All right, everyone, after an incredibly hectic two months or so, I'm back. I have finished my patterns and garments for the book -- and even got a sneak peek at the cover, which looks amazing -- and I've finished my sweaters for Reynolds, and right now I'm going to fiddle around with finishing some projects that have been lying around for a while, and starting a mindless but long overdue sweater for me, and dyeing until my fingers are rainbow-colored.
But since it's been way too long, let's roll out the new school year with a No-Bull Book Reviewtm of Knitting Classic Style: 35 Modern Designs Inspired by Fashion's Archives by Véronik Avery.
Regular readers know that Véronik Avery is one of my favorite designers and that I have quite the knitting crush on her. Regular readers also know of my admiration for the aesthetic of Melanie Falick, former Interweave Knits editor who is presently in charge of her own imprint of craft books at the publishing house Stewart Tabori and Chang. (We'll just forget Punk Knits ever happened, shall we, Mel?) Every once in a while, the knitting stars fall into the perfect alignment and wonderful things happen: such is Knitting Classic Style, born of Avery's talented design skills and Falick's eagle eye.
Knitting Classic Style is a hardcover, about 144 pages, with a MSRP of $27.50. Although I personally feel the book is worth every penny paying full freight, you can score it for $18.15 by clicking on the above link (at least as of the time of this writing). The book includes about 35 designs, mainly for women but with a handful for men and kids; most are sweaters, with a few accessories. The book contains numerous color photographs, shot with great style (by Sara Cameron) at various sites in and around Montréal. The book has a pleasing aesthetic, with models that are attractive (in the case of a certain actor-gentleman, with a smoldering sensuality) yet evoke a real-person feel. The type is easy to read, the pages sturdy. You'll enjoy leafing through the book as much as you will knitting from it.
The book begins with a charming introduction, paying homage to Avery's love of fashion: "I adore fashion. Costume history, fashion photography, sociological and anthropological works -- everything about fashion fascinates me." Her love of fashion comes through loud and clear, as she draws inspiration from such diverse influences as a Victorian corset cover, Elizabethan ruffled collars and Japanese obi, as well as more traditional sources of knitting inspiration -- Setesdal sweaters, twin sets, fisherman's sweaters -- in creating these contemporary yet classic designs.
As for patterns, the book is divided into four sections. First up is "Fashion Mavens," which draws inspiration from pieces that have, as Avery describes it, "made an impact on women's fashion throughout history." We see a patterned "corset cover" (you can wear it as a tank-type top or like a vest over another shirt);
a shell which uses knitting on the bias for shape and interest; a drawstring silk bag; a lace wrap cardigan; a twinset (with cabled cardigan and short-sleeve turtleneck with a geometric motif); a girl's A-line jacket; and a beret modeled on Basque headgear.
The second section is called "Tomboys," and was inspired by the influence of menswear. This section contains a his-and-her set of cardigans in rib stitches; the cover sweater, an aran knit from the top down with a decidedly untraditional fit; a silk tie; a child's pullover; argyle socks; an argyle vest;
a mohair scarf; and a military-inspired double-breasted jacket.
"Global Travelers" features designs inspired by ethnic and folk traditions around the world. You'll find beaded wristlets, bulky Afghan-inspired slipper-socks (hey, they'd make a great contribution to Afghans for Afghans or Children in Common, though you might not want to give them away), lovely lace socks with a split toe (for wearing sandals or thongs); a lovely shawl inspired by Orenburg lace; a scarf reminiscent of a Japanese obi; a patterned sweater inspired by Faroese fishermen's sweaters; Latvian fingerless mitts (oh, the colors! in 5 shades of Reynolds Whiskey);
long woolen gloves with a patterned cuff; a giant poncho.
Last is "Thrill Seekers," with styles that grew out of twentieth-century sporting attire. This section includes bicycle socks (with multiple versions); a fair isle cardigan (with set-in sleeves! Yahoo!);
a lovely yoked ski sweater-cardigan; a layered top; a hoodie with Setesdal colorwork; a zipped vest; a tuque (a traditional Quebecois hat); and a vest inspired by 1920s knit swimsuits.
Reviewing Avery's book is kind of eerie for me: it seems that all of the factors that I look for she has covered. Clear schematics and charts (in color)? Check. Skipping the "how to knit" pages in favor of more patterns? Check. Gorgeous photography that also clearly shows the garments' shaping and details? Check. Wide range of gauges and fibers? Check. (Everything from fingering weight to chunky, in wool, llama blend, cotton, silk and more.) Generous size ranges? Check. (Some patterns go down to size 32 and one to 29 1/2 inches finished chest; most go beyond 40-42 inches, many extending to 2XL sizes in the 50-odd inch ranges.) Patterns that are interesting to knit and yet very wearable? Check. Patterns featuring more-than-stockinette, including cabling, colorwork and lace? Check.
Holy crap: someone's finally been paying attention to my humble book reviews!
All you who grumble about books devoted Quik-N-EZ Patterns to Whip Out In A Weekend, those who love non-boxy shapes and an eye for color, knitters who regularly find Interweave Knits and Rowan/RYC a favorite source for patterns: Git yer butts to yon bookstore and get this book. I daresay most knitters will find something, and probably several somethings, that they'll want to knit from its lovely pages.
To Véronik, I say "Merci mille fois!"
Now let's get cracking on the sequel.