Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rowan No. 44 Preview

Because I have friends in high (or do I mean "low"?) places, I am extremely fortunate to be able to bring you this extra-special, extra-well-informed preview of the brand-new Rowan Magazine, No. 44. This year the Magazine is being released a bit earlier than usual in honor of Rowan's 30th Anniversary. Holy crap: three decades of Rowan. I wish when I was thirteen, instead of worrying about making my perfectly-straight hair try to do Farrah Fawcett flips, I'd have been out there buying the first Rowan Magazine. . . but I suppose then I would have been regarded as even more of a nerd than I already was.

In any event, in honor of this anniversary extravaganza, we get Rowan No. 44 in July instead of August, complete with spiffy photo-album-inspired cover:



At 186 pages, this one is a bit thicker than usual, no?

No. 44 begins with a note by Kate Buller, editor-in-chief, who notes that the co-founders of Rowan (Stephen Sheard and Simon Cockin) retired at the end of last year -- but she also assures us that we need not fear, for Rowan will march onward. She also says something which must be a misprint: that Kaffe Fassett, the God of Colour, celebrated his 70th birthday last year. Surely that gorgeous, silver-maned man is not a day over 50... and if he is, I want to know what kind of moisturizer he uses.

But once again, I digress. Let's look first at the designs. This year's Rowan features three "stories," as Rowan calls them, overarching themes around which the patterns are organized and inspired. All of them perfectly suit Rowan's anniversary: Nostalgia (a fond remembrance of the past), Renaissance (a rebirth) and Elegance (because Rowan's stuff is nearly always very stylish and elegant; the only reason I said "nearly" is because of that unfortunate Maori warpaint a few springs ago. But let's not talk about that.).

Nostalgia was inspired by 1930s and 1940s glamour (in honor of the Brits, I shall use the "u" spelling throughout). Each design is named after a film icon of the era -- hence the Hepburn Vest, Lamarr Gloves, and Lamour Sweater, shown from left to right below.


Photography and styling, impeccable and inspired as usual, evoke that vintage era.



You'll find rich shades of forest, browns, and purple, along with some muted shades of sage, cloud blue, rose and taupe, and there are lots of stitch patterns and other clever design details. This is the Hayworth Sweater, with a cowl neck and textured pattern:


Many of the garments have that characteristic sweater girl shape, although some are loose-fitting, too.



Designs are by Marie Wallin, Marion Foale, Sarah Dallas, Erika Knight, Jennie Atkinson and Sarah Hatton. The Fontaine fitted jacket, with an all-over basketweave, has great lines:




The second story, Renaissance, features an auburn-haired model who fits my mind's-eye view of what Queen Elizabeth (the first) must have looked like, which I am sure was not a coincidence. Renaissance focuses on pattern and color, both of which have been and continue to be hallmarks of Rowan design through the years. So if you love stranded knitting, you're gonna be in heaven. For example, take a look at the Bellini belted vest, by Sarah Hatton (all of these designs are named after Renaissance artists):

In addition to lots of stranded knitting, you'll find clever and creative embellishment. Take a look at Titian, by Marie Wallin, on the right below:


embellishment is done over the hazy colour-striping of Tapestry yarn, and gives an interesting and unusual effect. Wallin also designed the purple sweater next to it, called Raphael. The crewelwork is extraordinary (and if you didn't want the extra roominess in the bottom half of the sweater that comes with an empire waist, I expect it would be very easy to knit the bottom straight so that you get a more traditional fit. I know that you young-uns like your body-shaping sweaters, what with your lissome, unspoiled-by-childbearing figures 'n all.).

One of my favorites in this story is this Jewel Square Wrap, designed by Mr. I-Can't-Possibly-Be-Eligible-For-AARP Kaffe Fassett:


Very nice. I might have to make one to compensate for the fact that our thermostat will be set at 50 degrees F all winter...

Another feature I particularly like is the way the garments in this story mix different yarns -- including different gauges and different fibers. For example, the Jewel Square wrap mixes Wool Cotton, and Kidsilk Aura with Felted Tweed, while Titian uses Tapestry, Kid Classic and Wool Cotton. The different qualities of the various fibers (a tweed fleck here, a mohair halo there) give the colorwork added dimension.

Designs in this story are by Wallin, Martin Storey, Hatton and Fassett. Most of these garments feature flowing lines and looser fit, in part because of the Renaissance theme and perhaps in part because of the design challenges presented by colourwork patterns (it's hard to combine the repeats with the necessary increases and decreases that more fitted garments require, and stranded colourwork tends to create stiffer, heavier fabric). Appropriately, the emphasis is on jewel tones like gold, regal purple and emerald green.

The last story is Elegance, in which designs from the previous two stories are reworked and re-imagined, for example omitting embellishment, or changing necklines or sleeve length. So you'll see a version of Raphael (the purple one with the embroidery above) reworked plain. The short-sleeved Grable Sweater (shown above) becomes a tunic. The Lamour Sweater is revised as a vest. Below are the revised version of the Bellini vest, now turned into a cardigan (below left; compare with the one above, worn by the red-headed model) and the scoop-necked version of the Hayworth sweater (below right; compare with cowl-neck version in dark blue, shown above in Nostalgia):



For those who have trouble imagining what designs look like when they've been tweaked a bit, this will be a great exercise in the creative process. I hope it gives knitters the confidence to tailor designs to suit their own preferences even without being provided with the instructions.

As usual, the pattern section in the back of the magazine contains schematics; charts; and color insets of each pattern, along with page references to direct you to the full-size shots. Note that the charts are all in black-and-white, however. Most garments are sized from size 32 bust through 46 bust (those are body measurements, rather than garment measurements). Each garment is photographed at least two, sometimes more times, to give you additional insight into construction and design details. This issue seems to focus much more on knitting than crochet with few crocheted garments (now don't get all huffy on me, militant crocheters; just an observation, not a value judgment).

What else will you find in the fall magazine?
  • Seven favourite Rowan designers are interviewed to give their impressions of Rowan style (Fassett, Jean Moss, Martin Storey, Knight, Dallas, Kim Hargreaves and Sasha Kagan);
  • an article about the new RYC line of single-breed wools (woo-hoo! more about this in a future post);
  • "Clever Ideas," a collection of easy-to-make gifts, like crocheted placemats, a sewn apron and a felted wreath;
  • a short article on a new book by Sharon Brant, aimed at providing Rowan-style garments in plus-sizes.
Rowan 44 reminds me that autumn is just around the corner, with all the promise of exciting new yarns, patterns to ogle, and an end to the lassitude of summer. Happy days are here again.

18 comments:

Lola and Ava said...

I adore the Lamour sweater. Love the touch on the neckline and am looking forward to this magazine.

And as an aside, whenever I visit London, I'm on constant "Kaffe" alert, scanning the crowds for a touch of that gorgeous hair.

lpratt1831 said...

Yikes, that would make me the same age as Kaffe.

Thanks for the write up.

Signed,
just-received-my-first-AARP-notice.
Linda

Carol said...

I'm keeping my mind open until it arrives but I'm not feeling the love for this magazine yet. I agree that the garments and photography are gorgeous but nothing screams 'make me'. Well, except for the Kaffe wrap maybe but I'm sure I'd need a second mortgage to get all the yarns! Maybe we can all persuade Webs to make it into a kit for a discount??

anne marie in philly said...

someone has been listening to a little too much garth brooks...

hey kaffe, come join those of us who are already AARP members! (like me, she said with a shit-eating grin on her face)

Bridget said...

This looks like a must buy, at least for me ...

Marilyn said...

At 58, I will admit to NOT being a card-carrying member of AARP. Maybe when I hit 60. Maybe.

The longer I knit, the more I love Rowan books and yarns. For years, I didn't buy the books, mostly because they were expensive and I was poor. I'm making up for lost time now, though. As I write this, I'm working a lace jacket with Kidsilk Haze. And I'm itching to get 44. In my not-so-humble opinion, there is no magazine that can match the yarns, the photography, and the incredible Rowan designers. If I never buy any other knitting book, I will always plunk down the bucks for Rowan's. Thanks for the preview, sissy! I WANT IT NOW!

Sherry W said...

I really like the mauve cardi in the second triad.

The models are particularly striking as well.

WendyKnits said...

Thanks so much for the preview and the LARGE photos -- the only other online preview had teeny thumbnail pix so I couldn't really get an idea of what any of the designs really looked like.

Anonymous said...

Thanks once again for one of your good reviews. Looks like a truly lovely issue.
- Beth

Gina said...

I scrolled through the Rowan photos very quickly so I'd still be a little surprised when I get the mag. =)

Tricia said...

I agree with other commenters that this was an excellent review with great photos. I adore the Raphael sweater, but I hope they've given more detailed instructions for the embroidery than they usually do - I'm thinking of one kids' design that said "See photo for details" and, needless to say, the photo did not show the details! Can't wait to get the magazine to see what that lovely purple yarn is.

Franklin said...

Okay, I've never bought a Rowan book before, what with them being mostly for girls and all, but I want this just so I can ogle the pictures. Zowie. Two zowies.

Cher said...

Dammit, woman! You've made me want this desperately. Wowza.

the hanged man said...

Love the pre-Raphaelite cover...

Barbara-Kay said...

This would be my first Rowan's magazine, so I have no idea how expensive they are, or how to buy one. Could you tell me, please?

(I never sought them out before because, until this year, I weighed 120 lbs. more than I do now. Think of it as "ineligible player down field". VBG!)

Mrs. Lear said...

I too adore Kaffe's Jewel Square - maybe as a scarf - or a chair cover! Thank you for this great preview!

Carrie said...

Beautiful, beautiful...

--Deb said...

Thanks for the preview, this looks like a wonderful edition. Gorgeous sweaters. Is it just me, though, that thinks all the models look anorexic, they're so thin? (I mean, there's thin and then there's THIN!)

Anyway--great review. It reminds me that it's been a few years since I knit a Rowan sweater.... Thanks!