A little background on the book: Casual Elegant Knits is a collection of 24 patterns for men and women. In their introduction, Dawn and Faina explain:
There is something for everyone in this book; the majority of patterns are written for several sizes and many of the designs are unisex. ... We have always admired fashionable knitwear for both genders, complemented by unique accessories.The patterns are organized into three "stories" or collections:
- City Life shows pieces knit in red, gray and black, giving the knitter a feel for how to combine some of the projects either with existing items from one's wardrobe (the gray and black pieces are neutral enough to go with lots of different styles, and the red items provide of a shot of color for the neutrals you may already own). The patterns include a tunic with elongated cowl-type neckline; a funnel neck sleeveless shell; a skirt with pleats at the hem; three bags; two berets; two scarves; and a men's/unisex sweater.
- Elegant Afternoon contains pieces knit in sage green, purple, and brown, including a silk tank, a more tailored skirt, a scalloped-edge purse, a shawl, a bag, a driver's cap, and a textured polo. These designs have a more relaxed feel than the City Life designs; think Saturday afternoon rather than on the train to work.
- Gotta Have It is all accessories: a flapper-inspired hat, a beanie with button-up brim, a lacy scarf, a cabled scarf, sheer gauntlets and fingerless gloves.
The size ranges vary but are extensive. For example, the tunic top goes from a finished bust of 34.5 to 49.75 inches; the Tweed Polo from 37 to 52 inches finished bust (it's shown on a male model but I think knit in a smaller size with less ease, it would look cute on a woman, too); the Tailored Skirt goes from finished hip measurement of 35.5 to 55 inches. The accessories tend to be one size fits all.
So with that background in mind, let's chat with the authors.
FG: Carol, thank you very much for having us here today. We appreciate the chance to share with people about our new book. As you know, we have included 24 projects in this book. Each of our three collections includes designs for both men and women.
CS: Since I am always interested in the creative process, tell me what inspired you to design these projects.
FG: Well, the main inspiration for us was coming from knowing what it feels like to live in a big city, work, and still want to catch a movie or meet a friend at a nice restaurant. There is no time to go home and change. Your clothes must be suitable for all the activities. That was our driving force. I strongly believe that we have achieved our goal. The “City Life” collection, for example, consists of stylish, classic-line garments that could be dressed up with the necklace or silk scarf, or dressed down as it is featured on the book cover. For our “Elegant Afternoon” collection we envisioned a restful and pleasant time off work. You can think of going to a museum or a theater, strolling along the river embankment or in the park. The garments for this collection are lighter and more colorful, ready for your mood. The “Gotta Have It” section is exactly that. We offer six fun-to-make accessories that are small gratifying projects for any knitter and are great for gifts.
We did have an incredibly good time designing for this book.
CS: Can we talk about a particular design? Let’s take for example, Watercolor Shawl. I understand that, Dawn, you designed it.
DL: You're right, Carol. This is one of my designs. I designed this shawl before our book project. I find myself drawn to hand-painted yarns, especially rayon and silks. They show the color beautifully and it is fun to work with such yarns. When I came across this particular yarn (Gelato from Fiesta Yarns) I just had to come up with the design from it. After I played a little bit with different stitch patterns, I decided on an open-lace stitch pattern, which complemented the yarn very well. To add to the design, I wanted to create more texture, but stay with the chosen colors, so the Rayon Bouclé from Fiesta was the natural choice since the colors were the same. Alternating these two yarns every two rows gave the shawl a look of a watercolor painting. The finishing treatment of the project is necessary to achieve the beautiful drape that you see on the photo. I am very pleases with the way it turned out. Faina liked it also, so when we started to work on the book and we included the shawl as an accessory for the “Elegant Afternoon” collection. I made a few shawls using different colors and they are all gorgeous.
CS: I was curious about the Lacy Scarf. Who designed it and what was the inspiration behind this design?
FG: The Lacy Scarf is my design. It has a little story behind it. I was born and raised in the large Russian city called Samara. Let’s just say I was wearing a lot of hats and scarves in my life! When I was a university student, I knitted a long black scarf using that same dropped-stitch lacy pattern that you see in the book. I loved that scarf. It was soft and warm, but also very long. Some days I was fine wearing it as all normal people do. Some days the length was driving me crazy. So, what did I do? I found hundreds of ways to wear it. Sometimes it became a hat with the rose on the side and the scarf coming out of it. The more I played with it, the more compliments I got. People who know me are not surprised when they see my scarves being twisted and swirled in all directions.
Many years later, before the work on this book, I recreated that scarf. It became one of the accessories in “Gotta Have It” section. Actually, the Vintage Hat was inspired by that same scarf.
CS: I like the fact that your menswear designs strike a balance between being classic enough for a real guy to want to wear without being plain stockinette stitch (and thus boring to knit). What inspires you to create patterns for men? Do you run things by a husband/son/father/male friend?
FG: Both my husband and my son love classic and clean lines in their garments and accessories. When I designed the scarves and the hats for this book, I was keeping them in mind. In fact, my husband was such a sport all throughout our work on the book that he was our initial model for the photo shoot I had to do for the publisher. We will be talking about men’s wear when we will be visiting other blogs.
CS: Great! I think the unisex idea, making garments that can be worn by men and women, is a fascinating one! Make that cabled scarf in a different color, maybe with a finer gauge yarn, and it'll be lovely for a woman, too!
FG: Carol, what is new with you? I know that your book Knit So Fine is a big success. I actually got to know you when I was interviewing you for that book. Is there another book coming?
CS: Yes, I have a book called Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn that will be out in December. Thanks for asking!
FG: Carol, thank you very much for this interview. It was great talking to you again. Tomorrow we will be visiting with Cindy Moore.