Monday, March 30, 2009

The Knitter magazine: review

My sock had an adventure this week, when it got lost at a conference, used as a comedy prop in front of an audience of 200 be-suited businessmen, and then returned to me, to my joy (and shame). That sock is about the most knitting I've done since last time. I have, from time to time, carried Joe's red sweater around in my knitting bag, as though I were going to do something with it, but ultimately the sock is the only item that's seen any progress. Perhaps I'll take some photos and show you next weekend how Ray's blue-and-orange You Nork Mets sock yarn is knitting up. It is soft and bouncy yarn, a delight to use.

In the meantime, let's talk about knitting magazines. I used to have a subscription to one or two, but I let them lapse. Then I was in WHSmith today, a store which the last time I looked, several months ago, stocked not one single knitting title, just a lot of cross-stitch. Well, things certainly have changed since then. Not having seen any of the UK magazines in quite a while, I thought I'd take a look at The Knitter, the newest title on the British market, and share my thoughts with you.

The Knitter, Issue 4

note: the pic here is an earlier issue

Of all the knitting titles that Smiths has to offer, The Knitter is the only one not in a plastic bag. And it didn't include a lot of falling-out inserts, that I noticed. This is the first time I've seen The Knitter magazine, and one of the first things that crosses my mind is to wonder how they're going to make it pay for itself. Will consumers continue to tolerate the credit-crunch-unfriendly £5.99 cover price? Why isn't it stuffed with advertising inserts? How are they going to keep up the high production values? It's printed on heavy paper, with proper binding (no cheapy staples here) and semi-stiff covers, a bit like Rowan magazine. The colour printing is great. The graphic design is professional and it looks thoughtfully edited. It makes a great first impression - very premium - but how will they keep it up?

The featured designers will be mostly familiar to British knitters: Kaffe Fassett, Erika Knight, Marie Wallin, Louisa Harding and Martin Storey, for example. While this more or less guarantees 'tasteful' patterns (although I must say that Louisa Harding's beribboned, pink-and-orange lacy cape is a little too much for my taste), it also means that there is probably not much in here design-wise that you don't already have on your knitting bookshelf. In fact, the sweaters, cardigans and table cloths shown here are not far off what you'd expect to find in Rowan magazine, which regularly features Kaffe, Martin et al, which was disappointing for me, because the magazine is such nice quality and so colourful, that I wanted it to be more edgy with its design choices. I stopped my Rowan subscription because I just don't dig the woodland fairy lacy shawl vibe, no matter how much I want to support them. For me, Phildar in France gets it right, fashion-wise.

I will say that I loved the Lucy Neatby pattern for Mermaid Socks, and it was only a shame I already have this pattern, as it was published in her book Cool Socks, Warm Feet. I think you see the problem.

The editorial content is much better than average. The new product reviews aren't offensively gushing. There's a big feature on UK Ravelry Day. Yarn reviews. Book reviews (including novels that aren't knitting chicklit). A feature by Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon Knitting. The Who's Who of British Designers looks great and the one thing that makes me wish I had last month's issue, for Part 1. A very nice feature on designing with warm and cool colours, that really gives The Knitter a competitive edge for advanced knitters. A pretty good-looking competition where you can win a Namaste knitting bag, 18 balls of merino, birch needles, three books (reviewed in the magazine) and a few other bits including hand cream. I warmed to The Knitter once I got past the patterns and concentrated on the editorial. I'm not used to knitting magazines containing features that I actually want to read. Thumbs up to that.

Conclusion: A very readable, high-quality magazine for advanced British knitters, that plugs a gap between Rowan magazine and the US titles such as Interweave. Scary cover price, but then if that means its life will ultimately be quite short, I might be tempted to enjoy The Knitter while I can. New patterns from new designers would clinch the deal.

Incidentally, beginner knitters might care to know that you get 3.25mm birch dpns as a cover gift with this month's Let's Knit, and a magnifying gadget that looks really quite useful with this month's Simply Knitting. I do like a good cover gift. I wish one of the upmarket knitting titles would do upmarket cover gifts. Now that would be interesting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The new product reviews aren't offensively gushing.

That, in itself, would make it worth reading. I like honest reviews, rather than just omg-this-is-so-great. Even if you love the product in question, tell me some things that might not be so fantastic about it.