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.
Modern Top-Down Knitting by Kristina McGowan, photography by Gudrun Georges, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010.
Although this book includes simplified instructions (with color photos!) of a few choice techniques from Barbara Walker's legendary Knitting from the Top, it might be more aptly titled Modern Couture Knitting. Its reliance on seamstress techniques such as trim and elastic cord and its inclusion of a belt and jewelry which have no identifiable top (as well as a scarf and two pairs of armwarmers, one of which is worked in the opposite direction from the other) make the current title seem out of place.
But the book's 26 designs are lovely, simple, and classic. The simplicity of the knitting makes the sweaters, dresses, and hats a perfect introduction to top-down knitting, while the faux seams, trim, and other finishing techniques lend a dressmaker-like quality. McGowan feels that the time saved not sewing the pieces together can be used giving the pieces elegant final touches.
With chest sizes from 26 to nearly 54", hip sizes from 34 to 59", and three sizes for most of the hats, many knitters should be able to find a piece to make for themselves. McGowan also includes customization tips throughout the book.
I love the Pavement Jacket pictured below, which can be worn with the collar up or down. Described as tailored, the empire waistband is done in twisted garter stitch with no decreases. The hip shaping is all done on the same row.
Photo tutorials for both top-down and finishing techniques are well laid out and clearly explained. McGowan also works with dyes to get her desired effects, and provides clear instructions to guide the knitter.
The photography by Gudrun Georges is exemplary. Models are well-lit and backdrops well-chosen. The Chrysler Skirt was knit in a dark color and worn with a dark slip, which diminished the effect of the chevron lace, but McGowan recommends a bright slip in the introduction to the design if the wearer wants to highlight the yarnovers.
This lovely book, beautifully photographed, would also look at home on the coffee table of anyone interested in fashion.
Disclosure: Kangath reviewed a copy of Modern Top-Down Knitting from her library. 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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