I first saw a Rowan Knitting magazine when I lived in Glasgow in the early 90s. One of my flatmates was a fashion student at the Glasgow School of Art; she was making an outfit comprising knitted shorts and a vest top with swan’s wings (not knitted!). She knew little about knitting, so asked me for advice. When she moved out she gave me Rowan Knitting Book No 1 (which evolved into the Rowan Knitting Magazine and then the Rowan Knitting and Crochet Magazine). Despite my lack of knowledge of fashion, the Rowan designs were more desirable than those published by other yarn companies. This led to me always having a knitting project on the go.
Those of you who were bought up in the Internet age would find it hard to believe how unaware of fashion we were. As students, I don’t think any of us had a television, we could rarely afford to buy a magazine and either made our clothes or bought them second-hand. We listened to the radio all the time, but fashion is visual – you need to see it! Experience tells me that I don’t have the time to knit many of the designs, but the garments, the yarns in which they are knitted, the way that they are styled and photographed still inspires me after all these years. So, even though there are many other beautiful yarns and good designers today, I still think of the publication of the new Rowan magazine as an event!
The latest Rowan Knitting and Crochet magazine is no. 53! The patterns are grouped into three “stories”. The design on the cover is from the first story, “Glorious” and illustrates a key trend in this magazine; floral intarsia. I do think that “Santorini” by Marie Wallin is a lovely design – I just would prefer to work the floral design in needlepoint! You may guess, intarsia isn’t my favourite technique; I find it fiddly to do unless it is a geometric design.
Something I’ve not seen before (and I don’t read every Rowan publication) is using Revive, with other yarns. Revive is from Rowan’s purelife range and is made from recycled cotton, silk and viscose; it has a flecked appearance. Whilst I like the individual colours, I’ve never been convinced that they work together, in the way that different colours of Felted Tweed, Kidsilk Haze or Summer Tweed do. However, I love the contrast of both colour and texture when it is used with the flat colours of Wool Cotton.
My favourite design from “Glorious” is “Corfu” by Kaffe Fassett; he also uses Revive with Wool Cotton. Although I’m not a fan of blue, I think this blue with the yellows and pinks is quite joyful. I actually like it enough to overcome my dislike of intarsia and blue and knit it! It reminds me of a previous Kaffe design, “Damask Flower”, from “Glorious Knitting”, but is probably easier to knit.
The second story in the magazine is “Ikon”; this is inspired by the Modernist movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s. This is my favourite story from this magazine.
My favourite design is “Ossie” by Marie Wallin. The patterned front reminds me of wall-hangings produced by the Bauhaus Weaving Workshop, with subtle colour changes over what is essentially a square grid. It is interesting that a knit technique (Fair Isle) that became popular in the 1930s is used to make a design inspired by art from the same era. Fair Isle is thought of as a “traditional” hand-knit technique, whilst Modernism is anything but traditional. I think this would be a good design for someone new to Fair Isle knitting since only the front is patterned. The grid simplifies things and the horizontal colour changes would make it interesting to knit.
“Vidal” by Josh Bennet is really striking! It makes me think of 1960s op-art rather than 1930s Modernism. I can imagine it reworked in other colourways. There are so few colour changes per row, that this would be a good design for someone new to intarsia. The jagged edge between the two colours could be irritating. One way to create smooth lines is by shaping the intarsia; an increase is worked on one side of a colour change and a decrease on the other (so the number of stitches remains the same). It would be worth knitting a couple of swatches to see what works best for you.
“Pixie” by Kaffe Fassett is a cute, feminine design, but I cannot see the connection with Modernism. It’s similar to designs from Glorious Knitting: “Floating Circles” and “Little Circles”. However, the effect is quite different, since the earlier designs are worked in Fair Isle, so the circles are close together and those in each row are in one colour, whilst the intarsia circles in “Pixie” are further apart and in different colours. If I were to knit this, I would probably compare intarsia borders, worked by knitting from the middle of a length of yarn (so there are only two yarn ends, not four) with a border worked in Swiss darning (which might be too heavy).
The only thing that puzzles me about this design, as well as some others, is the use of Kid Silk Haze for a spring/ summer top. Even though this is a light yarn, it is so wonderfully warm; perfect for chilly days! When would I wear a short-sleeved top that is so warm? Maybe layering is the answer, what do you think?
The final story in each Rowan magazine is always “Essentials”, which comprises designs to complement the season’s trends. My favourite is “Cappuccino” by Sarah Hatton. Although the front and back are each worked, in rib, as one piece, the use of increases and decreases makes the ribs in different sections move in different directions, which creates an interesting design.
Sometimes when I have a sleepless night, I get up and look through old knitting magazines. I like to think about which designs I should like to knit and whether these are the same ones that I would have chosen when the magazine was published. I’ve given up keeping a wish list of designs to knit; it just became too long! Sometimes I’m actually choosing a design for some yarn from my stash and I do knit them. I’m always intrigued by those designs I spot, but cannot remember having seen them before! Why didn’t I notice them? Maybe I should start a fantasy knit list. Does anyone else do this?