Monday, April 09, 2007

No-Bull Book Review: Fitted Knits, by Stefanie Japel

I've had several requests for a review of Fitted Knits: 25 Designs for the Fashionable Knitter by Stefanie Japel, also known by her nom de blog, Glampyre of Glampyre Knits fame. I am pleased to oblige.

Let's start out with the obvious: this is a book about fitted knits. Yes, I know it's called that, but I also know someone is going to order this book and then complain that all of the garments inside are too clingy, or too close-fitting, or some such other thing. Pretty much everything in this book is made to fit closely, to mold to your curves. Some people like boxy; some people like fitted. If you like sweaters with lots of ease, if you prefer boxy and swingy, then think closely before you buy this book, because everything is fitted like this vest:

The book is paperback, just under 150 pages, with lots of beautiful color photography. It comes from North Light Books, an imprint of F&W Publications (a company which publishes books and magazines in the craft and hobby fields). The MSRP is $22.99, and the book contains 25 or so designs, all garments for women. The chapters are divided by type of garment: warm weather sweaters (tube tops, tanks, sleeveless); cardigans, wraps and shrugs; vests and sweaters; dressy outfits (a dress and a jacket/skirt combo). The breakdown goes something like this:
  • 2 sleeveless tops;
  • 1 shrug;
  • 2 short-sleeved tops;
  • 1 true vest (shown above);
  • 1 thing which is called a vest but is more of a turtleneck halter top (shown below in purple);
  • 1 tube top (gulp; also shown below);
  • 4 cropped cardigans;
  • 2 short-sleeved cardigans;
  • 1 long-sleeved cardigan;
  • 2 sweater-jackets;
  • 5 long-sleeved sweaters;
  • 1 dress;
  • and 1 suit consisting of matching skirt and jacket.
Right away you can see that if you are looking for lots of tunics, or swing coats, or cardigans that will extend below your pupik, you're outta luck. (Actually, there is one tunic, but it's a FITTED tunic.) But if you're looking for body-hugging, sexy knits, with lots of peekaboo cutouts, cropped lengths and plunging necklines, you're in the right place. (Again, I don't mean to sound dismissive of either fashion extreme: just know what you like and what you're likely to find.)

The book begins with some good information about how to make garments fit. There's a section on how to take your measurements, and how to tweak the patterns to fit your particular body. One nice touch is a concrete example of a hypothetical knitter; measurements are given and Japel walks you through exactly what this hypothetical knitter would do to improve the fit of her garments. At the end of the book you'll find additional technical information: a yarn chart listing various weights, notes on substituting yarn, info about finishing, how to clean and store knitted garments, and references both in book form and on the web.

Fitted Knits is an attractive book, with high production values. The layout is nice and there are interesting woodcut-type graphics interspersed with photos to make the pages more decorative. Some of the hair and makeup is a little 80s looking for my taste, but wow -- if that's the worst thing I can say about this book, well, we're doing pretty good, no?

The patterns themselves are written in multiple sizes -- four, even five size ranges -- and they span a wide range. For example, one garment contains sizing for bust measurements of 30, 34, 38, 42, 46, 50 and 54. Holy crap! That's a lot of sizing and since I'm always complaining about books that don't include a wide size range, I'm going to give major props to Japel for all that work. Patterns include good, clear schematics. Another thoughtful touch are boxes labeled "Notes", found along with each pattern, containing abbreviations and other special stitches or techniques used in that pattern. It's only a minor inconvenience to flip to a back glossary, but when you see the Notes included as part of the pattern itself, you wonder why it isn't always done like that. Patterns are classified as supereasy, intermediate or advanced to assist knitters in deciding what kind of project they are embarking upon.

Of course, whether you like any particular batch of patterns ends up a matter of personal taste. These patterns are interesting and body-caressing.

Many of them -- most of them? -- are made in one-piece to avoid seaming. There are lots of eyelets and keyholes; strapless and sleeveless; clingy; with nice details. I like the way the book includes plenty of close-up photographs of some of the design details, like these shots of the purple sweater shown above:

If your tastes are very traditional, or you don't like clingy, close-fitting garments, or you (ahem) have body issues, then look before you leap. Not everyone wants to make a knitted tube top:

That's fine. Not everyone has to. But if you like Glampyre's design sensibility, or if you're looking for shapely designs that show some skin , you'll want to take a look.

UPDATE: Julie B. asks if all the designs in the book are raglan sweaters, and after doing a quick count, she is correct: nearly all the designs do feature raglan sleeves, even some of the short-sleeved garments. I would say less than five of the sweater designs do not have raglan shaping. Thanks, Julie B, I can't believe I didn't notice that!


mindy said...

Sounds like a very well thought out and put together book- based on this well thought out review. Would probably be worth it for the information on personal sizing and such. Thanks for the review, will definitely give this one a look.

Kate said...

I have been looking at this book for a while as I like Stephanie's work. Your review confirms all the reasons I won't be buying it but I do admire Glampyre's "design sensibility" and enjoy browsing through her patterns. thank you for a clear and concise review.

Zenzele said...

Well, it's about time. I have a tiny frame, but I have curves, and sometimes, I want to show them off. I'm so very tired of baggy everything, when it comes to knitting. I'm definitely buying this one.

Misstea said...

This sounds like a much more thoughtfully put together book than the last one you reviewed. I will have to go to the bookshop and have a look.

JulieB said...

Is it true that all of the sweaters/cardigans are raglans? I love the idea - fitted is far better than lumpy for a girl with a generous chest, but raglans really *really* don't work for me....

Anonymous said...

This book isn't for me -- I like more ease in my garments -- but if I were a size 8 I'd snap it up in a heartbeat. However, I'm having a hard time imagining anyone who is a size 54 wanting to wear such clingy and revealing knitwear. But maybe it's just the midwesterner in me talking :-)

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and I love your book review. Thanks. I can't wait to read more.

I'll see what else you have reviewed. Especially, if you have a book to suggest for someone who wants to become a sock and shawl knitter.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this descriptive review. What about gauge / tension? I like her designs but the patterns I've seen from her have had nothing below Aran or worsted, I think, and a finer gauge seems more flattering for me whatever the shape.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review.

Question for you: is the information about making one's knitting fit better (and how to measure better) worth the cost of the book? I doubt if my library will get this any time soon, so I wonder if I should buy it for that alone.


EAB said...

Wow, timely -- I just picked this up today. There isn't as much general information about custom-fitting knitwear as I might have liked (probably not enough to justify spending the $$$, Debbie), but the patterns themselves are very well-written. I'm hoping I can improve my understanding of fit and shaping by studying them.

If anyone saw Stephanie on Knitty Gritty recently, that pretty lavender cardi she wore on the show is featured in the book, as is the chunky purple shrug featured in the episode. I wasn't that impressed by the shrug, but I thought, wow, I love what she's wearing. It's one of the patterns I hope to make.

Carol said...

Another good point, Beth. There're 2 patterns at 5.5 sts per inch (red puff sleeve cardigan, purple eliz bennett cardigan) but the rest are all worsted weight or chunkier. Nothing finer.

I think I'd agree with Emma, that if all you want is the fit information you might want to consider a book more oriented to designing. The section is relatively short. I'll look in my knitting library and see if I can find a recommendation; D. Newton's design book and Maggie Righetti Knitting Design in Plain English come to mind but I can't remember how much they have on fitting to the wearer.

Sherry W said...

I really like most of what I see. Especially since I usually think
Romans where the last people who could look slick in a tunic. Even people with 'body issues' could use a little shaping.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Emma and Carol for sharing that this book may not be worth it if I'm only interested in it for fitting and measuring!

Any time I can save some money (for some other fiber purchase) is helpful!

Elspeth said...

I bought this book and the first thing I noticed (as I've noticed on all her patterns) is that they're all raglans. That's just how she designs sweaters. They all look pretty similar to me, and I agree that bulky weight yarn is definitely not flattering. Maybe if you're 5'11" like Stefanie and thin they'll look good, but I'd prefer to have a smaller gauge item. Some of the patterns I like but I'm not sure if I'd make any of them.

Lisa said...

I picked this up on Amazon at a great price and am definately going to give atleast one a go. I am not so crazy about the gauge, but love the fact that she has some funky sweaters in sizes that will fit my frame. I am a firm believer that boxy is not always best for bigger boobed gals.

Julia (MindofWinter) said...

This is a great review! Thanks so much for the time and effort - I feel very well-informed about the book now!