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.

Following the crowd

I have never been good at following the crowd. While my friends drooled over Jane Austen, I was obsessed by Edith Wharton and Henry James.  When the whole world was disco dancing, I was busy folk dancing.  At college, when ripped jeans and tank tops were de rigeur, I was in skirts and heels.  When I had to travel to Barcelona or Bilbao to buy a cute dress at Desigual, I was so there; now that I can buy it on the high street in my local town (or, God forbid, on Amazon) it has lost much of its appeal.

When I was young, knitting was not a cool thing to do, not by a long shot.  I took my knitting everywhere.  Now, however, knitting is trendy.  I still find myself reluctant to follow the crowd, but I am not about to put down my needles and take up book binding just to buck the trend.  These days, with knitting, this rebelliousness asserts itself in my reluctance to jump on trends.  As an example, I have never knit a sock, though for a few years sock knitting was THE thing.  I even went to a three-day sock knitting workshop (an expensive one), where I managed to finish a sweater, cast on a skirt, and knit about 2″ of a sock.  I can be wildly excited about something, but as soon as I realize that everyone else is doing it, my enthusiasm tends to wane.  Yes, I know, this is terribly infantile.

following the crowd

This is a rather roundabout way of introducing my topic: the Colour Affection Shawl, by Vera Välimäki (pictured above).   This shawl was originally a collaboration between the designer, Veera, and Sarah Dimond of The Plucky Knitter.  The yarn was produced by Sarah as a kit and sold with the pattern.  For the first few months, the pattern was only available as part of a kit.  Sarah is known for her sense of colour and her ability to put together interesting combinations.

I saw the pattern on a forum, which announced that Sarah had put together 20 or so different colour combinations, and that these would be put up for sale at a particular time on the internet.  I looked at my watch; they would go on sale in minutes.  I could tell from the forum, and from what I knew of The Plucky Knitter, that they would sell out instantly.  I would be lucky to get one.  I had barely any time to choose a kit.  I looked through the options, picked one out, and then asked Emma which she liked.  She picked out the same one, Parlour Games, I figured that was a sign, the sale went live, I pulled out my credit card and snagged a kit.  I later found out that I was in a lucky minority.  Hundreds of unhappy knitters missed a chance; they truly did sell out almost instantly.  Sarah went on to put up another round of kits, and then another.

I wrote a post when I got the yarn, so pleased by the absolutely beautiful colours.  Here is a photo Emma took:

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I had a few projects on the go at the time, so I waited a bit to start knitting.  Then, I encountered a bit of a snag.  I decided to wind the yarn into balls.  I do all of my winding by hand.  I started with the pink yarn. (The colours are called Faded Grandeur, Elegant Elephant and En Vogue, but for the purpose of this post, they will be green, grey and pink.)  This was also around the time that I had an issue with colour bleeding in a different project, which I discussed in this post.  This was a sweater knit in a slip stitch pattern in red and white.  The red dye bled and the project was useless.  I ended up throwing it away.  I realized belatedly that I should have washed the pink yarn, while it was still skeined, to make sure that all of the dye was released.  Once I had it balled, I couldn’t wash it, and I was very reluctant to re-skein it for the purpose of washing.  This is a long way of saying, that I began to fret about whether the pink would bleed, and so once again put the Colour Affection shawl on hold.

Now, while this was going on, the shawl began to be very popular.  Sarah couldn’t produce enough kits to meet demand.  Then, the pattern was made available independently and knitters started knitting it in lots of different yarns as well.  Some knitters made 5 or 6 or 7 of them.  I began to lose my interest.  And all of this was before Stephanie Pearl-McPhee stepped into the picture.  Yes, the famous Stephanie of the Yarn Harlot, knit blogger extraordinaire, wrote a post about the popularity of the Colour Affection Shawl at a knit workshop she had attended, and before you could say boo, thousands of knitters were making it.  I think this is great for Veera, who makes lovely designs, and great for Sarah, who makes lovely yarn.  However, it immediately made my infantile inner knitter say “I don’t want to make that.”  Why, oh why, do I do this?  Wouldn’t it be more sensible to think “Thousands of knitters can’t be wrong.”  But the honest truth is, the more Colour Affections (CAs) I saw on the internet, the less I wanted to make them.

It may not just be it’s popularity which has cooled my interest; I am astonishlingly fickle.  However, as the number of CAs on Ravelry fast approaches 10,000 (yes, 10,000 – you go, Veera!)  I find myself searching for some other use for the yarn.  Now that I am knitting with Plucky yarn for the first time (for my Neon cardigan), I am even more determined to find a good pattern for these three beautiful skeins.  I have thought about using them separately, for example knitting a pair of mitts from the pink, and maybe a cowl with the green and grey, but one of the things that attracted me to this kit in the first place is how great these three look together.  So, for the benefit of my curious readers, here are my current options (those of you who are not curious, can stop reading here – though you would miss some pretty photos.)

I love the pattern Pop Spots by Juju Vail.  It is becoming popular as well, though not quite on the same scale (yet) as the CA.

pop-006_medium2I have thought of making this in the grey, with pink spots and a green border.  This pattern is one of those rare ones that Emma and I disagree on.  Emma doesn’t like it and thinks it’s too old for me.  I have seen some great ones, in terrific colours, and find the spot pattern really appealing.  On reflection, however, I think I prefer the Pop Spots in a softer yarn with a bit of a halo.

Veera had published a new pattern, which being new has not yet taken off like the CA, which I think is very cute:

happy-street-2_small2This one is called Happy Street.  I would knit it in the grey, with the stripes in the green and pink.  You can see why Veera’s shawl patterns are so popular; she uses colour and garter stitch and simple shapes to great effect.  In fact, my very first post on this blog was to show off my Stripe Study shawl, a Veera design.

There are two other shawl patterns that I think would look fabulous with this yarn.  Each of them uses four colours of yarn, however, instead of three, so I would have to obtain another skein (probably in a darker grey).  One is called All the Shades of Truth by Laura Aylor, and I think it is stunning:

Pattern_photo_3_medium2 It is beautiful in these neutral colours, but imagine it in the fabulous grey, green and pink I have, with deep charcoal borders.  So simple, but so beautiful.  Laura first attracted my attention years ago with her Lizard Ridge blanket pattern; lately, she is making so many beautiful things.  Please go check her out.

The other pattern is called Eden Prairie and is designed by Nancy Whitman.  This one was inspired by a piece of Prairie-style stained glass:

EP_on_wall_medium2Well, dear readers, what do you think?  Should I ignore my rebellious inner voice and knit the Colour Affection?  Should I knit one of these other lovely shawls?  Should I hold out for another pattern down the line?  Also, if anyone has experience with Plucky yarns, should I re-skein the pink yarn and wash out the dye?

Hello, Arleen

In this recent post, called “Goodbye, Levenwick”, I showed photos of my poor, departed Levenwick cardigan.  Despite my love for the pattern, it didn’t fit, it looked sloppy, the fabric bunched and I never wore it.  When I discovered a moth hole in it, I took my scissors and started to rip.  Well, it’s Goodbye Levenwick….Hello Arleen:

IMG_6212Arleen is a simple T-shirt pattern designed by Dona Knits (Ravelry link here).  I was in the mood for a fast, simple knit and this fit the bill.  I didn’t even have to knit a gauge swatch since it has the same gauge as Levenwick, so as soon as I finished ripping, I cast on and started knitting.

IMG_6209Arleen is a top-down raglan, knit in the round.  I made three small modifications.  FIrst, I didn’t like the way the pattern makes the raglan increases (with a kfb, kbf), so I used M1, k1, slip marker, k1, m1.   This makes a much neater raglan, at least for me.  Second, the pattern says to start waist decreases at 7 inches after the sleeve separation.  I don’t know about you, but I am considerably higher waisted than that; I started the waist decreases at 4″.  Then, I made an extra set of waist decreases, offset by an extra set of hip increases.  This makes a lovely, shapely sweater, that is not too fitted.

IMG_6197This T-shirt took me 12 days from start to finish, including blocking.  I am sure there are knitters out there who could whip it out in a couple of days.  If you are looking for something fast, cute and comfortable, this definitely fits the bill.  (Another plus, the pattern is available for free.)

However, the very best thing about this sweater is that it perfectly matches my Stripe Study Shawl:

IMG_6220

This shawl was the topic of my very first blog post in October 2011.  It was desiged by the talented Veera Välimäki.  I knit it with two skeins of Wollweise “Pure” 100% Merino Superwash.  I don’t seem to have recorded the colour of the brown, but the blue is called “Aquarius” and is an astoundingly good match for the Cascade 220 in colour 2433 with which I knit Arleen.

IMG_6226I think I will get a lot more use out of this than I did out of Levenwick.  In fact, since I finished it, I keep thinking of making another one, say in black, and maybe a red one, and fuschia would look good, perhaps emerald, oh I know, rust, or navy,  maybe charcoal……..

IMG_6201