Monday, August 20, 2012

Fresh Designs Series: Scarves and Shawls

I should probably start by saying that I have a design coming out in the upcoming Fresh Designs: Toys book, and I'm a huge fan of Cooperative Press and Shannon Okey. Through the Cooperative Press, Shannon has managed to publish some of the most interesting titles in the yarn industry. California Revival Knits, Extreme Double-Knitting, and now the Fresh Designs series readily spring to mind as shining examples! I volunteered myself to review the books that recently came out because I'm really excited about this series (currently out are Scarves, Shawls, Sweaters and Men) and jumped at the opportunity to help promote my fellow Fresh Designs designers.

All of the books in this series share a clean, modern graphic aesthetic. Patterns are clearly-written and laid out in a way that's easy to follow. The images of the patterns are directly followed by the pattern, which is something I appreciate (I hate having to search through a PDF document when all the photos are at the front and the patterns are crammed onto a few pages in the back). Speaking of the photography, the photos feature non-conventional models (another win in my book) and each project is well-represented. The lighting and photo styling highlight the patterns' design feature, be it the stitch pattern, construction element, or even the yarn itself.

Scrunchy Scarf by Heather C. Keiser
Stitch patterns are both written out and charted when necessary, and the charts are actually readable (don't you hate it when a chart is so tiny, you have to take a trip to Kinko's to blow it up 300% just so you can knit your project?), except for a few cases where there is some seriously intricate lace and a small-ish chart is unavoidable. Schematics are also provided for all of the garments and any of the more intricately-constructed accessories. There is a complete glossary at the back of the book, but all the information you need - gauge, yarn information, sizing, etc. - appears on the pattern page. No one was able to skate by vague pattern information such as "gauge isn't important for this project" or "one size fits most" - and if they did, they still had to provide specific measurements for those of us who prefer to check. Then let's talk about sizing - each garment had at least 4 size options, sometimes more (in general beginning at a size Small and working up to an XL or XXL).

Looky! A model with tattoos!
Scarf Scarf Revolution by Hannah Cuviello
Additionally, I love the diversity within the series. Across the board, there are many different designers contributing to the series. The range of indie dyers is impressive, too - Indigodragonfly, The Sanguine Gryphon (now Cepahlopod Yarns and The Verdant Gryphon, of course), Yarn Love, Kangaroo Dyer, Three Irish Girls....the list goes on! There are also some commercial brands to round out the list - Berocco, Rowan, Blue Sky Alpacas, and Debbie Bliss, to name a few.

Intersection Shawl by Samantha Roshak
Each collection features 10 designs and there is literally something for everyone. I know that's a cliche, but it's true in this case. Let's take Fresh Designs: Scarves as an example: there are a few rectangular scarves ranging from simple stitch patterns to pretty lace (Monkey Puzzle, Majere, Diamond Sampler, for example). There's a cabled hooded scarf (Avonleigh), a ruched rectangular scarf (Scrunchy Scarf), and an infinity scarf (Shaker Mobius) for those who have graduated from the basics.  When you're ready to really try something new, there's the double-knit entrelac Scarf Scarf Revolution (named for the video game) and the free-form "recipe" for the Tossed Leaves scarf (pictured on the book cover above), which can be assembled any way you like to create a scarf, stole, cowl or shawl. Personally, I think it'd make a cool bedspread, too!

Tyrolean Capelet by Baerbel Hurst
Fresh Designs: Shawls
Fresh Designs: Shawls also offers a similar range, from the simple eyelet triangle Good Luck Shawl to the intricate lacework of the Sea of Tulips Stole. Several patterns use interesting techniques that are perfect for knitters who want to expand their shawl-making horizons: the Tyrolean Capelet combines cables with simple embroidery accents (I think even I could manage this one, and I'm the first to admit I'm terrible at embroidery); the Floating Cables Wrap is a lacy mesh shawl with a beaded, cabled edge; the Shrinking Cables Shawl is worked from the bottom up with clever decreases worked each time a cable crosses, resulting in the shrinking cables effect (and a shawl that knits faster as you progress!). Even the Intersection Shawl is more than meets the eye, using short rows to create a circular, lacy shawl with a ribbed border that is not only stable but easy to block (I have yet to purchase blocking wires, so this is right up my alley).

Are you excited to get knitting? You can order hard copies and PDF versions of these books directly from Cooperative Press - click here! You can also purchase digital copies via Ravelry (here and here). I'll be reviewing Fresh Designs: Sweaters and Fresh Designs: Men next, so be sure to check back soon!

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