Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2010

Vogue recently announced they're going to start printing five issues a year. I was hoping that meant a separate spring and summer issue, since as a rule the summer issues are the only ones worth a damn. But no. Looks like we're out of luck.

As with all reviews, quotes are from the magazine, photos are from the Vogue Knitting web site, and patterns are referred to by number, not page. If you're prepared to get outraged and tell me I have no right to review anything, read this first.

After last issue's brouhaha, I heard from several people who've designed for VK who told me just how the process works. VK does not do the sizing in house, but they do dictate to the designers precisely what sizes they want, so they are still ultimately in control of it. Plus they pay so badly that no one's going to go out of their way to do extra work making more sizes. Especially since, rumor has it, VK has been known to take sizes out.

This issue has a lot of surprisingly wearable things in it, though as always none of them strike me as high fashion or elite or anything of the sort. Since I've decided to continue doing these reviews because so many of you told me they were educational, that's what I'm going to concentrate on - teaching you guys to read photos and think about design. Not that there's much to think about in this issue because it's so scarf and shawl heavy, but still. Just for the record, I don't think VK is any more high fashion than it ever was, but I'm done bitching about it because apparently everyone agrees with me anyway.

First up, the letter from the editor. Once again Vogue demonstrates how out of touch they are with reality by suggesting "identify three local businesses you would hate to see close, then spend a total of $50 per month in them". I'm not sure if she means $50 per business, or in total, but either way it seems pretty insensitive, considering the economy. Don't get me wrong, it's a great idea and I think small business is an important part of any local culture, but who can afford it these days? (Vogue would probably argue that they publish for the wealthy and elite and they can afford it. But the wealthy knit Rowan. So... yeah.) They're also dipping into social networking with a group on Facebook and an e-newsletter.

The yarn section is about linen, with a photo of four cakes of Louet Euroflax, wound on a standard ball winder and stacked up; there's also a list of other linen yarns on the other side of the page. The yarn is unwashed and therefore the cakes look like spools of wire. They couldn't afford any of the other yarns, no one in the alleged office full of knitters could be bothered to knit a fuckin' swatch? Thanks, Vogue, this is really super helpful. Not. Quit disguising ads as editorial content, unless you put some actual effort into the editorial part, hmm?

HEY! ALWEN! KNITTING LACE BY SUSANNA E. LEWIS IS BACK IN PRINT! Seriously, the rest of you, want to know how lace works? Buy this book. Worth every penny.

Meg Swansen writes about collaborating with her mother. One of the project examples is the box-the-compass sweater, which is both a great, funny story and an awesome design. Also contains a lot of really solid, really basic knitting math and some sweet memories. VERY nice.

Article called "Beyond Kitchener" about grafting in knit-purl patterns. Nothing on grafting in cables, which is tricky yet useful (for things like the top of the hood of Rogue). If grafting confuses you, this is a good article. Otherwise, it's pretty basic.

Article on Gordana Gehlhausen, from the sixth season of Project Runway, with her pattern, the first of the issue:

1. Lace tunic. Sizes, 37in/106cm to 54in/137cm. Yup. That's what it is. A lace tunic. Without a belt it hangs like a sack, but there's nothing really wrong with it. It's a boxy lace tunic. Those leggings, though, make me think of varicose veins, which is probably not what you want to be going for when wearing leggings.

First section, A Jazz Age Romance. "In knits worthy of a Fitzgerald heroine, we travel back a century or so, updating the evocative style of that period with thoroughly modern touches." Actually, I see no modern touches, all of this stuff could have been worn during the Jazz Age. I think the only one that would have got a second look is number five, and only knitters would be looking at it, for the - at the time - unusual construction method.

2. Lace Jacket by Sharon Sorkin. Sizes 43in/109cm and 54in/137cm. Only two sizes available, but you could fine-tune the fit a bit with gauge and needle size. It's really nice, flattering to almost anyone. $160 to knit the size large, but you may consider it worth it for a nice summer jacket to wear in air conditioning. Or you could knit it with a regular silk laceweight yarn without the sequins and save about half. It'd be awesome in Jaggerspun Zephyr, too.

3. Lace capelet by Tanis Gray. One size fits most. Length at center back with unfolded collar, 26in/66cm. Nice.

Next section, Decorative Details. "For those accustomed to nothing but the best, wealth of intricate stitch work." Yuh huh.

4. Back button pullover, by Deborah Newton. Sizes, 33in to 53in/83cm to 134cm. No waist shaping whatsoever. This is a nice sweater, but I think it would be a lot better if you added waist shaping as appropriate to fit it to yourself. And for the sake of all that is holy, DO NOT USE SHANKED BUTTONS. Use regular flat buttons, or the first time you lean back in a chair you will be in a world of hurt.

5. Wrap-around vest by Mari Lynn Patrick. Sizes 30in to 35in/77cm to 89cm. Having looked at the schematic (there is an asymmetric skirt on the vest), I think the gut on the model is due to an unsuccessful attempt at a Flapper Slouch, not extra fabric bunched at the waist. Unless you want to think a woman with a 30in/77cm bust has a gut. It looks fairly slimming over on Vogue360, so I'm guessing this is just a bad photo. (But, you see how I did that? Looked at the schematic to see how many layers of fabric were hanging over that model's stomach. I thought it was two, but it was really one, so I revised my idea of what the problem was.)

6. Surplice lacy top by Shirley Paden. Sizes, 31in to 50in/79cm to 128cm. A really nice lace tank for summer, in enough sizes that real people can knit and wear it. A job well done. If you wanted to get all Master Knitter on the project, you could reverse the directions, knit it top down, and make sure the stripe of ribbing hit below the boobs instead of on them, then thread a ribbon through and tie.

7. Long jacket by Maie Landra. Sizes, 38in to 47in/96cm to 120cm. Knit from Koigu Mori. $270 USD to knit. This is another one that could be improved with some waist shaping.

Next section, Soft and Sensual. "Gossamer mohair cuts a distinctly feminine figure in the most romantic of settings." The next four sweaters are all nice, but they're also knit with mohair, or mohair-silk blend, which is NOT a summer fiber. Sticky, fuzzy, super-warm mohair? Summer? No. But these would make great fall or winter cardigans.

8. Mohair and ribbon cardigan by Fayla Reiss. Sizes, 37in to 54in/94cm to 137cm. I will bet you the yarn company arranged to have the ribbon ruffle yarn used. It's $25 USD per hank and all but the smallest size uses two hanks. Of course you could leave the ruffles off and have a perfectly nice cardigan. And who really needs ruffles around their hips? It's even unflattering on the models.

9. Cropped cardigan by Robin Melanson. Sizes, 32in to 44in/82cm to 113cm. Really cute little cardigan. I'm pretty sure it'd induce heat stroke if worn in summer, but like I said, these make great winter wear. Shame it only comes in three sizes.

10. Checked cardigan by Kathy Merrick. Sizes, 35in to 53in/89cm to 136cm. I'd dearly love to know if it was the designer or VK who thought two layers of closely knit mohair were a good idea for a summer design. Maybe the designer didn't know this was for the summer issue? $246 USD to knit the largest size. Still, this'd be great for antarctic exploration. Or at least winter.

11. Gossamer cardi by Lois Young. Sizes, 37in to 58in/94cm to 147cm. Unfortunately there are only four sizes in seven inch increments, but with the way VK pays I wouldn't bend over backward either. This would make a fantastic layering piece for fall or winter, and the contrasting yarn for the edging looks really cool. I've worked with this exact yarn before (those four Christmas scarves, for long-time readers) and it is WARM. But very nice. It's a core of silk with a cloud of mohair around it.

Next section, Global Fusion. "African textiles provide the inspiration for earthy, elegant tops, modeled here by the beautiful Teyona Anderson, winner of Americas Top Model, cycle 12." Oookay. Now. Is it just me, or does taking African-inspired clothes, hanging them on an African-heritage model, and accessorizing with African-inspired jewelry lack any imagination whatsoever? This is actually a great section: Wearable designs, sensible fiber use, reasonable size ranges.

12. Top with cowl by Cathy Caron. Sizes, 35in to 45in/89cm to 116cm. Knit with linen. If you don't like the cowl, you can just leave it off; there's a deep V-neck under it. Nice, cool summer top.

13. Texture pullover by Carol Sulcoski. Sizes, 36in to 50in/91cm to 128cm. Nice. And it comes in a decent range of sizes. Wow!

14. Ruffle sleeve vest by Pat Olski. Sizes, 34in to42in/86cm to 106cm. Yup. That's what it is. Nice.

15. Cable neck cardi by Amy Polcyn. Sizes, 34in to 47in/86cm to 120cm. This is a great design, kind of a swing coat for summer with a really neat design feature around the neck. However. There seems to be a lot of excess fabric not knowing what to do (maybe the fabric doesn't have enough weight to drape? Or it's too stiff?) bagging out from the back; you can see it under the model's arm on the left side of the picture. The schematic shows that the cardi is 'cut' rather straight, so if you put some buttons down the front it should solve the problem. A word of caution about the neck; that two-color cable could be tricky to make look perfect, and any mistakes will be hugely visible up by your face. Plus it's in cotton which is not an easy fiber for making even cables. Not saying it's a bad design, just saying it's tricky.

16. Two-toned shell by Cecily Glowik. Sizes, 33in to 51in/84cm to 129cm. Holy CRAP, real sizing on a summer tank! WOOHOO! Knit with a viscose/linen blend that should drape nicely and feel cool. A word, though; see the bottom edge? When you make a two-color garment like this, the rule of thumb is that the lighter color will 'pop' and draw the eye. So the lighter color for the yoke is an excellent choice, it makes people look at you. The bottom edge, not so much. Most of us don't need to draw the eye to a horizontal line around our hips. The lace pattern is a really nice, uncurling edge, so I'd keep that and just knit it in the same color as the body.

17. Shrug by Laura Bryant. Sizes (sized by back width measurement), 15in to 22in/38cm to 56cm. Another yarn company special. It's knit with Prism yarn's Symphony - wool, cashmere and nylon blend. (Just what you want for summer.) This is really nice, and knit with a cotton/nylon blend yarn, would be great to keep the chill off in AC during the summer. Not sure I'd go with blue and green for a color graduation, but that's personal taste. The copywriters are calling them compliments, but they aren't. The compliment of blue is orange, and the compliment of green is red.

Next up, the beloved Designer Details section. They're calling it "On Neutral Ground". 'Cause all those winter whites were so original we're gonna just keep on keeping on.

18. Vest by Lutz & Patmos (who apparently have run a fashion knitwear design house in New York since 2000; it appears they understand the concept that lots of sizes = lots of sales). Sizes, 34in to 55in/86cm to 139cm. Very impressive they can come up with a super-fast bulky knit on size fifteens that doesn't look like it would trigger heat stroke. It is knit with silk (they specialize in luxury fibers), but with that much ventilation it should be okay. Unfortunately the color makes it look like it was knit with kite string, but it's likely VK dictated the color, and you can fix it easily enough by just picking another.

19. Sailor top by Twinkle. Sizes, 40in to 56in/101cm to 142cm. Twinkle knits with something other than super-bulky. Wow. This is at 4.25 sts per inch. There's no waist shaping, but the fabric is so drapey it doesn't really need any. Of course, with the drape the thing is WAY too long so I'd consider shortening it if you made it. And leave off the pocket. No way you're putting anything in it, and it looks really horrible sagging and bagging there on your boob.

Next, Ivory Coast. "Gems of the ocean: Beachwear hits a high-water mark as the tide turns toward pearly lacework." Still wanna smack the copy writers. I'm not getting over it. And goodie. More beige. All those bright summer colors available and we get... beige.

20. Lace stole by Lois Young. 20x62in/51x158cm. Yup. Nice. A nice aquamarine blue would go with nearly everything for summer. (Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër?)

21. Lace tunic by Brooke Nico. Sizes (SIZES! MORE THAN ONE!) 31in 34in 36in/78cm 86cm 92cm. I admire the ingenuity it takes to knit up a giant afghan square, tilt it, and take advantage of the forty-five degree angle of raglan decreasing to put sleeves on it. If I were to knit this, I'd put on some kind of edging (you can see it curling in several places in the photo), and do some short rows to raise the back of the neck and make it more comfortable. Very clever, though.

22. Sun dress by Alice Halbeisen. Sizes, 30in to 45in/76cm to 115cm. Nice, and in a decent variety of sizes. Maybe I'm old, but I'd want a dress to be longer than that. Then again, even the model's wearing it over leggings. Still, if you added a bit of length it'd be wearable without. (A Møøse once bit my sister...)

23. Lace dress by Cynthia Yanok Rich. Sizes, 31in to 43in/78cm to 109cm. Sure, if you wanna squeeze yourself into a tight dress that requires undergarments of a very opaque nature, well, knock yourself out. Just make sure to put Gold Bond Medicated Powder in the cracks and crevices to fight heat rash. (If you took off some of the length, it'd make a cute tank for those who can stand strapless bras or are willing to knit it without the eyelets.)

Last section, Neck and Next. Har. "Summer's best accessory." Now, I understand wanting a wrap or something to fling over a tank in AC. But SEVEN of them in this issue? Plus, what, FOUR wraps? There's not gonna be much commentary here 'cause there's not a lot to say about a scarf, and fit isn't an issue.

24. Chevron scarf by Irina Poludnenko. Clever stitch pattern.

25. Striped scarf by Renee Lorion.

26. Drop stitch scarf by Karen Wessel. Another clever stitch pattern. Knit on the bias.

27. Twin leaf scarf by Heather Carlson. Not reversible, if you care.

28. Leaf and berry scarf by Lori Steinberg. The leaves and berries come already on the yarn.

29. Buttoned cowl by Heather Carlson.

30. Lace flower scarf by Lisa Buccellato. Pure silk. So your neck can be REALLY WARM. (Probably a yarn company special, not the designer's choice.)

31. L-shaped wrap by Jill Gutman. Which is exactly what it sounds like. The L or V shape makes a really easy-to-wear wrap with lots of drape.

32. Beaded shawl by Karen Joan Raz. Uses 1000 glass beads, which may be too much of a good thing (both in terms of weight, and stringing them on). Still, it's really nice, and you could always use fewer beads, of course.

So, that's it for this issue. I do think our bitching about sizing has gotten through, whether VK will admit it or not. Until next time, knit wisely.


amy said...

I clicked over to the original 3/$50 website (which I'd never heard of, probably because I don't watch Oprah?) and I do think it's a total of $50, thus $600/year in local businesses. And I can support that to an extent, for those who are able--if you're going to spend money anyway, may as well spend it locally--but I honestly don't know that I spend that much per year on my knitting hobby. I would have to estimate it's less.

There are actually some items in this issue I like, and I think that's the first time I've thought that after reading one of your reviews. Also, IK's latest issue has something on Kitchener too, by TECHKnitter. I'm too lazy to go find the issue, but I think it went at least as in-depth as what you describe in VK.

And yeah, cables are a bitch in cotton.

Roz said...

I hear ya on the Africa/African model thing. Lazy.

Anyway, nice clothing this issue. I'd probably hit elann or one of the other discount places to get the yarn on sale. Then I'd feel as if I'd hit an awesome sale and got something cute to wear!

Methinks you got through. Huzzah!

Anonymous said...

Wow for the first time there are actually a few things I'd bother to knit and quite enjoy wearing here.

Although I did half expect you to rant about the pose of the woman in the back buttoned piece - she looks like she's double jointed. what a stupid pose!

Louiz said...

Interesting review, thank you.

Also, I detect some Monty Python:)

RobynR said...

I'm still stuck on the letter from the editor... Just how fast were they going on that back road in Ontario? *goggles*

Donna Lee said...

I don't think I want great wads of cloth around my neck in the summer. One of the joys is that we get to wear LESS fabric. That said, there are some pieces that are wearable and even look nice. (the writer of these comments has been sacked....)

ellen in indy said...

geez -- i WISH i'd spent only $50 this month with my favorite lys! i struck wooly gold at the $2/skein clearance -- poems, peruvia, aussi natural bulky and more, plus cotton/linen for a friend.

the downside for the local economy is that if i get my needles in gear, i won't be overspending for next giftmas. there'll be gift cards for all, plus wristers for 3 nieces and dd, hats for 3 nephews and great-neph, and mittens or felted slippers for grandgirl (who also gets a sweater the very next day for her b'day). bro and sil in hawaii probably will get only gift cards, since they never acknowledged their housewarming gift of knitted cotton placemats and trivet. i don't knit for those who don't appreciate.

besides the lys, my other local spending will be with an indie dyer friend and the summer farmers' market.

Unknown said...

I'm taking my first sick day in years with a wicked head cold, and here's a VK review that makes me shoot snot straight out my nose (seriously, by the time I got to the Monty Python jokes I was pretty much done).

Keep it up!

Lisa said...

I'm really happy to see you reviewing again. I pay a lot more attention to how pictures are shot in magazines now, and often check ravelry to look for hidden fit issues.

However, I have to disagree with #21, just because of where the pattern in centered. It's like four arrows pointing right at the model's crotch. Not a good look, I think.

David Austin Smith said...

I cut down trees. I skip and jump.
I like to press wild flowers.
I put on women's clothing
And hang around in bars.

Anonymous said...

For those who have complained that the pictures don't really show how a garment really fits, there's this online and it's really neat:


Alwen said...

Someday maybe we can hope to see, "We apologise for the fault in the subtitles. Those responsible have
been sacked," re: the copywriting.


YES! I have my very own copy of Knitting Lace now. As you say, worth every penny!

Barbara said...

Very informative but I miss the snark.

Dear VK,
Please go back to being clueless about style, sizing, and fit so that our beloved Samurai Knitter can set you right in her own funny and yet educational way.
Thanks, bookie

I'd actually like to knit a couple of those, not necessarily in the suggested yarns but I especially like that shrug with the 3/4 sleeves. Thanks

choperena said...

Oh, dear Samurai, I need the help of your timeless experience in deciphering the usefulness of a book! I got an email this morning from Interweave Knits, touting the amazingness of the book Knitwear Design Workshop: The Comprehensive Guide to Handknits.
They made it sound like the knit designer's most wonderful reference tool, and I was all excited, until I saw the video. On minute 3:45, they presented the Refined Ruffle Cardigan from last season's VK.

Was this just an innocent mistake from an otherwise incredible designer, or will the book be filled with an equal assortment of faux pas?

Cindy said...

Glad you decided to keep this up. Very useful, but not quite as much fun without the snark.

Julie said...

Choperena, Shirley Paden has designed knitwear for decades. She's had a lot of hits and misses, but she's done so much of it, I'm thinking I'll get the book myself and see what she has to say. It should be educational. One way or another.

Emily said...

Sigh. I miss the snarkiness too, but this way is likely safer.

But! You've had an impact on them! The consumer is heard! Go, Julie!

Ellen Alexandra said...

Great review as usual... I really don't understand how they can call this a summer issue when half of it seems to be stuff people would only wear in fall/winter. Could they possibly not have enough summer design submissions?

Unknown said...

The Monty Python makes up for the lack of snark. And it DOES look like a wearable, useful issue this time around. I might have to break down and buy one.

Love your reviews, as ever!

Amy Lane said...

Loved the commentary-- and I was JUST thinking that the beige was getting boring when you mentioned it.

(A Moose once bit my sister... GO MONTY PYTHON GO!)

Unknown said...

I live in sweaters, scarves and shawls all summer. But, of course, I am sitting in an air conditioned office where I can watch the papers flap in the breeze. These are a lot nicer than the fleece blankie that one of my co-workers dons!

I actually like many of what is in this issue and could see me making some of them with some minor modifications.

Thanks for the great review.

Kathleen Dames said...

I still just have to rant about the photo styling - too-heavy makeup, especially in the "Jazz Age" and styling that distracts from the knits, or at the very least competes. Nothing that I absolutely had to have, but not too terrible.

Thanks for continuing to review VK!

Experimental Knitter said...

I'm thinking of making number 4 with the same front and back; no buttons.
And the shawl #32 uses the crochet hook method to add beads, so one doesn't have to add all 1000 if one is so disninclined.

I agree about the African model thing; I found the poses in bare feet unsettling.

What's with the bad eye makeup in this issue? Srsly.