Saturday, September 13, 2014

Twist Collective, fall 2014

Y'know, I had mostly quit blogging and reviews, because I was so damn tired of all the OMG DRAMA that seemed to come with it. But if I'm getting dragged into six year old drama anyway, fuck it, I'll do what I want.

For years now, a friend of mine (hi, T!) has been telling me to do more reviews besides VK. People find them helpful, and it wouldn't look as much like I was picking on anyone that way. Since Twist is the polar opposite of VK in just about every way possible, I decided to start with it.

A WORD ON BUSINESS MODELS: Traditional, on-paper, pay-for-it magazines make money by selling magazines, and advertising. They can charge more for advertising, the more magazines they sell. (Seriously. advertising rates are based on subscriptions. There are auditing places set up to verify and everything.) Bottom line, if they want to make money, they gotta sell magazines. That is the only real priority. They don't need good knitting patterns, they don't need good tech editing, they don't need Big Name Designers, they can use cachet or reputation or anything they like, so long as the magazines sell. This, in my opinion, does not motivate them a damn to publish good patterns, or even interesting patterns. Just sell magazines.

Twist Collective takes advantage of this crazy new thing we call the internet. The 'magazine' is on their web site for free. If you want a pattern, you pay for it, like you would over on Rav. Rates are reasonable, about the same as everywhere else I've seen. Twist gets a percentage, and the designer gets the majority of the fee. (They do make some money on advertising, I'm sure, and rates would be based on page loads, but I'll bet you the bulk of the revenue is from pattern sales.) Pattern sales, to happen, need good patterns. A dud means no money for anyone. A success can be really, surprisingly profitable. For instance Sylvi has over 1700 projects on Rav at the moment. Even if only 2/3 of those people paid for the pattern, that's a good chunk of change. More than any print magazine could hope to pay a designer. This business model DEPENDS on the magazine producing popular, well-edited, solid designs in as many sizes as possible. (More sizes equal more potential customers.) Essentially, it has to produce stuff we want to knit, to survive.

This business model is why you'll find some of the best designers working for Twist these days, and why every single issue will have at least one (and usually many) things that you'd really like to knit and wear.

I'll be going over the patterns only (I do not want to be here all day, I promised my kid and hub a trip to the book store). But there ARE articles, and they are good. There won't be much commentary on "why this sucks" for the reasons stated above - none of it sucks. It can't, if they want to stay in business. Some things look better on some body types than others, as with all clothes, I'll talk about that since y'all seem to find it helpful. And possibly about color, as needed. I'm leaving out all the tech info I usually include, instead just putting a link to the tech page for each pattern instead. Y'all can look for yourselves if you want to. Pictures and stuff in quotes is from the web site, every thing else is by little old me.

First section, "Joyride". FYI, Twist is based in Paris, of all places (I know, RIGHT?) so the photo shoots are always amazing. Unfortunately, just like any other magazine, pretty pictures do not equal being able to see WTF, but their tech pages have close ups of interesting design, which is very nice and not usual.

Weft, by Holli Yeoh

As we know, I am not a fan of the horizontal look-how-wide-I-am stripe. BUT. This one also has a nice vertical line with the outlined button band down the front, and you could do a solid color instead of the stripes, still get the herringbone effect with the darker color, and have a really nice sweater. And just to support what I was saying about business models, this thing comes in nine sizes. NINE!

Hullabaloo by Sandi Rosner 

Socks. About which I have not much to say. They are nice socks, probably very well tech-edited, and come in three sizes. I can't imagine riding a bike in those shoes, but I use toe clips. It's refreshing to see "look, nice socks" copy writing instead of "look at our never-before-seen amazingly HIGH FASHION SOCKS".

Kokliko by Barbara Gregory 

Much the same thoughts on these as the socks. $6 for a hat, mitten, and cowl set seems like a bargain. And multiple sizes in mittens is pretty awesome.

Smarty by Alison Green
This is styled as a very fitted sweater, and it's very nice that way. As you see, pair it with a skirt and you can make it pretty dressy. I bet it's just as nice with a looser fit, worn as a jacket. I appreciate they've got a model with actual boobs in this thing so we can see how it works on real figures. Detailing on this is pretty cool:

You can't see it well here, I don't think, but the cables are in two different colors. You could have some real fun with that, and make it match most of your wardrobe.

Safra by Susanna IC
Two-in-one, you can knit it as a scarf (left) or a crescent (right). Done in worsted weight, so it's gonna be thick and heavy. Which is both a good and bad thing, depending on what you want it for.

Calais by Ashwini Jambhekar 
The tee-shirt shape is flattering to nearly everyone, and the detailing at the waist sucks in the fabric and gives you an actual waist. Woohoo. Only drawback is, you have got to get that shaping to hit you EXACTLY at your waist, or it's gonna look funky-weird, at best.

You can see on this last photo, how it's riding a little oddly and puckering, on this model. Some of this can be avoided by knitting it in a size that fits more loosely. But mostly? You HAVE to get the waist right on this one. Unfortunately it's knit bottom up (top down would allow you to try it on, in progress), which adds to the technical details. Not saying it's a bad pattern, just saying it'll take a good bit of effort to get to fit right.

Petersham by Annie Watts
Yep, those are mittens, all right. Kinda neat looking.

Oleada by Mara Marzocchi 
Hat and mittens set. I'd add some extra length to that hat so it didn't pop off my head. But it's your head and your hat. Up to you.

Roxton by Laura Chau 
Looks like a standard textured pullover, right? Alas, no. There are lace panels/strips in between the twisted stitch bits, making it a lot more openwork than it seems.

If it's cold enough for long sleeves, why have a sweater with holes in it? I don't understaaaaaaand. But, hey, you like it and wanna wear a tee shirt under it whenever you put it on, it's a perfectly nice sweater.

Latifolia by Tori Seierstad
I'd have knit something called Latifolia with two shades of green (a yellow-green and a blue-green for the two types of chlorophyll), but I'm a literal-minded plant freak and may need to get a grip.

Akebia by Kate Gilbert 
One of the best of the issue. Though this picture's crap. Hang on...
There ya go. Pattern and color edge at wrists, neck, and waist. Personally, I'd leave the pattern and color off the bottom edge. Hips, what hips? Nothing to see here. But if you like your hips, good for you, and draw attention to those babies every chance you get. Anyway. For color substitution, try to stick with the dark body, light pattern combo here. The lighter colored pattern draws the eye to your face, shoulders, and hands (and hips, if you're into that). If I wasn't already fighting my way through a stranded color pullover, I'd knit this myself.

Next section, "Artful". I don't know why knitting mags have sections like this, unless it's just to keep the reader's brains from melting. Which is helpful, now that I think of it that way. Also helpful to give reviewers a good place to stop for another cup of tea and to pet the cat.

ANYWAY! More sweaters, and shawls, and stuff!

Caledonia by Quenna Lee 
Awesome photo, not so good on details...
I have concerns about the shoulders. That neck is quite wide, and the shoulder straps quite narrow. If you've got broad shoulders anyway, you're good. But if you don't, consider adding some stitches on each side, make the neck narrower. Otherwise, damn fine sweater, I really like it, it'd be flattering on just about everyone.

Grania by Rachel Coopey
Nice. That pompom is gonna add weight to the top/end of the hat and make it flop around weirdly. But I am known for my anti-pompom views, so it's possible I'm biased on the whole thing. You could leave it off easily enough.

Corvina by Angela Hahn

Raglan pullover with cable and lace detailing at shoulders and wrists. I wonder how that neck line isn't curling more. Either there's a hem there, or it's been starched, or something. I'd use a pure, solid color for this, because you can see, even with the slight color shifting in this yarn, the cables are getting kind of lost. Lighter colors are better at showing cables, too. Cables cast shadows that get lost in darker yarn and hey, is that a cable?

Fluence by Lana Jois
Shawl-wrap thingie with neat edge treatment. I strongly suggest doing that edge in garter stitch, because this version, in stockinette?
Probably freshly blocked, there, and already starting to curl. If you HAAAAVE to knit those chevrons in stockinette, do it as loosely as you possibly can - it'll curl less than tight stitches would.

Ashling by Rusty Baker
Again, I don't understand. If it's cool enough for two layers, why have big holes in one? If you need a heavy cowl neck, why doesn't it have sleeves? SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO MEEEEE. (I know, I know. It's fashion/style vs. practicality/use. This is the story of my entire life.) In practical, non-whining information, watch the length on this. Unless you're one of the two people reading this who like your hips, a shorter length would result in less bulk around them. With two shirts and a pair of pants on, like the model, that's three layers of clothes around the part of your body most women are unhappy about to begin with. I'm just sayin'.

Fynele by Rachel Coopey (who names these things?)
Hat and mitten combo. I do like that Twist's business model means that they need to produce season-appropriate patterns. No super-bulky mini skirts in the dead of winter. And mittens and hats in fall, when people who think ahead would be knitting them.

Sixpence by Kristen Rengren
Half-round shawl with interesting circular detailing. Nice. It's knit on size eight needles with heavy yarn, though, so take that into account when you're considering it.

Heyday by Marnie MacLean

We're back to patterns at your hips and do-you-really-wanna-do-that, but it's easy enough to leave off and the henley pattern/cut/style is really flattering for everyone. It's knit in reverse stockinette, some flat, but some in the round. Something to keep in mind if you hate purling.

Candlesmoke by Barbara Gregory
I love swirl patterns, so these really made me go OOOO!

Hausti by Susanna IC 
Another awesome but not terribly helpful picture. Seriously, the green against the purple, with the graffiti (street art? I'm saying street art) as a contrast to the softness of the yarn. BUT WAIT.
Aha. Better. Take a look, there is nothing on either of those edges to keep them from curling. (Though I like the beads. Nice detail.) If you're gonna knit as is, make sure the edges are knit as loosely as possible and plan on blocking it a lot.

New section! Take a break and pet your nearest furry friend.

Next (last?) section, Wavelengths.

Falkirk by Theresa Schabes
I am decidedly 'eh' on this style of sweater. They remind me of bath robes. But they are comfortable and warm. Good news is, with the loose, drapey cut, fit isn't a real problem. It'd make a good first-fitted-sweater type project.

Wheat Fields by Nancy Marchant 
Reversible scarf in brioche stitch. (Insert rant here, about scarves that look like ass on one side.) If you've wanted to try learning brioche stitch, which makes an amazingly awesome soft, fluffy, warm fabric, this would be a great first project.

Cliona by Caroline Levander

This got another big OOOO! out of me. (Swirls and knotwork. What can I say? Celtic heritage. Does it show?) Really, REALLY nice. Comes in a bunch of sizes, and the cables are repetitive enough you won't lose your mind trying to work them. Drawback for some, the body is done in seed stitch. HOWEVER, the seed stitch means that the fabric doesn't need any other edging. I am probably going to knit this for myself. For whatever that's worth.

Greenery by Helene Rush 
Mosaic yoke, regular stockinette body, mosaic detailing at waist. Cool idea.
There is a hey-look-hips aspect to this, but with the darker body and the way the colors work, it could actually be slimming. No, really. One thing I noticed, that I'm not sure of, is the little lace detail at the points of the yoke.
Structurally, that's going to put stress on the single strand of yarn going through that point stitch. Doesn't REALLY matter, but if you knit for the ages (I do), that's likely where the sweater would fail first. I'd do it in regular stockinette. But, hey, your sweater.

Cahoots by Ysolda Teague 
Dare I call this run of the mill? It kind of is. But. Ysolda's patterns are known for fit. So if you want a cardigan that fits Just. Damn. Right. this is probably the pattern for you.

Vasalisa by Jennette Cross
Hooray! A pattern with the plant motifs done in green! (I really need a grip.) Being a plant freak, mittens covered in little trees is adorkable to me.

Ravenscrag by Robin Melanson 
Cable-knit with an allover pattern. Nice. Unfortunately, if you knit it to fit this closely, there's a 'hey I circled my boobs so you can find them' sort of thing going on.
A lot of the effect can be avoided by knitting a larger size. But you gotta think of this stuff if you have Boobs of Doom like I do.

Paria by Kate Gilbert
What looks like a pretty standard pullover, gets kinda interesting when you look at details.

Texture that helps give an illusion of an hourglass figure. And lots of visual interest. Especially helpful for those of us with boobs of doom that don't wanna circle them. It's done with DK yarn, so it won't take the rest of your life, either.

Tignish by Luise O'Neill
Nice shawl, done in heavier, season-appropriate yarn.

Portiere by Fiona Ellis

Pullover with cabled detailing on body and wrists. This'd be a good starter project for cable knits.

Courant by Barbara Benson
This one gave me a real "whaaaaat?" moment. Yes, that is two color lace.
Double the color, double the fun. Double the warmth. I suggest using two related colors, like you see here. If you go the black and white route, it may really confuse the eye.

And there you go. Why business models matter. And why we need more magazines like Twist Collective and fewer of the old school on-paper stuff. Hope y'all learned something.

By the way, critics who claim I just sit at a computer and make smart remarks? This took two and a half hours. Bite me.


Deb said...

Glad to see you're back. I appreciate the review. I keep forgetting that Twist Collective is out there.

Gail said...

Never yet knit a Twist pattern, but always look forward to a new issue. They give all info you need for decision-making before buying the pattern, great & useful photography, designs are interesting even if not to my taste.
Carry on obsessing & lacerating, where necessary, your reviews great (because, y'know, perspective)

KristieB said...

So glad you are back in the saddle as it were. You have been missed, smart comments and all!

irisphnx said...

Absolutely thrilled you are back at it! The informative bit at the beginning about how Twist is different from VK and how that makes a huge difference in the patterns is great. I don't love all of the patterns in every issue of Twist but I always love SOMETHING in every issue of Twist. This review made me reconsider some of my initial impressions of a few of the patterns in this issue. Thanks! Your reviews of VK have made me perhaps overly critical of knitting patterns photography, which I consider a very good thing. I've also made it a habit of reading through any available details before making a judgement on patterns. All good things. Keep it up.

Jessica Snell said...

Love to see you doing reviews again!

Anonymous said...

I found your site because of the story in the paper and was most pleased. I don't see what all the fuss is about.. I didn't read anything scandalous but I did wander around for site long enough to link to and buy the Paria pattern from this issue of Twist. Hadn't actually bought from them before and I wouldn't have this time either if it hadn't been for you. So take that JB, VK et al! Keep up the good work and the honest critique.

Mandy said...

So glad to see you back! I don't do twitter, so I've missed you!

PinkSkatingGirl said...

O, how I have missed your writing! Love your perspective on these, and on VK's drek.

Kat said...

This was a totally awesome review! Definitely interested in checking out a few of these patterns (and looking through the magazine's archives). Thank you!

Cara said...

Yayyyyy you're back! Can't believe the nerve of the NYT dragging up ancient drama though - next thing you know it will be "OMG, did you hear about Anthony and Cleopatra???"
I wouldn't actually know, being British, but isn't the NYT supposed to be classy? Or is the online edition exempt?

Emily said...

Oh, have I missed you.

Anonymous said...

I also found you through the NYT article. May I say it is an ill wind that blows no sorry for any distress on your part but to find the voice of reason and especially humor speaking truth is a gift. Thank you for reason and insight. I hope you reap some financial reward for blog as it must take time and intelligence to produce. Hope you will continue.

Janis said...

I'm so glad you're back; I've missed you quite a lot!! And I've always enjoyed your reviews. I figure that anything that can be considered art, as knitting and crocheting definitely are, is open to critique. If someone doesn't like that, well, too damn bad. Critique lets people know where they've screwed up and what they need to fix, as well as what they're doing right.

Just to let you know, your link to the green, cabled Cliona sweater goes to the brioche scarf instead.

Donna Lee said...

I am an admirer of Twist but had heard that their patterns tend to be a bit buggy (from 2 different folks). But then, that seems to be the way these days. We notice if a pattern is well written and mostly error free. They are the minority.

btw, I saw you in the NYT and thought you were smart not to poke the crazy.

I hope you all are well and relatively pain free. I've missed you.

David St. Louis said...

I don't knit. I read Julie's blog because I like her writing. LOVE hearing her 'voice' again...

Ellen in Indy said...

Hi, Julie --

I was delighted to find that you're posting again. I'd been worried that hand issues were keeping you away. (I don't tweet, so I hadn't seen signs of "life" lately.)

You've definitely got me interested in Twist Collective, and as for VK, they'd be well off to take some of your advice. If their patterns actually worked for more people, they'd have more subscribers and could jack up their ad rates.

Fair reviews with a side order of snark? Just right. Write on!

Anonymous said...

Twist is based in Canada, not Paris.

The Laziest Knitter said...

Yes, yes, yes.
So right about business models.
So right about knitting for actual bodies that wear stuff.
So right about about stockinette stitch edgings that curl and bits of color that will wear out fast, etc.
Thank you.

Barbara said...

there you are! glad you're back.
you're so rational, I love your reviews.

christinethecurious said...

I've only published two patterns (not yet with Twist) so I can give a hint about naming - the name should be unique, and somehow related to the pattern so when someone searches for it on Rav, it doesn't pop up with a bunch of other things. Some people use women's names, some use street names, some look up mythical heroes.

When we named my herringbone skirt, the editor and I wandered around Latin names for herring. The Alewife skirt really didn't have much ring to it, and it was time to publish, so it stayed just Herringbone Skirt (one of about 6. Oh well. It has 6 darts and doesn't cling to hips if you follow my sizing advise. I had to make the smallest size to finish the sample before the photography deadline, it looks stunning on my cousin, too tight on ethough.)

It's sort of like writing romance text. Give me pattern size numbers any day. Let me write about technical things. I picked my kids names out of the Bible - much easier!

The Twist patterns are cranked through 2 technical editors, most magazines only use one. There is no time in the cycle for test knitting, and Twist is pretty committed to paying everyone who works for them, so they wouldn't use volunteers anyhow. Errata happens, you can always send an email or look on the Rav forum if there is trouble, it's not like the old days where you had to wait 3 months for the next magazine to find the known goofs.

christinethecurious said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Yes, Twist is based in Canada not Paris, but founder is based in Montreal, Quebec which retains its French flair and language.

ewewhojane said...

I used to look for your VK reviews every season; you put into writing what most of us were thinking. The state of the printed knitting magazine makes me weep as huge publishing groups have ruined what quality there was. I do look forward to Twist, for the writing as much as the patterns because these days there are so many places to find patterns. I hope you're back, not just with reviews but you used to write excellent essays on history, etc.

Angel said...

Yaaaay, snarky educational reviews are back! I've really missed these (and you).

I do have to say though, I clicked the link for Cliona because I want to make that sweater and imagine my disappointment when it led me to the pattern for Wheat Fields. Boo, scarf! I'll find it myself of course, but it would be good to correct the mistake. :)

Emily said...

I have seriously missed you. This is where I found out about Narbonic and Girl Genius and base 12 math and zillions of other things. I have finally copied & saved your essay on art vs. crafting, since the discussion comes up a few times each year, and you present your argument so clearly. Oh, I wish you'd come back.
Of course you were probably stung by the reactions to your Vogue criticisms...which were spot on, in my opinion, if a bit undiplomatic in tone, but hey. It's a blog! You have to have opinions!
Do come back. I want to know how the kid's growing up.

Corlis said...

Sweaters with loose, lacy patterns like the Roxton, wear comfortably, and prettily over Cuddle duds when it's -30 (F). Be well and stay warm!

Unknown said...

I love your reviews, but, I'll say it, I LOVE MY HIPS and they are bigguns. 54 inches of hips and my husband loves it when I draw attention to them. He would love it if I put big flashing lights on either side of them.

So, I guess some people like me love some hips.

Unknown said...

welcome back. Love the review and the reminder about Twist. I don't knit sweaters so I usually just skip right on by but your reviews always make me take a second lolok.