Thursday, January 24, 2008

reviewing the winter issues: interweave knits

Today the obsessed knitter becomes the opinionated knitter. In reading the Knitters Review and Ravelry forums, I have become interested in people's varying opinions of the major knitting magazines, especially those that I read regularly - Interweave Knits, Knitter's, and Vogue Knitting. I have contributed to these forums a bit, but since this is my blog, and I can do whatever I want, I thought that I'd devote unfettered space to review the Winter 2007 issues of the big three. I will cover one mag in each of three posts, and will do a summary comparison at the end. I hope you find this a little juicy. Please weigh in with your comments; I really want to know what you think of these mags.

Of all the knitting magazines, Interweave Knits has made the best use of the Internet. They provide an e mail newsletter and a wealth of free patterns on their web site. Of all the mags, they are the most friendly to Ravelry as well, allowing unlimited use of their photos on the site.

They have always had the idea of value-added content. When they started out in the Fall of 1996 they offered a free snail mail subscribers' newsletter to be sent out between quarterly issues. While that did not last too long, the idea developed into an expanded website and, during this past year, into knitting Daily, the e newsletter.

I look forward to seeing this piece in my inbox, although I do have some quibbles with it. For one thing, some issues are no more than advertisements for Interweave Press publications. For another, the newsletter tends to promise more than it delivers. For example, its recent survey of what men want in a sweater yielded little information. I could have told you that most men want a dark, solid colored sweater without a survey. That said, I really like some of its features, especially the galleries showing the same sweater on different bodies.

In keeping with its Internet friendliness, Interweave Knits has forged relationships with two of the biggest names online, Amy Singer, editor of Knitty, and Clara Parkes of Knitters Review. Amy has a monthly Web Watch column in the "News and Views" section of the magazine, and Clara has contributed heavily to this issue. She reviews alpaca yarns, reviews sweater design books, and the alpaca section of her book (The Knitter's Book of Yarn) is excerpted. Both authors are well-liked and respected, and they provide good information.

Pam Allen, a well-respected knitwear designer has a major article in this issue on my particular bugbear, set in sleeves. To me, and to anyone else interested in designing her own sweaters, this is pure gold. Less valuable is Marilyn Roberts' interview with Kristin Nicholas plugging Kristin's new book, Kristin Knits. Kristin's career in knitting is not totally uninteresting, but not really useful to know about.

Overall, I would say the editorial side of this issue is a little thin. I like the fact that more than one article focused on the same thing (alpaca) and I love the design feature by Pam Allen. Beyond that, I don't care much about art knitting, knitting in art, or gansey history, which is well-covered elsewhere. These and the Nicholas interview lack liveliness.

The Winter 2007 issue of Interweave Knits contains 23 patterns and a link for 1 free online sweater pattern. I guess they want you to use the website. Of the 23 patterns, 17 are sweaters, 2 are gloves, and there is one each of socks, bag, skirt, and stole.

Here is a look at some of these patterns. I can't post all of the photos, but you can follow along even if you don't have the magazine by opening another window to the Interweave site (linked above), where all of the designs are pictured. I will also nominate the best and worst of the pattern designs. You can have a vote in the comments page, or nominate your own picks.

Pam Allen's cover sweater, "Refined Aran Jacket," would rate high with me, except the vee neckline is too deep. It looks stupid paired with a lacy cami. Why put on a wool sweater if your neck is going to be open? "Bonbon Pullover" by Mari Lynn Patrick is eye catching, but shaped like a sack. It would be unflattering to wear on almost any figure.

Unflattering is a key word for this issue. "Selva's Skirt" makes the model's butt and hips look huge. "Henley Perfected" on the next page is pretty, but the horizontal underbust line is poison for the busty. Take my word for it. The puffy sleeves of "Puffed Wheat Pullover" by the usually brilliant Kate Gilbert do no one's shoulders any good. Kathy Zimmerman's "Forest Forbes Pullover" is pretty at first glance, but who needs things sticking out all over her sweater? I also think that this piece would begin to look sugary sweet if you saw it in person.

"Forest Forbes" also has a funny neckline - too wide. Notice how the model's hair conveniently covers the neck. I don't think the proportions of a wide neck work well on this design, and apparently, neither did the photo stylist. Along with unflattering, funny parts are a theme here.
The "Bubble Cable Dolman" by Sarah Barbour has ginormous underarm wings. The photos blatantly attempt to hide these. Veronik Avery's "Colette Pullover" skews the pattern at the raglan seamlines. I love the shape of this sweater though, and will forgive Veronik. "The Citrus Yoke Pullover" has a neckline with too much fabric. It flops over in the middle. The photo tries to hide this, but I know because I saw this sweater modeled by different people on Knitting Daily. The only person it looked really good on was the designer. The "El Sol Pullver, " in addition to an unflattering bust line, has funny looking trim and an overly wide neck.

In the realm of accessories, the bag is great looking. But will it hold up? In the photo it looks like it is dying already. And the socks are just too busy. Way too much going on with the variegation and cabling together. Which brings me to my worst picks:

Tilting Cable Socks

Rosemary's Swing Jacket: shapeless and matronly.

Best of the bunch? Ta Dah!

Eunny Jang's "Ivy League Vest" a perfect fair isle update which keeps the best of the design, its patterning, and pairs it with a modern, body conscious shape. It is designed and sized to fit bust sizes from 28 to 47 inches. Anyone who knits this would be well-advised to use a gentle color scheme like Eunny's, and avoid bright, strong contrasts. Otherwise, the horizontal stripes could be unflattering.

Interweave Knits has the warmest and friendliest feeling of all the knitting magazines. It has evolved from folksy to almost sophisticated. As always, I like this magazine, but I rarely find things in it that I want to knit.

1 comment:

Wool Enough said...

Thanks for taking the time to do such a detailed review. Can't wait to read the others.

I, too, rarely find patterns I want to use in Interweave Knits, but I greatly enjoy their articles, which seem a nice variety of tech help, backgrounders, people stories, fiber focus, and all sorts of stuff.