor. Bust sizes 30, 32, 34in/76, 81, 86cm. Shown in the photo in size medium, meaning a model with a 32in/81cm bust looks waistless in this thing. It looks like the fabric's too stiff. Maybe if it was knit with a looser gauge? $223USD to knit size medium.

Next is the gift section. Which is a good idea. Their theme for this season is "Through the Looking Glass", which would be cool if the actual knitted items had anything to do with Alice in Wonderland.

24. Lace Beret by Kate Gagnon Osborn. Nice. Not a thing wrong with it. But considering there were, what, three in the last issue, uh, overkill??

25. Fingerless Gloves by Mari Muinonen. I'm not sure I'd call these gloves. I'm not sure what they are, other than pretty cool. They're a couple bits knit circularly like mini-doilies and then sewn together into hand coverings. I think I'd try to knit them a little bit smaller than the pattern calls for, to make sure they're tight enough to stay up. But dang, if I had a fancy-dress anything to go to this holiday season, I'd knit a pair of these to wear.

26. Medallion Scarf by Mari Tobita. This is... I don't know what it is. Literally. There's no schematic. I don't know if that's because they couldn't draw one, didn't know how, or what. A check of Vogue 360 doesn't tell me anything. It's wrapped around the model's neck in layers so you can't tell what's going on. A read of the pattern is no help. You can't make me knit it. It appears to be a sideways-knit strip of cables and bobbles, with circular medallions and i-cord fringe. Oh. The directions aren't entirely in the magazine, they're on the web site. Cute.

27. Vintage Baby Dress by Kristen Rengren. Chest sizes 20, 22, 23in/51, 56, 58cm. Very cute. I like the ribbon.

28. Lace Socks by Debbie O'Neill. Leg circumference 6.5, 7.5, 8.5in/16, 19, 21cm. Pretty.

29. Braided Cowl by Faith Hale. (Why isn't this in the cowl section? Those can't be presents? This can't be kept?) Knit in strips and sewn together. Seems like a lot of work, especially when you're using bison/silk/cashmere/tencel yarn. $104USD to knit.

Designer Details is the next section, when they bring in designers to show their work. This issue it's Anna Sui and Twinkle.

30. "Close-fitting, structured jacket with hemmed edges, flared peplum and embellished with purchased braid trimmings." By Anna Sui. Bust sizes 33, 37, 41in/84, 94, 104cm. Now I ask you. Can you SEE any of that? Structure? Hems? Flares? ANYTHING? I can barely find the freakin' BRAID. WHY IN HOLY HELL ARE YOU GOING TO KNIT A FITTED, DETAILED GARMENT WITH YARN SO WILD YOU CAN'T TELL WHAT IN FUCK IS GOING ON??!!?? I have looked at the pattern. I have looked at Vogue 360. I have looked at the schematics. It appears to be a really cool-looking, military style, fitted jacket. There might be braid down the sleeves and around the cuffs. It's a damn shame WE CAN'T TELL WITH ALL THE FREAK YARN.

31. Ribbed Jacket by Twinkle. Knit with some unholy super-bulky god-knows-what, at 2 sts per 4in/10scm. That model's pose is worse than useless. It is supposed to be "loose fitting" and have a stand-up collar, but no collar I ever saw stood up from your waist. The 360 view is almost awe-inspiring; the back of the collar is leaning out from the waist and is nearly a foot away from the back of the model's neck, stiff as a board. If that's how it's supposed to fit, I can only say, WTF?


Heidi said...

Even when I don't agree I LOVE your reviews so please keep doing them!!!

Tanya said...

I went ahead and snagged a copy of this the other day because there were several pieces in the advertising that I want to track down patterns for. What the hell? I'm reduced to buying specifically for the freaking ADS? So wrong.

I love when you include the cost to knit. I choke, I laugh, I shake my head in disbelief. I had an epiphany while looking at the cowl section. I have been considering knitting up a cowl/snood for the practicality of it, but keep hesitating and now I know why. How does one wear it snood style without looking like a reminder to schedule a mohel for a bris?

Also, the model in the gift section is killing me--her expression is the same in every. single. pic. And it's not even a good expression!

As always, J--love your reviews. Thank you for them!

Clumsy Knitter said...

Daaaaaaaang! You're thorough! Loved your review--thank you for posting it! (Also: I appear to love exclamation points.)

Shea said...

Excellent review as always!

By the way, I hope you keep getting letters by the designers and magazines. Maybe they'll wake the hell up as to what real knitting, fit and high fashion really are.

Great job!

Anonymous said...

I LUV your snark, keep it up!

There are like... four things I would actually knit here, which is impressive. Personally, I think cowls are silly and I prefer the versatility of a scarf/wrap any day, but whatevs. If other people want to knit them, that's okay with me. There are some other items that are seriously... alien. They leave me like O_O. I do think the hoodie/short sleeve thing is for style although I probably wouldn't wear one. I'm not a huge hood fan though.

And WHAT the heck kind of yarn is that on that military jacket, anyway. WOW.

Roz said...

Thanks as always for the insight and the laughs! FYI, the thing with Twinkle yarn is -- you gotta wet-block it and let it dry for a week when you're done knitting with it. THEN it blooms and is all drapy and stuff.

Of course, you have to be willing to pony up $20 a skein for it -- and wear a size 0. This is knitting for my preteen niece, not for me!

TinkingBell said...

Your reviews make my (how the hell often does VK - DK in Aus come out?) whatever that time period is, you make it - and whenever I have a bad day I come back and read them - and I hope you keeping poking those designer antsnests with sticks, because they need it!

Rose Red said...

It was a good edition I thought, although my favourite - #23 - has ridiculously small sizes. As per usual with Vogue. Such a shame.

Sarah {The Student Knitter} said...

Informative and enjoyable as always! I think I learn more about analyzing patterns for practicality than I could anywhere else! :)

Unknown said...

(stands and applauds)Bravo!

Ruby Louise said...

Keep up the reviews! If folks don't like your opinions, they can a) stop reading and b) go write their own on their own blogs. Our tastes may not always agree, but that doesn't mean you don't make good points. Your reviews are always thoughtful, thorough and well-written. It's not your fault there are some seriously wacky patterns published in VK.

I thought the fair isle sweater (#5) and the gift section socks were just about the only things worth knitting in this issue. I was rather disappointed that they didn't bother to match the pattern across the button bands on the cardi. Someone got lazy knitting up the sample.

Anonymous said...

Several nicish things this time. Not enough to get me to buy the magazine, barring a depression induced sudden impulse buy - which I do from time to time. However, I think the Kaffe sweater is not supposed to be sized for those of us in the plus category, it's just supposed to be really loose fitting.

Unknown said...

I loved your review - "Color Vibes" (!). This blithe, clueless "it's important because we SAY so!" attitude of VK's is a big part of why I let my subscription lapse ten years ago.

More, please!

Donna Lee said...

I liked the socks......

Mollie said...

I lust for the purple boobwarmer, although that might just be the color.

Amy Lane said...

Yeah-- that's what 'color vibes' sounded like to me, too!

Awesome review--like you, I liked the socks, liked the gloves, and thought that weird thing at the bottom was worse than useless. I used to buy clothes and think the reasons they kept falling off my body was my fault-- looking at these patterns I'm starting to rethink that entire position. (spamword: podies)

Donna said...

Heh, Em is an underweight 16 year old, and she's too big for the lace sweater.

Unknown said...

My kids would laugh their butts off if I knit and wore any of the cowls. If it didn't cost so much, it would be fun to knit one of those things just for the humor of it. I made a cowl thing a couple of years ago, in a lighter yarn, that tucks under my coat and I can pull up over my head. But I live in Cleveland, in winter, fashion is not a consideration, functionality is the rule.

Unknown said...

p.s. as always, loved the review. Good luck with the move.

Unknown said...

oh, and do you suppose that anyone at Vogue did a google on color vibes? I think someone should point it out to them.

Anonymous said...

Love love love your commentary!

And btw, those cowls are nothing like the cowls I've ever seen before - I think many could be more accurately described as capelets. Or, on an especially small person, ponchos. Poncho =/= cowl.

Pam said...

Just proves all the good designers have gone to Twist Collective! And why all this sewn on stuff: ruffles, peplums, braid... if I wanted to sew I would.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Snarky bitch. It's always easier to shit on other people's stuff than to come up with your own creative designs.

RacineDKringle said...

Totally agree about the Anna Sui design - I'm still a newb knitter and I couldn't see WTF was going on in the photo...

Will I ever make it? I may, because it 'looks promising' but it would be on blind freeking 'faith' and not using those photos as any inspiration at all.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I never thought I would do this, but here I go. I'm fed up with stupid people calling smart people snarky. You are not snarky, you are smart.

It isn't easier to be critical than creative, it is very, very difficult. Every half-assed idiot out there forgets that true cretivity is hard work (As Einstein reminded us) and the ability to be critical is a fundamental part of being creative - or it is if you want to produce something of quality. One read of your blog tells the world that you are smart, well-read, and capable of thinking for yourself. You know about knitting which is why the horrible ill-fitting and badly designed "high fashion" designs must drive you nuts. They drive me nuts too, but I've always been too gutless to say so online. Which makes you brave and smart. You go gal - don't let the witless essentialists keep you down.

Unknown said...

It's also easier to call people out on things when you lack the testicular fortitude to leave any sort of identifying information.
Don't like it? Don't read it.