- A Handknit Romance by Jennie Atkinson Review by Kathryn Beach
I've been watching movies about the early 20th century lately, and one of the biggest draws for me is admiring the fashions. The soft drape of natural fibers such as silk and satin, the well-defined shapes of cottons and linen, all contributing to delicate, feminine designs that display intricate, delicate handwork. Atkinson recreates this vintage style but also draws the reader/knitter into seeing the elements of yarn, color, shape, drape, finishes, and embellishment as ways to turn any knitted garment or accessory into a unique object with vintage appeal. To emphasize innovation before you even begin perusing the patterns, Atkinson follows her introduction with a few pages of ideas on how to do exactly that, covering yarn substitutions, color swapping, embroidery and crochet finishing techniques, beads, buttons, ribbons, dyeing, and more. Each pattern includes a picture of the Vintage fashion that inspired the design, so the reader gradually learns how to find such inspiration and match it with a knitting technique that recreates the same look. It's one thing to admire and fall in love, and it's quite another thing to pick up the size 3 needles and cast on with fingering weight yarn, followed by learning a new lacy pattern. Most of these are not weekend knitting projects, unless you are content to knit into the next millennium with those few hours per week. However, there are enough patterns in thicker yarn, knit up on size 7 needles, to suggest how to gain the same feminine, vintage look in a quicker project. Follow Atkinson's suggestions and knit that dress in a shorter, tunic version. Add her embellishments and finishes to a sport weight yarn project. I'm working on a few designs myself, incorporating details of Atkinson's fitted jacket into a bag, adding beads to a neckline of a t-shirt, visualizing a cami in worsted weight cotton, knitting a skirt in worsted weight Merino. I'm learning how to design my creations to be exactly what I want them to be, after years of frustration with off-the-rack ready-to-wears and other designer's patterns never being quite right for my tastes. Thanks to Atkinson, I've got a few more tricks under my belt and my eye is keener. My own designs are already affected by the freedom I've gained from Atkinson's approach to adapting vintage fashion styles.
(Posted on 6/3/12)