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:

mekko_medium

(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.

Venetian Audrey modelled

IMG_6465In February, I finished knitting my Venetian Audrey sweater for Emma.  Since Emma was in Vancouver (and it wouldn’t fit me or Leah), I published a post with unmodelled shots.  Emma is now back home for the summer, so I am happy to be able to bring you some modelled photos.  (Lots of modelled pictures; this will be a photo-heavy post).

IMG_6476I blogged about this sweater quite a bit during both the planning and the knitting; you can find these posts here.  I actually found it quite nerve-wracking to knit this without Emma around to try it on.  As the sweater has a huge amount of negative ease built into it, and the ribbing makes it hard to measure properly, I spent many hours with a tape measure and a frown, trying to size it properly.

IMG_6492As you can see here, the fit is fabulous.  I must admit, however, that when I sent it to Emma, I hadn’t yet blocked it.  I wasn’t sure it needed it and didn’t want to make a mistake in the blocking; I really needed to see it on her before I could judge appropriately how much blocking it needed, if any. I was kind of annoyed that Emma didn’t send me any photos of her wearing it.  When she came home and I complained, she pointed out that she thought it perhaps had need of a little tweaking.  (Emma has very exacting tastes; on the other hand, she is invariably right about these things.) The sweater has really benefitted from a good block.  I didn’t stretch the ribbing out at all, but I pinned the lace out, and added a good three inches to the sleeves and two to the body.  (I knit the sleeves a few inches longer than the pattern called for, and then blocked them out even farther.  If you plan to knit this pattern, don’t be afraid to build in lots of negative ease, and add lots of length.)

IMG_6488As readers of this blog may recall, I re-wrote the pattern for this sweater.  First, the pattern as written is knit in pieces and seamed.  Though I don’t normally mind this type of construction, it really didn’t seem to make sense for Audrey.  So, I knit the pullover in the round, bottom-up; knitting the sleeves in the round on DPNs and then attaching them at the yoke, and knitting the yoke in one piece.

IMG_6491I also re-sized the pattern.  This is because, as I have pointed out here many times before, Rowan patterns run big.  If you think you are a size 12, you should knit your Rowan pattern in a size 8.  Since Emma is already at the smallest size, I had to do quite a bit of math to get the sweater to fit.

IMG_6470Audrey has beautiful shaping details.  The waist decreases, knit into the 2×2 ribbing, are gorgeous.  They are very architectural, with columns of ribbing moving in and out across the canvas of the sweater.

IMG_6490The yoke and neckline are also beautifully shaped.   The line of the neck is elegant, sweeping, striking.  The lace is subtle; it is a garter stitch lace, which gives it a lot of texture.  We blocked out the peaks of the lace pattern to give it an undulating edge.

IMG_6494Emma wears it here with jeans and heels, but it is easy to dress up or down.  Last year, I wrote a post about my original Audrey in which I showed how easy it is to style it in different ways, and also how flattering it is to many different body types; you can find that post here.

IMG_6515I knit mine in Rowan Calmer, but the sweater is much more elegant knit in the Madelinetosh DK.  The colour is very rich, and the ribbing controls the tendency to pool; I didn’t need to alternate skeins.

IMG_6526I  am really happy with this one.  I think the fit came out just right, I love the colour, the yarn is soft and warm, the style is sexy and classy, and it looks fabulous on Emma (even when caught on candid camera – hehe!).

IMG_6505

Style and age

Last week, the Guardian online published a list, with photos and commentary, on the 50 best-dressed over 50s.  This is a twist on standard best-dressed lists which tend to favor the young and beautiful, who can usually look good in anything:

“[w]hen youth and beauty are taken out of the equation, the best-dressed competition becomes a little fairer, and more interesting…. Beauty fades; style becomes more important….because style over 50 has a depth of character with which no youngster can compete, however good she may look in hotpants.”

This list is ostensibly not about beauty but about style (though many on the list are very beautiful).  It’s about finding a style that works for you, and then working it.   I can’t say I agree with all of their choices, but I love the fact that they are celebrating people who have confidence in the way they dress and the way they look as they age.

(I also like some of their snarky commentary.  On Judi Dench: “Owning the pixie cut since before Anne Hathaway was born”; on Carine Roitfeld: “The only woman on Earth who looks a bit like Iggy Pop, but in a good way”; on Nick Cave: “He always, always has one too many buttons undone on his shirt, but it works.”; on Kirsty Wark: “Proving night after night that, contrary to popular opinion, a woman who knows her Miu Miu from her Mulberry can, astoundingly, still have sufficient brainpower left over to be well informed on other important issues”.)

What really struck me, however, were comments from two women who made the list.  The first, from Iris Apfel, age 91:

“No amount of money can buy you style …If someone says, ‘Buy this – you’ll be stylish’, you won’t be stylish because you won’t be you. You have to learn who you are first and that’s painful.”

I think I’m still trying to learn who I am, and hope by the time I get to be Iris’ age, I’ve figured it out and can make it work.  (In the meantime, I’d love to sit next to Iris at a dinner party.)

The second comment was from Diana Athill, 95, a literary editor, novelist and memoirist.  She had the most sensible, honest insight into style and aging that I have yet heard:

“However old one is, one still feels inside like the person one used to be. It’s a foolish mistake to try too hard to look like that person, but it would be a bit sad to look very much like something else.”

I think this shows real wisdom.  I also think this balancing act is one that many women get wrong.  I know my fashion misses almost always come from trying to be who I used to be, or from not paying attention to who I am.  Style takes confidence and self-knowledge.   I’m going to try to take these words to heart, and to grow older with style and wisdom.