Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fresh Designs Series: Sweaters + Men

I wanted to take a few weeks before revisiting the two Fresh Designs Series books I have yet to review (Fresh Designs: Sweaters and Fresh Designs: Men). For those of you who missed last month's review of Fresh Designs: Scarves and Fresh Designs: Shawls, you can click here to get up to speed. There are also a lot of general notes about the book series as a whole, which I'll summarize in the following bullet points before we move on to the task at hand:

  • Graphics: A clean, modern aesthetic. Patterns are clearly written and laid out in a way that's easy to follow and include well-shot photos of each design. Bonus points for non-conventional models!
  • Stitch patterns are written out and charted when necessary. Charts are readable and easy-to-follow (only one lace design has an unavoidably small chart)
  • Patterns have all the information you need right there - no rifling through the book to find the symbol or abbreviation key. 
  • Each garment has at least 4 size options, sometimes more. In general, sizing begins at Small and works up to XL or XXL.
  • The series features a diverse crowd of designers, including several who are up-and-coming.
  • There is an impressive range of indie dyers used throughout the book (and even a few commercial brands, too): The Sanguine Gryphon (now Cepahlopod Yarns and The Verdant Gryphon, of course), Yarn Love, Kangaroo Dyer, Three Irish Girls, Berocco, Rowan, Blue Sky Alpacas, and Debbie Bliss...to name a few! 
Ziggy Cardigan by Pamela Wynne

Now that you have the general overview, let's get to the good stuff! Fresh Designs: Sweaters features 10 women's sweater designs - pullovers, hoodies, cardigans, and even a few camisoles to round out the mix. One of my favorites is a ballet-wrap cardigan by Alexandra Virgiel called Claire M, so named for the designer's inspiration, the work of an American fashion designer in the '30's, '40's and '50s, Claire McCardell. Other highlights include Pamela Wynne's colorwork cardigan Ziggy, the stylish Sophia Goes to Houdan jacket with twisted-stitch details, and the Lacy Summer Camisole. For those who are more into the bohemian look, Crescent and Anina are sure to become wardrobe staples. Rounding out the collection are a few more timeless pieces such as the Classic Cabled Crew, the Knots and Cables Vest, and the Everything Nice Hoody. Oh, and the Beach Vines Pullover wins the prize for best photo, hands down!
Claire M by Alexandra Virgiel

However, I was most intrigued by Fresh Designs: Men. I find it's pretty difficult to find truly great (not to mention wearable) men's designs, so whenever I see a book or collection that is dedicated to solving this problem, I take note. I was certainly impressed with the ten designs offered by the series. Truth be told, there were several that I'd like to make for myself! 

Cooper Scarf
by Amy Duncan Lingo
In the accessories department, Amy Duncan's Cooper Scarf can be worn several different ways; the Brick Stitch Scarf features clever slip-stitch colorwork; the quick-knitting cabled Baume Socks use just 460 yards of worsted-weight yarn; and two textured hats round out the mix (the Abalone Cove Hat and Rhythm Maker's Hat).  I could envision knitting any of these accessories for my husband, dad, or even my nephews. 

Brian Cardigan
by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud
The ultimate test comes with the five sweater designs - it's so hard to find a good men's sweater pattern! Of course, the only person I'd knit a sweater for, other than myself, prefers a plain stockinette v-neck knit in my choice of black yarn - my husband is very much a "basic" kind of guy. In a perfect world, I could make Ruth Garcia Alcantud's Brian Cardigan (in black yarn, of course) for Tyler. Or perhaps myself - I love those cables! 

The other design that really grabbed me was the Riga Sweater by Susi Ferguson. The entire sweater is knit in the round with a simple slipstitch stripe pattern. It's a little tough to see in the photo, but the hem and cuffs feature a Latvian braid detail. It's pretty stunning!    

The Stairway Sweater is a basic garter rib crewneck that sneaks in a little bit of colorwork to keep the knitter interested. It might a bit flashy for the average guy, but with the right colors, you can probably get away with it. If you're in need of a few safer options, the Gone Fishin' sweater and the Sartor Vest are nice, classic designs that would appeal to just about any guy; knit one in their favorite color and I'm sure they'd never take it off. 

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