Friday, 21 November 2014

A Head for Trouble

Today we're going to have a look at the newly released A Head for Trouble: What To Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders, by Julie Turjoman, AKA Ravelry user juliebean. The book is available on Amazon as well as via Ravelry, and I've also been authorized to offer a free e-book version of it on the Facebook page for this blog. I'll be picking a winner this Sunday, so be sure to pop over to the page if you want a chance to win the copy!

The book contains twenty patterns for hats and other accessories, each set of which was inspired by a specific character from a "lady detective" novel set in the 1920s, which is a fabulous concept for a knitting book. There is definitely something irresistible about the idea of a woman who can solve a murder and accessorize her outfits with style. Wouldn't we all like to either be or to date such a woman? Julie Turjoman provides biographical detail on each character as well as the name and the author of the book she is from. (Favourite detail: One character has a pet cheetah named Biscuit.) Given my love for both mysteries and 1920s and 1930s fashions, this concept is so on point that Turjoman may have hit one of my arteries.

My love of vintage style and detective stories was instilled in me at a young age. Back in the eighties I read the Nancy Drew books with the sixties-era yellow-spined cover designs, as exemplified by the The Secret of the Old Clock cover on the left. When, in my twenties, I first saw the original thirties cover art such as that on the right, I was very aggrieved. Why did I have to grow up with a flip-haired Nancy in prim little dresses when I could have been imagining her in clochés and thirties sportswear? Is there even a contest between these two covers in terms of style and visual interest? I think not. But let's get to the review.

The Daisy Cloche and Collar. I like the cloche on the whole, with its appliquéd beaded leaves and added emblem brooch, though I'm not liking that slightly unfinished-looking rolled brim. I'm not quite sure what to suggest in terms of an alternative, however. I'd perhaps add a full brim, borrowing the design from one of the other designs in this book. The collar is very pretty, even elegant. If the added scarf isn't to your liking, it can be left off completely as it's designed to be attached to the collar by way of slipping the scarf's loops over the cowl's snaps.

The Phryne Head Wrap and Wristlets. This set is quite fetching and looks like a good way to add some extra warmth while leaving a woman's hands free and her hair more or less unflattened, and how perfect is that little Art Deco silver brooch? (Though good luck finding one like it.) There might be better colour combinations for this set, though.

Kate Toque and Camera Bag. I love the toque, which is faultlessly stylish, but the camera bag (read: iPod cover) looks like something out of Knit Simple. I'd have designed the camera bag to more closely resemble the touque.

Georgiana Cloche and Scarf. I quite like this set. The hat has a good shape. It features another rolled brim, but this one is even and flattering. I like the idea of making embellishments by attaching a button to a crocheted flower. Julie Turjoman's eye for added embellishments is obviously very good, and adding things like brooches and buttons or other crafted touches is an excellent way to lend style to a knitted hat or other accessory. It's making me do some project planning regarding a certain vintage seed pearl and peridot brooch that's in my jewelry box and that I love but never seem to wear because I can't stand putting little brooch holes in my clothes.

The Verity Tam and Scarf. This is the most striking set of all those in this book and the one I would have chosen for the cover look. The tam is adorable and the scarf, which is practical because it will stay securely in place and not wind up in one's coffee, is so very thirties I half expect it come across it some old movie sometime. My one nitpick is those buttons, which aren't adding much to the look. I'd have found some buttons or beads that matched better, or left them off entirely.

The Jade Cap and Fingerless Mitts are perhaps the simplest and most easy to wear of all the accessory sets in the book, and they still have their share of style.

Mercy Cloche and Cuffs. Nice set. The hat has a very smart shape. The mitts can be worn flounce up or flounce down as you choose.

One modification I would make to this hat is close the slit in the back of the brim, because it makes the hat look like it's coming apart.

The Dandy Cap and Binoculars Bag. I'm anti-doily, so I can't sign off on the embellishments used here. I'd have gone with flowers, and done a more interesting shaped bag.

The Maisie Cloche and Driving Gloves. This set is one of my favourites in this book. The hat and gloves are both well-shaped and nicely detailed, and I particularly love the button tab detail on the driving gloves. They're perfect for driving your runabout off to the latest crime scene.

The Jasmine Pillbox and Scarf. Hmm. The ripple stripe here is more than a little afghan-y, and the embellishment doesn't quite work with it. The colours are good and the hat does look okay unembellished. I think I'd advise that if you want to stripe this hat, don't add anything too frou frou to it (i.e., buttons would be fine) and wear it with a parka, but if you do want to add a flower or a brooch and to wear it with a dressier coat, make the hat in a solid or at least merely variegated single yarn.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Slipping One Over on Your Furniture

If you have any shabby or inexpensive furniture sitting about that could do with a refresh or an upgrade, you might want to consider knitting them some sweaters. Making knitted slipcovers for furniture can be quite a lot easier and cheaper than reupholstering. I speak from experience, having reupholstered several pieces of furniture myself. In the case of one particular piece, a buttoned tub chair bought from Value Village for $15, it took me about $160 and about 30 hours of work to get the job done, and then I must have spent another 30 hours lying on the floor with my legs up on the couch in an effort to "recover" from the number I'd done on my back. Tailored slipcovers can look just as good as upholstery, and besides being easier and cheaper to make, they have the added advantage of being easily removed for laundering or replacement.

In today's post, we're going to look at some ideas and patterns for slipcovering and reupholstering furniture in knitting. The above photo is of the Sweet and Lowdown Chair, designed by Veronik Avery. The pattern is available for download for $5.50(USD). The knitting completely covers the original fabric seat and back and makes an fantastic looking piece that will look good as indoor or outdoor furniture. Knitted slipcovers for plastic patio furniture could be an idea to consider as well.

This Chair Cover pattern, designed by Amy Butler, was published in Farmhouse Knits, published by Rowan. It's a great way to turn a simple chair into something special. I bet there's a plain wooden chair under this slipcover.

This is the Aran Armchair Cover, designed by Erika Knight and published in Simple Knits with a Twist: Unique Projects for Creative Knitters. The main body of the chair is slipcovered (the ribbing at the bottom is a good way to keep the edge taut), while the seat cushion would have a zippered or buttoned knitted case on it. As you can see, this cat approves of the job, more or less.

This is an ottoman cover designed by Vogue Knitting. There's no pattern available, but VK does offer a helpful article on how to customize the project for your ottoman. There aren't that many slipcover patterns available, which is just as well because you will need to custom fit your slipcover knitting project to whatever piece of furniture you're working on.

This Union Jack piece is upholstered rather than slipcovered, but is so fantastic I just had to include it. It's a bespoke piece from Melanie Porter, a studio that does handmade furniture restoration and upholstering. Their gallery is well worth a look if you'd like some ideas and inspiration for fixing up your own furniture. There's no reason why a slipcover has to be neutral monochrome cables or moss stitch. I can easily imagine some fantastic fair isle or gradient designs, or cute picture knits for a child's room.

Using knitting as upholstery rather than as a slipcover is another do-able option if you feel like tackling a bigger and more involved project. Upholstering isn't that hard though it is a lot of work. I won't go into a lot of detail about how to do it here because there are sure to be excellent tutorials elsewhere on the web, but essentially, what you do is strip off the old upholstery, take it apart, use it as a pattern to cut (or knit) your new upholstery, and then put the item back together in much the same way as you found it when you took it apart. You will need some machine sewing skills, a sewing machine, and a few basic tools such as a screwdriver, grips, scissors, a hammer, and a heavy duty stapler. To get matching buttons such as those you see here, take some of your upholstery material to a upholstery shop and have them cover a set of buttons for you.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Cherish Garden

Check out the changing of the seasons and the activities of the little creatures in Cherish Garden, a lovely little stop animated short made by Miho Yata (YouTube user Yatamimation), whose wonderful work has previously appeared on this blog. Unfortunately I don't understand a word of the accompanying soundtrack, which is sung in what I presume to be Japanese, but perhaps one of my readers will be able and willing to provide a translation.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Cupcake Cowl and Other Knitting Fables

Jolene felt colour blocking required total commitment. Now she just needed to finish knitting the purse and hat that matched her outfit.

Dahlia had donned her newly finished cupcake cowl, patchwork skirt, and hair bow, and couldn't wait until her birthday party guests arrived. She'd show them how a birthday girl ought to dress.

Sylvie's trivet dress proved the showstopper of the student fashion show. As everyone told her, they'd never seen anything like it.

Ramon was beginning to wish he'd listened to his girlfriend's warnings about what might happen if he were to stuff too many woolen sweaters in the washer at one time, set the water temperature to "hot", and forget to use any fabric softener.

Zeb and Marissa felt love, and "his and her" knitwear, were all they needed. Pants were totally optional.

When Reuben tried on the dyed mop head sweater his girlfriend Tasha had made for his birthday he began to wonder if maybe it wouldn't be better to make some concessions in their ongoing conflicts about whether he did a fair share of the cleaning.

Nestrelda was very pleased with her new ensemble of hat, glasses, knitted rompers, knee socks, and bow-tied lace-edged blouse. She thought it perfectly in keeping with her personal style, which she liked to describe as "post modern bluestocking".

Harley's latest strategy for getting men to stop staring at her breasts involved what she liked to call "avant-garde tent poles".

Mae found it very aggravating that everyone kept complimenting her on her new cowl and decided she'd have to figure out a better way to anchor her new wig in place the minute she got home.

Colette and Dexter were disheartened to find that they had somehow got their strawberry/watermelon/eggplant/bumblebee: pom pom size ratio calculations all mixed up.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Noro Magazine Issue 5

Noro Magazine has published its fifth issue. Let's have a look at it, shall we?

A-Line Raglan Tunic. Nice stitchwork on the front of this one. I like it on the whole, though those three-quarter sleeves and the high neck aren't going to be for everyone. But then they are easily corrected.

Batwing Pullover & Cowl. I love the colours used here, but this design is going to swamp most women. I'd borrow the colourwork and use it to make some other pattern.

Bobble-and-Vine Mittens. Nice classic mittens.

Cabled Beret. This one has a rough, unfinished look, and the colours used here aren't doing it any favours.

Chevron Scarf. Beautiful texture in this scarf.

Color-shift Cowl. Pleasing texture and beautiful soft colours. I just want to reach out and touch this piece.

Colorblock Bag. Cute bag with a log cabin quilt-like effect. I'd find or make straps that went with it better, though.

Colorblock Fisherman's Sweater. Nice classic sweater, though I am not taken with the colours used here.

Convertible Button Cowl. Beautiful colours in this cowl. I don't know about the button styling though. I'd be inclined to just join the ends and make it a regular cowl.

Crew-neck Pullover. There's room in this pullover for a second model. I'd reshape this to fit.

Double-Crochet Cowl. Lovely. The colours are so beautiful.

Faux Cables Long Cardigan. A beautiful piece. Love both the colours and the style used here.

Garter Triangle Shawl. This isn't grabbing me. It looks rather roughly constructed and the colours aren't pleasing.

Garter Wave Scarf. This is something different, but I like it. It's possible to play with scarves and make a conceptual piece like this to an extent that isn't possible with clothing.

Gauntlets. Not sure I like the nubbly effect here, but these are well-shaped.

Heart Blanket. Adorable. The gradient colour effect really upgrades what would otherwise be too simplistic a concept.

Lace-and-Rib Socks. The design is nice enough, but I'm finding the colours used here a little loud, almost retina-searing.

Lacy Cuffs. I could perhaps get behind a design that involved attaching knitted cuffs and collar onto a sewn garment, but these add-ons are just silly.

One Cowl Three Ways. Not a bad looking cowl design. It sits well.

Oversized Cowl. Nice piece. Those colours would really work well with a black or gray winter coat.

Oversized Tunic. I love the cowl neckline and the colourway used here, but this would look so much better if it were standard fit with standard sleeves. Notice how the whole sweater is riding up because the model has her arm raised? That's not a good sign.

Oversized Vest. I have to wonder how this piece looks when the wearer isn't lunging in it. My guess is, not particularly good.

Pompom Beanie. Nice little cap.

Rectangular Poncho. This is innovative. It might work quite well on a woman who has a very modern dress style.

Relaxed Cardigan. I'd want to raise the dropped shoulders and make the sleeves full length, but then those are the only design features this otherwise very basic cardigan has.

Reversible Cowl. Beautiful. I love the subtle colours against the gray.

Ripple Scarf. Nice scarf. Texture and colour are both pleasing.

Side-To-Side Wrap. This one hits the trifecta. It's inventive, beautiful, and wearable.

Smocked Fingerless Mitts. Very cute. I like the little bow-tie effect of the smocking.

Striped-and-Textured Cowl. Pretty.

Traveling Stitches Socks. Nice socks. Love the colours used here.

Turtleneck. Quite like this one. The gray shoulders and neck really balance out all those colours and give this piece an adult, sophisticated look.

Twisted-stitch Earflap Beanie. Cute hat. Beautiful texture and colours.

Whirl Beanie. Not liking this one much. If I had it in my hands, I'd turn it inside out out in the hopes that I'm actually looking at the wrong side and the inside might be better.

Woven Cape. Very pretty piece. And it's very well styled. I can see it suddenly occurring to a number of the women who make this piece that they really must have a smart felt hat to go with it.

Wrap Front Pullover. This design looks like the result of a battle of wills between the knitter and the Noro. The knitter was determined to make a sweater; the Noro was determined to be a scarf. The unhappy compromise they reached is making the model look as though she wishes the helium balloons she's holding would carry her far, far, away, or at least to some other photo shoot.

Zigzag Lace Cowl. And we end well, with a simple yet pretty lace cowl.