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Review: Casual, Elegant Knits


First, the facts:

Title: Casual, Elegant Knits: Classy Designs for Women and Men

Authors: Faina Goberstein and Dawn Leeseman

Published by: Martingale and Company, 2008

Pages: 96 pages

Type: Patterns


1. City Life
2. Elegant Afternoon
3. Gotta Have It


Pattern Size Range: Varies, but going all the way from XS to 2XL on most of the sweaters.

The In-Depth Look:

The title promises casual and elegant–a combination that I love. It implies comfortable, but attractive items that aren’t too fussy but aren’t dressed “down” too far, either–and the knits in this book hit that just about right.

The book is divided into three sections. The first is “City Life,” an almost entirely monochromatic collection of chic pieces for the city-dweller on the go. (This is where the cover photo comes from.) The man’s “Sleek Line” sweater is knit entirely in a slimming rib stitch and looks like a sweater that the men I know would be happy to wear–not too fussy, not too trendy–just warm and simple. I love the black and grey “Mélange” scarf, too, but then I’ve always been a sucker for anything resembling gray herringbone. The textured red of the woman’s beret and scarf set accent her outfit beautifully. The “Little Flirt Skirt” is lovely–a straight skirt with flirty pleats at the hem. It looks snazzy and easy to wear.

The second section is “Elegant Afternoon” and is much lighter in feel than the first section–a Spring day rather than late Fall. The colors and textures are airier, and it feels like this couple is taking an outing in a park. The “Golden Duet Tank” is a straight-forward tank, sewn together with the purl-side of the stockinette pieces as the right side, and trimmed with picot around the edges. Its accompanying skirt is simple, too, with lines of seed stitch mimicking the seams in a gored-skirt.

Then there’s the “Tweed Polo” for men–and I’m torn on this one. I think the sweater is great, but I don’t know any men that would wear it. Maybe I’m just getting stuck on the fact that I’ve never seen a man wear a short-sleeved sweater before? Shirts, yes, but not handknits. I, on the other hand, would wear that sweater in a minute, if I could knit it that fast. It’s a classic Polo shape with a textured all-over stitch, and looks classy and wearable. I love the “Driver’s Cap,” though–that’s a style that never gets old or boring. Love that, and it’s about time somebody wrote a good pattern for one. (I had a gray flannel one in high school that was known as the “Happy Cap” because I could be in the worst mood, then I’d put it on and be happy. I think I really NEED to knit this pattern.)

The third section of the book is all accessories, and is titled “Gotta Have It.” And, without exception, these accessories are well worth the time it would take to make them. There are two each of each type of pattern–one for men, one for women. Two fitted, round hats–lacy for women, ribbed for men. Two scarves–lacy for women, cabled for men. Then sheer, airy gauntlets for women, and fingerless gloves for men. They are all well thought out, in good yarns, and look like they’re really good patterns.

Oh, and the bags. There are five of them in this book. That’s five out of the twenty-four patterns in the book, and all of them are fabulous. There are two purses–a felted circular shoulder bag, and a scalloped, lacy confection for carrying just a few essentials. There are also bigger satchels. There’s the messenger bag that can be made either horizontally or vertically, and, either way, it looks like a big, sturdy, practical bag for books (or knitting). The “Triple-Pocket Bag” is beautiful–knit in variegated yarn, in woven stitches, and is just fabulous. I loved all the bag patterns in this book, and I think the triple-pocket is calling to me.

I didn’t love every pattern, though. I’m not fond of the “Elongated Neck Tunic,” which seems like something that would fall off your shoulders whenever you leaned over to pick something up. It draws the eye down to the waistline, too, which is bulked-up by the fold-over cable neckband so that even the model looks “pouchy.” Then, I have a hard time with the “Watercolor Shawl,” too, because I’m personally not fond of novelty yarns like bouclé and ribbon, and this is made from both of them. Unlike most triangular shawls, though, it’s knit straight across in rows with shaping along the outer edge, rather than shaping around a center column of stitches, which I think is a refreshing change.

I DID like that the photos were good ones–you can get a decent look at the shape and design of the garments. (There are no weird, “I’m hiding the way this hangs” kinds of poses.) There are also good schematics for pretty much everything except the scarves, and each pattern gets a skill-level rating, which can be helpful. The pattern instructions seem clear to understand and the font size is a good size for reading.

Overall? Nice sweaters, but for me, the strength was in the really good accessories, and the great bags–not a bad combination. All in all, a good book, and you can get a copy for yourself for $19.77 at Amazon.

(Oh, and I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. It’s cloudy today, so the only light I have are the lamps in the room, and because of the glossy stock paper of the book, I kept getting reflections, but couldn’t use my flash. (It’s not like I have a professional photo studio–unfortunately!) I gave it my best shot, but didn’t want to hold up the review until I could get better pictures.)

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: I’ll admit I didn’t fall madly in love with this book, but I liked it quite a bit, and think it’s got some good patterns–especially the accessory patterns. This review copy was kindly donated by Martingale & Company at the behest of the authors. Thank you!

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