Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Knit Kimono

Filed under: Books,Knitting,Reviews — folkcat at 3:36 pm on Thursday, November 15, 2007

I realized this wound up being a mini book review, so I’ve cross-posted it to Shopping Jen. Enjoy! And no, this isn’t the review I’ve been hinting at that needed feedback from the publisher – that’s still to come.

Winter is coming soon, and I have a problem.

I haven’t had a proper winter coat in a couple of years.

For a long, long time, I wore a leather jacket that I found at an incredible sale at Lane Bryant. A $230 jacket, for something like $60. Classic bomber style, and a little large for me at the time, but come on! Such a deal!

That was about 1991. I loved it to pieces – literally. It was comfortable, and warm enough for me, and served its purpose well.

I finally decided, a little over a year ago, that it was time to retire it. The leather itself was starting to shred in places, the lining had torn out years ago. The knitted cuffs were unraveling.

Last year, I got by with a polar fleece jacket I’d purchased a while back at a Burlington Coat Factory. But it was always a tight fit, and I’ve gained weight since buying it. Add the //zap!// factor of perpetual static electricity generated by polar fleece, and I just don’t consider it an option any more.

So, here’s the problem. I’m a big girl. Even local shops that have plus sizes, don’t have my size – they stop a little short. I’m also hard to please, style-wise – I tend to think most fashion trends look pretty bad. I want a good, basic, functional coat, and if possible, one in a style that I actually like.

Okay, I’m a knitter. What can I do that will work, and be fairly quick?

Knit Kimono: 18 Designs with Simple ShapesEnter the Interweave Press book, Knit Kimono, by Vicki Square. This is not a review copy – I actually chose to buy the book from Amazon myself. I’ve been fond of some of Vicki’s other Interweave books – Folk Hats and Folk Bags, for instance – and I’m passionate about Japanese design.

There are 18 patterns for jackets, vests, and kimono in this book, all based on traditional styles. And all knitted. Some of them are even large enough already to accommodate my body, without modification! And those that aren’t will be easily altered, since the essence of kimono is that they’re made from rectangles. How hard would it be, then, to simply add a little width to the parts? Not very!

The issue at hand, then, is a coat for myself. Can I answer that with a kimono? I think so! I’ve got a couple of prime candidates in mind. Sorry for the flare in the photos, I couldn’t take them without flash on this gray, rainy day.

Noragi

Noragi, from Knit Kimono

Based on a field worker’s garment, this is built from simple garter stitch rectangles. The yarn called for is Plymouth Linen Isle, a cotton/rayon/linen blend, but I could probably use any worsted weight yarn that will give a nice hand to the finished fabric.

Cons:

  • The size of the garment in the pattern finishes with a 50″ measurement at the chest. This is at least 8 or 9 inches narrower than what I need.
  • The sleeves as designed are impractical for a utilitarian winter coat.*
  • Miles of garter stitch could be boring.

Pros:

  • The construction of the garment is simple rectangles. It will be easy to add the width that I need without harming the style of the coat.
  • I could replace the sleeves with a tapered shape more suitable for a coat.
  • Miles of garter stitch is perfect mindless knitting for television watching, or Knitting In Public.
  • Garter stitch also can be finished without absolutely requiring blocking.

Water & Sky

Water & Sky from Knit Kimono

Water & Sky was inspired by the way that “Japanese architecture harmonizes with the environment, weather, and geography.” Vicki describes the yarn she chose (Classic Elite Fame, a rayon silk blend) as “a blend of pale natural colors that represent the reflection of sunlight as water trickles over a rocky streambed.” The bottom edges have an open-work, ripply stitch pattern to further evoke the sense of water, while the bulk of the garment is knit in stockinette stitch.

This is a roomy piece – the circumference measures as about 73 1/2 inches! That would be perfect for layering. The sleeves are a more practical design for a winter coat, too.

It’s a bit long, though – 42″ shoulder to hem. The model wearing it in other photographs shows it coming down to her knees. I’d probably shorten it.

Cons:

  • Miles upon miles of stockinette stitch.
  • Uses over twice as much yarn as the Noragi.
  • Specialty stitch pattern at hem, coupled with short row shaping to induce curves, takes the beginning of each front piece and the back out of the realm of mindless knitting.
  • Blocking will be absolutely essential to prevent curling of the large stockinette pieces.
  • Garment is too long as designed. Might even be too wide!

Pros:

  • The style of the Water & Sky has somewhat more flare, with the curved hems and the rippling stitch pattern at the hems.
  • Altering length is even a little easier than altering width. Just stop knitting sooner.
  • After the fancy stitchwork at the hems, this is miles of stockinette stitch. But if I shorten it, not as many miles. The stockinette stitch portions also take this back into the world of mindless knitting, at least for portions big enough to count.
  • Garment as designed could be layered for extra warmth.
  • Sleeves are perfect style – in fact, if I do the Noragi after all, I’ll probably steal these sleeves!

Of course, anyone who has read here for a while knows that I would be knitting either of these choices in different colors than the designer did. They’re beautiful, mind you, just not me.

Neither garment has provisions for buttons, but it would be easy to either add a frog-type closure, or use a pin. Or just wear them open – I seldom fasten my winter coats anyway.

What will I decide? That may be influenced by the choices of yarn I can find. I doubt I can afford to make these in either of the yarns called for, so substitutions will be in order. Using a wool or wool blend will be warmer anyhow. I’m planning to stop by my LYS today and see what I can come up with. She’ll be having her annual Anniversary Sale a week from Saturday, too, and all yarns will be 20% off that day – maybe if I plan right, this project won’t have to cost much!

Stay tuned for more – I’ll be sure to report on developments as they arise!

As for my overall opinion of the book – let’s just say that in the end, I want to knit all 18 designs offered here. They’re just that gorgeous!

Related Links:

*I have to admit, though – the more I look at the classic kimono-style sleeves on the Noragi, the more I like them anyway…hmm.

5 Comments »

Comment by Tracy

November 15, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

I have had my eye on that book for awhile, for the same reason. It looks like patterns for things I would wear that would fit my plus-sized self.

Comment by Emily

November 15, 2007 @ 9:41 pm

I appreciate the style of them, but I don’t think the wide sleeves would be warm enough! If the wind blew? Woosh!

Comment by Carol

November 16, 2007 @ 11:13 am

I love the idea for this book! Got to get me some. The basic idea of the kimono has always fascinated me. Hmmm, maybe I could knit me one as a “lab coat” for work.

Comment by Elspeth

November 16, 2007 @ 11:30 am

Yeah, I like the first one best too. The colors are definitely a bit muted though.

Pingback by Crafting Jen » Knitting Updates, and a Rattie Birthday

February 19, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

[...] All that being said, I have been knitting. I’ve told you precious little about it since before Christmas, I know. At the time I was planning to knit a Noragi from the book Knit Kimono. I wanted to be able to wear it in Syracuse for Christmas, but didn’t actually finish it until the first week of January. [...]

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