More Modern Top-Down Knitting by Kristina McGowan, photography by Anna Williams, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013.
In this book, McGowan uses all 12 of Barbara Walker's templates from Knitting from the Top: the raglan pullover, the raglan cardigan, the seamless cape, the seamless skirt, the reversible pants, the sleeveless sweater, the seamless set-in sleeves, the seamless saddle shoulders, the kimono sleeves, the square set sleeves, the dropped shoulder ski sweater, and the classic cap (hat).
She designed two garments in each category, which still doesn't exhaust the possibilities offered by Walker (who offers templates for, among other things, 11 types of pants). This structure provided McGowan with personal design challenges which she met headlong with a sense of fun and a taste for embellishment.
The cover design, fremont skirt, was named for Grace Kelly's character in Hitchcock's Rear Window. The skirt itself is a fairly straightforward linen stitch garment, but the finishing makes this piece stand out. Elastic cord is crocheted into the cast-on edge in place of an elastic waistband. Stretch lace is sewn to the bottom hem. And the branch motif which inspired the design is embroidered on the front (and back) of the skirt.
I think embroidering sequins on someone's seat is asking for trouble, and I winced at the uncharacteristic inexactitude of some of the instructions (such as "Enlarge Embroidery Template to desired size," and the complete lack of mention that half of them need to be vertically flipped), but I appreciate the tricks McGowan uses to get the branches on the skirt and will use them if I ever have the occasion.
My daughter walked into the room while I was writing this review and admired the fremont skirt and these shorts. I love the idea of knitted shorts, but it bothers me slightly that no rear view is given either for the shorts or for the longer "yoga-style" pants. Walker says, "There is not so much difference between the back and front of the body that a flexible knitted fabric can't adjust to it."
Well, maybe Walker (and these models) are built differently, but on my body there is actually more difference between the back and front of my bottom half than my top half. Just as I can't imagine a busty woman wearing a fitted top backwards, I can't imagine reversible pants ever being comfortable on me.
There are a few appealing designs in this collection, but mostly appealing techniques. There's something in practically every piece from intriguing stitch patterns (from Walker's Treasuries) to intricate duplicate stitch charts spanning entire fronts of sweaters, suede patches, and of course embroidery. And I enjoy having a more colorful (albeit much less thorough) version of Walker's book.
Most patterns are given in 5 or 6 sizes (XS to 2- or 3-XL), but the hats are given in a single size only (22", which won't fit me, even in that holly berry bonnet---I've tried!). They could easily be adapted, but I don't think the knitter should be the one to do that work.
The photography by Anna Williams really stands out. Every stitch is visible, models are relaxed and glowing, styling (by Pamela Duncan Silver) is understated yet lovely.
Before you buy this book, flip through it or look at the designs online and see whether any of them excite you. Though many of McGowan's designs in this book are not to my taste, I do appreciate the color photos and clear pattern-writing (as opposed to line drawings and chatty prose). If you're not interested knitting any of the specific designs, think about whether it might be a good idea to purchase the book for the techniques and template realizations.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of More Modern Top-Down Knitting for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Stewart, Tabori & Chang or Kristina McGowan.
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