I take a lot of inspiration for my designs from places I've lived and traveled, but I believe nothing quite shapes your life experiences like the place you call home. For me, of course, that's Baltimore, and for Allyson Dykhuizen (designer behind The Sweatshop of Love and boss lady over at Holla Knits) and Carina Spencer (brilliant mind behind Whippoorwill, Lucy Hat, and many other gorgeous designs), it's the Midwest.
These two fabulously creative women put together a collection of unique, modern garment and accessory patterns inspired by the land they call home, which I'm excited to review for you today.
(I was sort of curious about which states technically constitute The Midwest and you'll be interested to know that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, The Midwest includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. But take that with a grain of salt because the Census Bureau also considers Maryland The South and . . . well . . . that's ... debateable, to say the least. Let's just say, I've never used the word "y'all" unironically.)
Midwestern Knits includes 13 patterns, categorized seasonally: 8 sweaters, 2 mittens, 2 hats and a cowl. Because it's a collection of patterns by multiple designers, it includes a lot of different styles--bold colors, muted palettes, cables, textures, colorwork, etc. If you want to break out of your comfort zone and try some new knitting techniques, this collection would be a great place to start--it has a little bit of everything.
My favorite part is the essay written by each designer sharing the inspiration behind her design. It really helps you get a feel for the Midwest and how each piece came into being, and while that's not essential for knitting the patterns, it really elevates the whole project--rather than a selection of patterns printed together, this is a cohesive collection. (Chicago happens to be my favorite US city after Baltimore--of course!--but it's actually the only place in the Midwest I've ever visited. The entirety of my knowledge about life in the Midwest comes from watching The Mighty Ducks trilogy 487 times, and I suspect it may not be 100% accurate.)
From a practical perspective, the patterns included are clear and well-written, with nice tidy charts and schematics. All of the garment patterns indicate the size worn by the model, which is great; not all of them include how much ease is shown or intended, which is not essential, but is information I personally like to have.
This is a pattern book, not a "learn-to-knit" book, so there are no in-depth tutorials here; however, full descriptions of more advanced techniques, like short rows and pleats, are included, so you don't have to scour the Internet to find them. I think this collection strikes a nice balance--explaining more difficult techniques without cluttering up the book with pages and pages of instruction.
So, since this is a pattern book, let's go ahead and take a look at them!
Far and away my absolute FAVORITE in this collection is Adrienne Larsen's On The Motorway vest. I'm pretty bummed I haven't found time to knit this one already. It has cables, it has pleats, and it's a vest--pretty much everything I want out of a knitting pattern.
Carina's Midtown comes in a close second--a swingy, open-front cardigan with 3/4 sleeves and drop shoulders, it combines color and texture in the most beautiful way.
Jennifer Beaumont's Mishigami Pullover is a color lover's dream--it's the perfect project for playing with hues and tones (assuming you can handle a fingering weight sweater)! Be sure to check out Allyson's version on Ravelry, which is adorable and makes me want to knit this one even more.
So many great patterns in here, I could go on . . . Hope Vickman's Furrowed Pullover looks so cozy, Emily Ringelman's Blowing Snow is the perfect winter white cardigan, Allyson's Sweater of Broad Shoulders is full of fun textures that will really give your knitting needles a workout. Really, there's something here for everyone.
As a sweater lover (if not, sadly, a particularly productive sweater knitter), I think this is a great addition to your pattern book collection--it's light on accessories, though, so if shawls and socks are more your thing, it might not be a great buy for you. Grab the ebook for $18, or print edition + ebook for $25 plus shipping. Warm weather is on the way, but we all know those summer months FLY by--before you know it, it will be time to bundle up again, and if you start some of these projects now, you'll be ready for sweater weather!
All photos courtesy of Carina Spencer and Allyson Dykuizen, Midwestern Knits
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