Because I love Allison so much, today's book review is Runway Knits: 30 Fashion-Forward Designs by Berta Karapetyan.
Karapetyan founded The Karabella Company in 1993, and developed knit collections for clients including Donna Karan, Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren. She later established her own wholesale yarn line, Karabella Yarns, and is the owner of School Products, a knitting shop in Manhattan.
Runway Knits is a good-sized hardback, 176 pages, with a MSRP of $32.50 (get it for $21.45 as of today's date by clicking on the above link). It contains thirty patterns and lots of glossy photographs. The book is published by PotterCraft, and shows the usual PotterCraft production values: lots of color photos, interesting layout, sturdy glossy pages. My forty-two-year-old eyes found some of the type on the small side but I'm all for cramming as much into a book as one reasonably can, so I was perfectly happy to put on my Peepers.
The book begins with a brief, personal introduction, describing Karapetyan's life -- she emigrated to the US from Russia in the late 1980s -- and touching on her design philosophy. In particular, she states that her designs ought not "overwhelm your body; the garment should flatter you"; and she strives to embody a sense of adventure, interesting details and elegance in her garments. Because Karapetyan believes that what one wears reflects one's personality or mood, she divides the patterns into four sections based on the mood they reflect: Spirited, Playful, Demure and Driven (or Determined; it's called on thing in the intro and table of contents, and another on the chapter heading).
Chapter 1 contains six designs, all intended to personify "spiritedness." The Flamingo "capelet" looks like a shrug to me, or a cropped cardigan, with a tie front:
It features good schematics and an interesting stitch pattern, and is styled more like a sweater rather than usual shrug (i.e. a rectangle with the ends sewn together for sleeves). Two of the designs in this section feature ruffles: a black cardigan with a mohair ruffle, and a sleeveless top with a prominent ruffle around a scoop neck (not my favorite design in the book). The mesh shawl
is pretty, but don't look for lace -- or laceweight yarn; it's knit in Karabella Aurora Bulky with a gauge of 2.5 sts per inch in a dropped-stitch pattern. The dress in this chapter is sleeveless, done in cotton in a Barbara Walker stitch pattern. The last pattern in this section is also called a shrug (maybe because shrugs were all the rage when this book was in production?) but could easily be called a "cardigan" as well; it features one-piece construction with clever shaping and a wide collar.
Here's a shot of the back to give you another sense of the shaping and construction.
Chapter 2 is "Playful," and features a cable-knit hat and scarf set; another shrug or cropped cardigan with wide lapels; a hot little black dress with lace trim;
a cap-sleeve turtleneck with a moss diamond stitch pattern; and a sleeveless cotton sweater with lacy leaves going up the front and sides, to form a turtleneck. Again, clever construction and interesting use of stitch patterns (if personally unwearable for me).
Last in this section is a long-sleeved top with what Karapetyan calls "pleats" but which look like rows of picot edging to me.
The third section is "Demure," and includes a cable-stitch sweater with v-neck, a cabled cardigan knit with curved shaping to form the front; a simple pleated skirt (very schoolgirl uniform-ish); a seed-stitch cropped cardigan; a sweater with built-in neck tie; a turtleneck knit in a wavy ribbon-type stitch; a mohair scarf with huge ruffles at the bottom; a silk sleeveless turtleneck knit in a lace pattern; and another bulky cropped cardigan/shrug knit in one piece.
Last is "Determined," a.k.a. "Driven," with a Russian-style faux fur hat and scarf; a simple turtleneck with corded detailing; a red basketweave sweater, also a turtleneck;
a "trellis shawl" knit in simple mesh stitch with two yarns held together; an a-line jacket with huge (I mean HUGE) buttons;
a button-front sweater with a deep v-neck and cropped front; and a chartreuse sweater, using a wavy pattern stitch, with a leaf-shaped motif hitting at the bottom front (like an arrow pointing to your hoo-ha).
For those of you who weren't keeping track, that's approximately 4 cropped cardigans/shrugs; 4 cardigans; 5 sleeveless sweaters; 2 shawls; 1 cap-sleeve sweater; 7 long-sleeved sweaters; 2 dresses; 1 skirt; 2 hat/scarf sets; and 1 additional scarf.
I give high marks for the interesting shaping used in many of these designs; the extensive use of stitch patterns, including cables, lacy patterns and other textured stitches; a mix of fitted and slightly boxy designs; a variety of yarn gauges; and an overall sense of stylishness. Karapetyan obviously is intrigued by circular shaping in jackets; wide collars and lapels; turtlenecks; and ruffles, and there was a slight repetitiveness to some of these elements, particularly in the cropped cardi/shrug category. The book includes good schematics (necessary for many of the patterns featuring untraditional construction) and charts. My brief skim of the instructions suggested that they were well-written, but not having made any of the garments, I suppose time (and my readers) will tell. The patterns (excluding one-size-fits-most designs, like shawls) tend to be written for four sizes, either XS/S/M/L or S/M/L/XL, with finished size ranges generally written for 32, 35, 38, 41 inches. (Curiously, a garment with a 32-inch finished bust is called "XS" in one pattern and "S" in another.) Gauges are all over the map, and all the yarns shown are, of course, Karabella (although it wouldn't be difficult to substitute for many of them). Garment styles seem to run the gamut, including some set-in sleeves, some raglans, and so on, with an emphasis on turtlenecks.
Most of these would be challenging knits for rank beginners, although I personally feel that anyone can knit anything if they really want to. As with all pattern books, you'll have to decide if you like the designs enough to want to purchase the book and if you think they will flatter your body type and/or work with your wardrobe. But in a publishing world filled with the fast, the easy, the do-it-in-a-weekend, I say good for PotterCraft and Karapetyan for creating a book with interesting, complex designs that show a decided sense of style.
In honor of the late Boris Yeltsin, I say