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Book Reviews Sept/Oct 2018

Book Reviews 


RRP £20.00 Colourway Price £18.00


      Rowan 40 is a glossy hardback which would make a memorable gift for any knitter this Christmas. In some ways it is a history book, because the designs featured go back across the past 4 decades, illustrating the trends and developments in fashion over those years. The list of designers' names is studded with stellar talents such as Jean Moss (doyenne of British couture knitwear in the '80's), fashion designer Amanda Crawford, the legendary Kaffe Fassett and dozens of other luminaries from Rowan's stable of in-house and independent designers. The introduction to the book includes a gorgeous gallery of all of the Rowan Knitting Magazine covers from first to most recent. Terri and I no longer have every single one on our library shelves, but near enough. Some sell for quite a bit as collectables but we've never had the heart to part with them and we still often get queries about a pattern from a really old book and pride ourselves on being able to help, even if it's just a missing comma in a thirty year old pattern which has brought progress to a frustrated halt.


Jean Moss Suit (left)


Kim Hargreaves Jacket (right)


Kaffe Fassett Dress (below)








        Despite some of these patterns being decades old there are no items in this collection which I would immediately label old-fashioned. As our Showcase section illustrates, the current knitwear trends are so many and varied that almost every fashion of the past 40 years is represented in the haute couture offerings for Autumn/Winter 2018-19. Fashion stories which are very predominant include the long cardigan coat (below far left), the massive slouchy jacket and its friend the massive slouchy sweater (2 centre pics), fine yarn knitted skirts (see the Jean Moss design above left) and the androgynous 1920's style classic fair-isle knitwear (below right).

      The book is split into two parts; the first archive section which has 20 patterns exactly as written uses many yarns which are no longer available, so we will be happy to suggest substitutes if you mail us. The second section is 20 patterns again, but this time they have been reworked in contemporary colours and yarns. What is rather nice is the inclusion in this part of the original design pictures as well as the contemporary version. For me it is a matter of personal taste whether I prefer the original to the revamped version, but that varies from design to design...and sometimes from minute to minute!

      Although each section tells you from which magazine the design is derived, it would have been lovely to have a bit more biographical detail about the designers themselves and perhaps the occasional anecdote from the days when Rowan was just  getting its foot onto the ladder in the industry and establishing its quality and design led credentials.  Other than the complete lack of menswear, (something driving me bananas about the most recent Rowan Knitting and Crochet Magazines), I can find no other faults with this lush collection and would recommend it for knitters of all abilities. Every effort has been made to include stylish designs from basic garter stitch creations to those which require an eye-watering but deeply satisfying expenditure of time, effort and ability.

       Got all the basics                Cabling up a storm                  Beginners luck                     Only the brave


Pale by Kim Hargreaves

RRP 19.25 Colourway price 17.33


click on cover picture for 'buy now' button and shots of all designs

      Kim Hargreaves is one of those designers really loved by us more mature knitters. It's a bit like sex, the longer you've been doing it the more you appreciate those special little touches which are the equivalent of the icing on the cake (if I can mix my metaphors). Those little unexpected touches of finesse which keep the process fresh and interesting even if it's the fiftieth sweater you've knitted in the past ten years. I always describe her patterns as modern classics because although they make classy wardrobe staples for years to come, they have those unexpected little touches which catch the eye and immediately scream 'designer' rather than 'high street'.

     Arctic Circle shades for those who prefer a cool Yule  

Pale is based on the ethereal colour palette of the frozen north, perfect for those of us looking  for winter season women's wear  which avoids the loud, the scarlet and green, the robins and the jingle bells. If your style is log fires, candles, luxurious and glamorous textures and a frosty cool palette  then this is the collection for you. 

      Kim is no fool; this collection hits all of the fashion trend buttons, with outdoorsy-knits tending towards the large and loose while those destined to keep you looking effortlessly elegant as you sip champagne and nibble smoked salmon blinis are generally  delivered in finer yarns with body conscious silhouettes. There are several big baggy cardigan jackets, one of which even cleverly offers this season's hottest 'animal print' look but in wintry Snow Leopard shades (below left). The body-conscious indoor look is wittily combined with the drive to more covered-up styling which is a major theme since the Me Too campaign, alongside the asymmetric and wrapped trends. Find all of them in the same cleverly constructed design Modest (below centre). And if you want to buck the trend for multiple baggy layers or slim fitting cover up elegance, the fluffy off-the-shoulder sweater is the big festive season story for those who, while not wanting to let it all hang out, don't mind flashing a little bit when the lights go down and the temperatures come up (see Soft below right).

Absolutely on trend without being next year's 'been there done that' designs. Cutting edge classics.


      There's no doubt that this collection contains all that one would expect from Kim, her trademark complex cables for rich luxurious textures, and her eye for a fashion tend without becoming a slave to it. Her simpler knits for less advanced knitters lean heavily on the quality of the yarn and the clean lines and are an object lesson in how to design for those who are less skilled, to give them the encouragement of a successful project and the incentive to try something a little more complex next time. I think my only problem with this collection is the very limited nature of the palette, I like my greys and whites but the palest of blues, greens and frosted lilacs would also work so well. As always, very cool and chic but just maybe a little more fun next time Kim.. and some more menswear, men's knits have never been so fashionable or so varied and have you never heard of the boyfriend sweater for goodness sake?!  Only kidding (mainly), this one is joining all the other Kim titles on my 'grown up and classy' bookshelf.

EASY ARAN KNITS by Martin Storey

RRP 14.99  Colourway Price £13.49

      Martin Storey is a designer who has worked with and for Rowan for many years, a talented and probably under-appreciated knitter and designer who can turn his hand to all styles and aspects of the craft. However, the designs I have always loved the most are his Aran knits, whether garments, accessories or some of his lovely Hygge style soft furnishings. Recently his books have focused on the skills needed to create richly textured knitted fabrics commonly described as Aran, and more generically as cable knits. This latest title follows on to offer patterns which enable you to use those skills, but in projects where simple stylish shaping allows the less confident knitter to focus predominantly on the stitch patterning.


Above, Simple shaping (in other words no shaping at all) on three projects, start with the cushions to develop confidence then take a deep breath and try the wrap/throw. Lovely individual gifts or a stunning collection for a wedding present perhaps?  These will work with any decorating style.

      Accessories are another excellent way to use Aran knitting  in small non-scary and practical projects which give practice when it comes to shaping; or alternatively garments like waistcoats where sleeves are omitted entirely reducing the need to shape and pattern simultaneously. The slightly sloppy shaped hat is a favourite this year and is a great Christmas present project. Imagine your confidence after you've knitted one for most of your family members, by the last one you'll probably be playing with the pattern and customising it without a thought! A waistcoat is a larger task, but one that could be completed before the coldest weather arrives, and is a perfect extra layer under a coat, or inside when central heating makes a cardigan or sweater that wee bit too warm. 

Slouchy his/her cabled hat                         Classic Aran Scarf                         Simply shaped poncho/jacket


      Obviously the more confident that you are working with Aran patterns and handling a cable needle in addition to the basic pair, the sooner you will be ready for what is probably what made you want to learn to knit in this style in the first place, the gorgeous, traditional but endlessly fashionable Aran sweater or cardigan. The details you will find on Martin's versions are what really get my juices flowing, lovely decorative framing and super textured fillings to the shapes created by the cables will still be a source of pleasure when it has been worn to death for ten years and relegated to a Sunday morning (with slippers on) vintage favourite or a gardening sweater,

Gorgeous Unisex Aran Sweater and Cardigan - the ultimate reason to master Aran knitting













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