The return of the dress

I spend an inordinate amount of time checking out new knitting patterns.  I pay attention to trends, see what’s happening with colour and shape.  I have a favorites list where I keep track of anything I especially like.  This includes things I would like to knit, things I would love to wear, things that would look good on my daughters, men’s knits, garments that I think are interesting or arresting or different, knits that utilize interesting construction details, etc.  This week I noticed that the two garments I had just favorited were both dresses.

The first was the Bryn Mawr dress by Alex Capshaw-Taylor (of worldknits), published in the latest issue of Interweave Knits:

CapshawDress1_medium2I think that this is gorgeous.  I want to knit it; I want to wear it.  I really love this dress.  It jumped right away onto my “Must Knit” list.

The second dress is one that combines a really tailored look with some positive ease.  It has very sophisticated details, like in the saddle shoulders and colour blocking, and a gorgeous line, but also looks so comfortable.  This was knit by RIlilie (here is a link to the Ravelry project page).  She has knit two of them, one in lime and cream and the other shown below, that are prototypes for the pattern which will be released in September.  This would look great on either one of my daughters, but they might have to fight me for it. Rililie’s blog, knittingtherapy, can be found here.

copyright rililie

copyright rililie

I love the ease of this.  It is knit with a wool and cotton blend and has such great drape.  I could see wanting lots of these in your summer wardrobe.  All you need is a strappy pair of sandals (flats, nonetheless) and you’re set.

Then, the new issue of Twist Collective was published, and once again, I noticed a cute dress:

ossel_z_500_medium2This is Ossel, by Alison Green.  It reminds me so much of a dress that I knit for myself in the early 80s with all-over cables.  Knit in worsted weight yarn, with cables within cables and  a moss stitch background, it should be chunky, but as you can see from the back, this one is clingy and sexy:

ossel_b_500_medium2So, what’s going on?  Is the dress really making a comeback among knitters?  Ravelry has a feature in its Patterns section, where you can enter a common category, like “socks” and it will tell you the top 100 patterns that are trending in this category.  I frequently type in something (like “cardigan” or “fingerless mitts”) and see what the top patterns are.  I noticed long ago that this doesn’t work well for the category “dress”. Why?  Because if you do, virtually all of the top 100 dress patterns are for babies and toddlers.  Apparently, knitters knit dresses mostly for the under-3 crowd.  (There is an advanced search option, but that misses the point I am making here.)  I tried this yesterday and there were only 7 adult dresses among the top 100.  These included Still Light (#3), Caviar (#25) and Allegheny (#48) which are all discussed below.  The other four are either beach cover-ups or tunics.  Despite this evidence, there are some knockout patterns for knitted dresses being released.  Here I present a selection of dress patterns released within the past few years that have caught my eye.  (There are tons more, so please run your own search too.)

Still Light, by Veera Välimäki  of Rain Knitwear, is a very popular pattern.  As of today there are 1456 Still Light projects on Ravelry.  The original pattern, shown below, is knit in alpaca, but this has been knit in every imaginable yarn and in many different lengths.  It has an interesting and unusual shape and is really a great, throw-something-on-to-walk-to-the-shops kind of dress.  Easy and comfortable but still fun.

DSC_8469_small2I love the Caviar dress, by Yoko Johnston.   If I was a few decades younger, I would knit this in a minute.  I think it is adorable, and at the same time looks so comfortable and wearable that you could live in it:

IMG_6854_medium2_mediumThe Allegheny dress, by Thea Coleman, published in Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People 1, is a great classic office dress.  It has lovely features including a chunky, assymetrical cable, fake belt detail, and a cowl collar:

JJF-9908_medium2Kirsten M. Jensen is a colourwork master.  I love her knitting, and her way with colour and pattern is amazing.  (Her Sant’Angelo sweater is a masterpiece; I aspire to it. Some day when I grow up I want to knit like her.)  She designed the cute Mekko dress which is “inspired by the Marimekko designer Annika Rimala and her iconic graphic designs as well as the mod styles of the 1960s.”  I love it:


(I showed this post to Doug and Mekko was his favorite.  Do you think this is because it is so short?  Or, do you think it’s because he can remember the 60s and it makes him nostalgic.  Hmm….)

Another dress that recently caught my attention is Icon, by Kari-Helene Rain of Purl Alpaca Designs:

icon_stunning_knitted_dress_knitting_kit_medium2I think this has lovely lines, and I love the way it flows.  I would definitely not make it in alpaca, however, as in the photo, nor in a natural coloured yarn.   I can picture this in a beautiful silk blend hand-dyed yarn in a vibrant jewel shade.  Red, anyone?

Emma loves the dress pattern called 50 Shades: Ash, designed by Allison Hendrix.  This has very similar lines to the Icon dress, but is distinguished by its deep, plunging back.

IMG_7895_medium2I think I would have some problems with all of those buttons down the back.  They may be hard to sit on, but there is no denying they look really cute.  It is a young, stylish, sexy dress with lots of swing.

The very talented Sarah Wilson of The Sexy Knitter has two dress designs that I really admire.  First, is the Principesa dress, which I have showcased on this blog before:

IMG_0836_medium2It also has a sexy, plunging back.  The front of this dress is really classy, however.  It is a great combination, with a stylish front view and a sexy back:

IMG_0854_medium2At my age, I love the classiness of the front view, but have troubles with the undergarment question.  What could you wear under this?  So although Emma is drawn to this for it’s plunging back, I could easily see knitting it for myself with a back that matched the front.  It would be uber-elegant and clingy.  In a totally different vein, Sarah designed the absolutely fabulous dress Miss Holloway, inspired by Mad Men and vintage 60s style:

photo copyright Emily Brewer

photo copyright Emily Brewer

Another fabulous pattern is Audrey Totter, designed by Kristen Hanley Cardozo of Knitting Kninja:

6217788390_23d6aacba8_zI think this is so elegant and beautiful.  I love the gauzy scarf, which makes a really dramatic statement, but I’ve noticed knitters making it without; as you can see, the dress has gorgeous lines by itself.  Thus you can make this as a wonderfully fitted but simple shell, or add the scarf for a real statement piece.  (I do know if I wore this, the scarf would get tangled around my legs as I walked; I would love to wear it to lounge against my collection of vintage cars, though – I wish!)

Another really cute dress pattern using colourwork is the Woodstock dress by Heather Dixon:

web_50c1302_medium2I think this is a great office dress.  I love the striped side panels, and also the little shock of colour at the pocket linings.   I would, however, make this in a yarn with less of a halo; I think it deserves a crisper silhouette.

I am going to end this post with a dress I simply adore.  This is the Katie Summer Dress by Andrea Rangel:

DSC_0283_medium2This is a fabulous dress!  Look at the back:

DSC_0284_medium2Wow, if only I had beautiful, toned arms like this model, I would never take this dress off! Andrea Rangel is a fairly new designer who is creating some really cute and clever designs.  She is really someone to keep an eye on.

So, is this the beginning of a strong new trend in knitted fashion?  I don’t know, but I sure hope so.

Too many beautiful patterns to choose from

Sometime last winter I went into London shopping with the aim of buying some yarn to knit a sweater for me.  I went armed with a list of sweaters I was interested in and their various yarn requirements.  I also went with Emma, which means that I left the shop without any yarn for me, but with a pile of absolutely luscious Madelinetosh DK for Emma:


Ever since then, we have been trying to pick a suitable sweater to knit with this yarn.  Not a week goes by when I don’t email Emma with a link to a sweater pattern and the query “How about this one?”  Sometimes, I think we are close to making a decision.  But somehow, we never seem to find the one.  Since the end of the year is upon us, I have been looking back over the year’s knitting and have discovered that I have not knit a single sweater for Emma all year (egads!).  Plus, Emma is flying home for Christmas and will only be here for two weeks before she must fly back for the start of term.  This means we have to decide now!  I want to be swatched and ready to go when she gets here.

So, what are our criteria?

  1. The sweater has to be right for this weight yarn (DK) and I must have enough of it (I have 1030 metres).
  2. It has to meet Emma’s strict style criteria.
  3. Because the yarn is slightly variegated, a simple, not-too-busy sweater will show off the yarn best.
  4. It has to be something I want to knit (after all, I knit because it is fun; if it’s not fun, I don’t want to knit it).

Every week, our options change, but I thought I would show you some of the ones I am considering at the moment.  (Emma, are you reading this?)

First, there is Sotherton.  This was the first sweater that Emma picked out for the yarn, many months ago, but we have been wavering about it ever since.


Sotherton is designed by Kathleen Dames, and is in the Summer 2012 edition of Jane Austin Knits by Interweave Press.  I don’t really know why I have been wavering about it.  Most of the time I think it is just beautiful.   Part of the problem has to do with the reverse stockinette, which of course forms the background to the cables.  I am not convinced that reverse stockinette is the best canvas for this yarn.  Part of it has to do with the shaping – this is the kind of sweater that must be fitted exactly right; if you screw up anywhere in the shaping, it will show and it won’t look good.  Emma and Leah very kindly point out that I am good at this kind of sweater fitting, but it also means that I would have to knit it up very fast as fitting is much easier when you can fit it directly to the recipient.

Another one I really like is Low Tide Ripples, designed by Suvi Simola, for Twist Collective.


This one takes a very basic shape and adds some pretty features.  I think the cuffs are cute and distinctive, the zigzags show up nicely on the stockinette background, and I like the shoulder shapings.  This pullover is designed to be a little roomier, with a comfortable shape that makes it great with jeans.   Nonetheless, it is a very grownup and elegant version of a simple crew neck pullover.

One of the things that Emma has been mentioning frequently these days, is that she is cold.  It rains all the time in Vancouver, and the winters are dark and grey and gloomy and wet.  Emma wants some warm, cozy clothes.  That makes me think maybe the best use of this yarn is as a cardigan, rather than a pullover.  For cardigans, I think my top candidate at the moment is Dark and Stormy, designed by Thea Colman of Baby Cocktails.  Here is a photo of the back:

dark and stormy 1

and here is a photo of the front:

dark and stormy 2

I like everything about this design.  If Emma doesn’t want it, I will definitely make it for myself sometime down the line.  It looks like the type of cardigan which you could live in.  I particularly like the shawl collar.

Another one on my list is the Wrapped pullover, designed by atelier alfa:


I think this is ultra cool.  It is different, it is fun, it has attitude.  This is another one I could see making for myself.  I am not sure how it would look with a variegated wool, however; the pattern is very strong, and should stay that way.  You want the cables to make a statement; a variegated wool will make it stand out less.

Just this week, as I was putting together this post, Ruth Garcia-Alcantud of Rock and Purl, published a new sweater design, Echoes of Winter:

echoes of winter

I met Ruth at Knit Nation in 2010, when we both took a design course taught by Shirley Paden.  At the time, Ruth was hoping to become a sweater designer.  She now has many designs published in some great places.  For some reason, Echoes of Winter reminded me of Emma.  It could be because it’s very fitted, and Emma can really rock this look.  I also think it would look great in this yarn.  I do think that if I were to make this one, however, I would shorten it by an inch or two.

The Dragonflies Jumper, designed by Joji Locatelli, is another good one.


I would definitely make it as a turtleneck, however.  This jumper has a very pretty cable pattern, that does indeed look like dragonflies, and a nice simple shape.  There are many lovely versions of it popping up on Ravelry.  I think it would be warm and cozy.  I would need to swatch the dragonfly pattern first and make sure it popped enough in this yarn, but I think it’s a nice simple sweater with some flair.

Hannah Fettig has designed so many great, classic sweaters; a number of them were in competition for a place on this list.  I am leaning towards the Lapis Yoke sweater, from the Fall 2010 edition of Knitscene:


I think this is a really classic shape done really well.  If you are on Ravelry and you want to see what inspired me to put this on my list, go check out FeyaPL‘s version of this.  It is made with Madelinetosh DK and is absolutely gorgeous.

Another option is the Isis Tailcoat:


This is designed by Keri-Helene Rane for Purl Alpaca Designs.  This is designed for and knit with alpaca, which gives it a nice rustic look, but done in the Madtosh DK, I think it would be very chic and sophisticated.   It doesn’t look as toasty warm as some of the other designs; but it has a nice shape to it.

Last, but not least, is the Jewel Lake pullover:

5816113452_930c29def8_zI really love this one and it has been in my queue for a long time, targeted for Emma.  (It is so clearly an Emma sweater!)  The designer is Kristen Hanley Cardozo from the Knitting kninja.   This one is designed for worsted weight, not DK weight, so would take a bit of mathematical manipulating; then again, math is what keeps a knitter’s brain young!  This sweater is so beautiful (and I love the photo).  Imagine that you could change the ribbon according to your mood: black velvet, red lace, etc.  The only drawback (besides the math) would again be the warmth factor; with it’s bare neck and 3/4 sleeves it’s not exactly toasty.  Remember, Emma is cold over there in Vancouver.

I could continue to add other patterns for hours, but I think I’ll stop now.  What a terrible problem to have, don’t you think?  Absolutely gorgeous yarn sitting around, and too many beautiful pattern to choose from.  Now all I need is for Emma to make up her mind!