Friday, December 24, 2010

On Top of the World

Knitting on Top of the World: The Global Guide to Traditions, Techniques and Design by Nicky Epstein

Different areas of the world inspired Nicky Epstein to create patterns, and the patterns are separated based on these regions. Each pattern has a country/region of inspiration and then a more standard pattern title.

The book brings you the knitting history of each region, which techniques originated there and what items were traditionally made. The patterns themselves are a more modern take on these traditions.

I found the titles of the patterns to be a bit redundant. If you're going to indicate the region/country that inspired a pattern, why must you also name the pattern off of a city in that country?

My overall thoughts on the patterns are mixed. I love the concept of the book, and that there is history included with the patterns. I also like the variation of garment types. Usually when I don't like a pattern I just find it boring, but there are some in this book that are just plain ugly. (See below for my thoughts on particular patterns.) I don't see how one author can design some elegant, modern pieces and also produce some that no real woman would ever want to wear.

The Patterns
  • Far North
    • Iceland, Norther Lights Cardigan - Yoked cardigan with colorwork and bead details. The sleeves look like they hit just above the wrist.
    • Denmark, Copenhagen Royal Shawl -This is some beautiful lacework. The shawl is L-shaped with a connected scarf. The geometric pattern in the lace works well with the overall shape of the shawl. I think that his looks very cozy and elegant.
    • Latvia, Princess Bride Mittens - Mittens are some of my favorite things. There is a crown motif embroidered on them. A frilly cuff. The colorwork is fairly basic. Shouldn't the country be Florin based on the title?
    • Russia, St. Petersburg camisole - I am not sure who could wear this as a flattering garment. There are oddly shaped bows just inside of the shoulders, and there are wide ruffles that hit the body at weird lengths (about a foot between each ruffle.) There is a hint of a historical feel to this, but it is very costumy at best. It also happens to be more of a short sleeved sweater than a camisole.
    • Estonia, Baltic Cuffs and Cap - The colors used in this project work really well. The cap is square shape when laid flat, and fits over the head and ties at the chin. The cuffs are elbow length. The entire effect is very elfish, but in a good way.
    • Sweden, Bojus Swing Coat - Cardigan without any buttons down the front. This is very similar to the Norther Lights Cardigan pattern, with a bow at the front and yoked collar. The sleeves are gathered at the wrist, and there are pockets on the front.
    • Scandinavia, Snowflake Sweater Cape - So this is really a poncho. It is hard to tell from the photo what is part of the cape and what is the sweater the model is wearing underneath. (Since she is wearing a navy sweater, at first you think the cape has attached armholes.) This is a standard poncho shape with a huge charted snowflake located off center. There is a ribbed turtleneck cuff with some bobble type things as a bow tie. The snowflake chart is excellent.
    • Norway, Liten Olaf Sweater - A Child's sweater with traditional Scandinavian colorwork. It would be absolutely adorable.
  • Windswept Isles
    • Isle of Aran, Evening Gala Aran - This could be a pretty sweater. But... in place of bobbles there are pearl beads, and there is a feather boa trim at the neckline. These details through it over the top.
    • England, Londonderry Rose Coat - The hem of the coat ends in this choppy step like pattern. There are applique roses over the collar. The effect is not very flattering.
    • Scotland, Sanquhar Bonny Socks - Cute, have a folded cuff, simple colorwork pattern.
    • Fair Isle, Simply Smashing Cardigan - The fit of this cardigan is more like a man's sweater on a woman, loose and boxy. The collar has a deep V-neck with great color details that are echoed on the cuff and around the hem.
    • Guernsey - Cowl Collar Jumper - Sleeveless, wide cuffed cowl (ribbed). It makes for a cute sweater dress. I actually like this quite a lot. It looks fantastic and it can be made by a novice knitter.
    • Scotland, Hunter's Argyle Socks - Very classic.
    • Scotland, Highland Fling Plad Jacket - It doesn't help to show all photos of a garment stylized with something that cannot be created. There is a wide belt over the jacket, which ends up hiding how the coat will fit.
    • Ireland, Celtic Hooded Coat - Lots of cables. There is a ribbed cuff that goes to the elbow, and then the sleeve gets much baggier. The whole coat is really large, and looks like it could fit someone much larger than the model.
    • Fair Isle, Faux Fair Isle Fairy Socks - Two color, "mock fair isle" because one of the yarns is variegated.
    • Shetland Island, Edwardian Lace Coat - This is the cover pattern. I notice the dress the model is wearing more than I notice the coat. (Those bows around the neck are pretty cool.) I wouldn't want the jacket for myself. The back is open like the front, just connected around the collar. When I saw this view, I like the garment even less.
    • Great Britain, World Class We Sweaters - Cute kid sized sweaters. I really like the petite fancy fair isle, especially if you were to remove the applique flowers around the collar. Strangely, one of these sweaters is shown on a woman's head as a hat.. with the arms tied together to close the top. This is really weird.
    • Fair Isle, Fair Isle Tam Capelet - Three circles are made and then a collar is added. Very strange.
    • Ireland, Galway Bay Shrug Shawl - I looked at the front of this garment and got excited. It appears to be a chunky cardigan, but in a way that actually fits. However, when you flip the page, you see that there is a huge cut out in the back. Strange...
  • Old World
    • Italy, Roman Holiday Shrug - A cabled, bobbled and apliqued flowers shrug. Sleeves end just above the elbow.
    • France, Parisian Entrelac Wrap - his is really pretty. There are sleeves and then it wraps around in a way that looks very comfy.
    • Bavaria, Black Forest Mitts - Cabled, LOTS of embroidery. Fingerless gloves that go to the elbow.
    • France, La Belle Cardigan - Very pink and frilly. The ruffle and flower on the collar would be pretty if there wasn't so much else going on in terms of frills. The baggy sleeves are gathered three times with ribbons, giving some poofs that are costumy.
    • Austria, Austrian Alps Zip Jacket - This is cabled, and the changes in the texture are interesting. I would personally end the jacket above were the belt loops are located.
    • Germany, Oktoberfest Glove Cuffs - These aren't actually gloves, these are orange and black mitered squares as a cuff that you attack to a pair of leather gloves. They are cute on their own, but I would prefer to add a glove pattern to the top of them rather than sew them to a pair of gloves that I purchased.
    • Austria, Tyrolean Leg Warmers - These are really cute. I really like the buttons down the outside of the leg.
    • Italy, Florentine Shrug - Yuck. Baggy, long sleeves, short on the back and top, this shrug has no shape and a bold grape vine pattern.
  • Around the Mediterranean
    • Spain, Spanish Rose Trellis Scarf - Lots of rose applique.
    • Syria, Damascus Dream Dress - The shape and overall silhouette are nice. I don't like the tile pattern on the skirt. I would make it a more regular geometric pattern.
    • Spain, Senorita's Floral Pullover - The appliqued flowers give it a flamenco sense. It doesn't look like the body of the sweater has any real shape.
    • Turkey, Ottoman Empire Jacket - Looks like a simple cabled vest over a crazy patterned shirt. It would be interesting to knit, but strange to wear.
    • Spain, El Matador Jacket - This is like a matador's jacket because there are shoulder patches with spiral fringe coming down off of them. More costume than fashion.
    • Portugal, Lisbon Lace Jacket - Yuck. This looks like many pieces were knit that were then stitched together, leaving huge gaps. Even if the construction is more elegant than I described, it has an appearance for a bad moth infestation.
    • Egypt, Isis Tunic - I like the braided straps. The tunic is weird. It's like a cropped tank top with flaps in the front and back. And it happens to have some Egyptian-like designs on it.
    • Greece, Greco Mosaic Bags - Beautiful, simple.
  • Far East
    • China, Shanghai Garden Scarf - Beaded, eyelet lace, applique beaded flowers.
    • Japan, Shibori Blossom Bag - CRAZY bobbles over the top of this bag.
    • Japan, Fuji Feather Lace Wrap - This is beautiful. I also really like the pin used to fasten it. There is feather like lace running over the length of the wrap. There are "tassels" that are made of solid knit pieces (rather than the normal fringy tassel)
    • Mongolia, Mongolian Warrior Pullover - The concept is very interesting, although the final product is not. There are woven straps that are woven during the knitting and then joined in a way that they cannot be undone. The construction is ingenious.
    • Japan, Hai-Riyo - AWESOME. This is a dragon stuffed animal. It is really well designed and you know what it is immediately upon seeing it.
  • New World
    • Peru, Andes Tunic Vest - As described. I think it would look really nice with a belt at the waist.
    • Mexico, Fiesta Skirt - I don't usually like knit skirts anyway. It looks like there is a drawstring waist, and it is ankle length.
    • Canada, Cowichan Vision Wrap Coat - Another oversized cardigan/coat/jacket.
    • U.S.A., Great Bear Zip Tunic - This charted pattern is fantastic. I wish that there was more shape. (Without a lot of shape it makes the garments look like something you'd wear to bed or around the house. Why would you want to spend that much time constructing something if you weren't going to wear it in public?)
    • Bolivia, La Paz Scarf and Cap - I could do without the huge balls at the end of the scarf, but the pattern is really cute.
    • U.S.A., Great Plains Blanket Bag - This has a very traditional feel, and is quite lovely.
Do you need any last minute gifts for a knitter in your life? Knitting books make fantastic gifts for knitters.