Book Review: The Artisan by Helga Isager

*This is an unpaid/ unsponsored book review

fullsizeoutput_68cFrom the moment you turn the first page this book screams absolute class. The simple, elegant designs aren’t over styled and this allows you to see the clever details that will make you want to cast on as  quickly as you can find the yarn. The title of the collection ‘Artisan’ sums the book up perfectly as it’s evocative of the skilled craft and attention to detail that’s evident in every single design.

Whether it’s the innovative yarn combinations that bring together contrasting or complimentary textures from across the Isager yarn range or a clever stitch detail that draws the eye to a shoulder seam or neckline I found something in every design that made me do a double take. I’ve got a milestone birthday at the beginning of next year and have been promising to find a real ‘hero’ pattern to knit for myself as a treat – well it’s definitely coming from this book. The trouble is, which one to choose?

IMG_3534fullsizeoutput_690

There’s the Pearls sweater which is a highly textured raglan design where the dipped stripes of the pearls(bobbles) echo the shallow ‘V’ neck which is edged in a 3 x 3 rib. The body of the sweater starts with a 3 x 3 rib that gently rises at the sides forming a triangular shape above each hip when the garment is made up. The sleeves also begin with a 3 x 3 rib but rather than creating a hard horizontal band across the edge of the sleeve the rib, as on the body, rises up on the inside to create a V shape when the seam is joined whilst the pearl textured stripes on the top focus the eye down the centre of the sleeve towards the back of the hand when the garment is worn.

When it comes to yarn the garment is worked in a combination of Spinni (a single ply 100% wool) knitted with a single end of Alpaca 1 ( a 2 ply 100% alpaca) which creates a intriguing ‘rustic/luxurious’ feel.

fullsizeoutput_692fullsizeoutput_691

Another design that had my eyes popping out on stalks is the Lace Blouse. Admittedly it’s been quite a few years since I knitted anything this fine but again it’s the details that made me fall in love with this pattern. It’s a wide, scoop neck sweater that employs lace holes to create a faux ‘V’ shape at the neck which is in-filled with 1 x 1 rib that’s echoed on each side of the garment’s shoulder seam.  There are vertical stripes of Bear Track pattern at the centre of the jumper that travel up the garment body cleverly widening out towards the shoulders and these are echoed by a single line of Bear Track on both sleeves. I don’t usually go for ‘pretty’ knits but this is both elegant & feminine but could easily be elevated to funky by using a really punchy colour. The yarn used for this design is Spinni but this time it’s used singly (just for the record this yarn shouldn’t be used singly if you’re knitting in the round).

fullsizeoutput_68e

Although there’s a lot of yarn combining in this collection none of the designs requires you to knit on anything larger than a 4.50 mm needle so even the 2 long jacket styles are  lightweight and well fitting rather than heavy, shapeless and sloppy. I love the refined layout of this book; the clearly written instructions, the simple hanger shots at the start of each pattern that allow you to see the finish project ‘unstyled’ plus the charming line illustrations within the individual instructions that have a lovely hand drawn quality. As an avid note maker I like that there are several lined pages throughout the book where you can jot down details of tension etc and in the back of the book the ‘Knitting School’ gives details of some of the techniques used in the collection as well as advice on how to care for the finished items.

I lost my knitting mojo a couple of years ago and really didn’t think I’d want to knit let alone design anything again but this collection of designs literally fills my heart with joy. It makes me wish that the UK had the sort of Scandinavian Winters that would allow me to hunker down and knit my way through the book from front to back. You’ll find the book and the full range of Isager yarns online at www.isagerstrik.dk

 

The details

Title: The Artisan

Designer:  Helga Isager

Number of designs: 10 ( 8 garments, 2 accessories)

Instructions: Combination of written and charted

Language: English, Danish, German

Price: 199.00 DK (Around £24.00)

 

Advertisements

Room 606 by Helga Isager

AMIMONO_606_OMSLAG.web_1-262x300

This collection of designs by Helga Isager is named after Room 606 of the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Designed by Arne Jacobsen the hotel epitomises the sleek lines, muted tones and subtle textures of Danish modernist architecture and Room 606 is now the only room which retains the original decor.

Helga co owns the the Isager brand with her mother Marianne and since 2005 she has been bringing together the best of knitting craft with fashion-forward design under her Amimono brand www.amimono.dk.

I must admit that it’s been quite a while since I’ve looked through a collection of designs and wanted to knit more than one of the patterns. The problem, if there is one, with Room 606 is deciding exactly what to knit first. From the minute you start to browse through the book you can tell that there’s something different about these patterns. Both the garment styling and photographic lighting are understated and each of the 11 designs (9 garments plus 2 accessories) has a simple silhouette but may feature an unusual yarn combination, interesting stitch pattern or construction detail that lifts them to a completely new level.

The pattern instructions are clearly laid out and have a very friendly, easy to read tone with measurements given on the drawn schematics and knitting tips & abbreviations at the back of the book. Most styles are offered in 3 sizes: small, medium and large and range in skill level from beginner to advanced although this isn’t indicated on the patterns.

As both a designer and knitter I’ve always enjoyed mixing yarn types within a project much in the same way that a painter mixes paint on a palette. It allows you to create new, blended colours and produces unusual handling effects so of course I was really excited to find this is a key element of Helga’s design signature.

 

My personal favourite pieces from Room 606 are the Lone cardigan and Ingrid sweater. Lone is the kind of cardigan – or should that be jacket – that you dream of snuggling into when it’s freezing cold outside. It’s a colour blocked design worked in a Brioche rib with the 3 ‘colours’ are created by using two different yarns mixed together. So Col A is Silk Mohair & Highland Silk, Col B is Silk Mohair & Alpaca 2 and Col C is Silk Mohair & Tvinni.

Using the same deliciously soft Silk Mohair as a base for all three colours has a certain continuity but also creates three new but quite beautiful sludgy colours and gives the cardigan a luxurious halo of warmth. There are so many yarns in the Isager range (16 in fact)  that if this colour combination isn’t to your taste you could spend hours poring over the choices trying to find a replacement. What else do I like about this design? It’s a really wearable shape with generously sized patch pockets for enclosing (my) freezing cold fingers and the V shaped wedge detail on each sleeve is both original and stylish.

Ingrid2.web_
Ingrid Sweater

Along very similar lines the Ingrid sweater has a simple silhouette, a slightly widened round neck edged in rib and features the same wedge detail on the sleeve as the Lone cardigan. Once again it mixes yarn types to create the 3 ‘colours’: Cols A &B are both Spinni & Silk Mohair, whilst Col C is a mix of Spinni & Alpaca 2.

If you’re new to the Isager yarn range have a look through the website http://shop.isagerstrik.dk and you’ll see what’s on offer. There are pure wools like Highland which have several tones within each shade, the slightly heavier Aran Tweed which is softly twisted and flecked with flashes of accent colour, two weights of alpaca (Alpaca 1 & Alpaca 2), the cobweb-fine Silk Mohair and three linen mix blends Merilin, Bomulin and Viscolin.

If you’ve become a little bored of top down garments that look too tight or have been designed with an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ type of design process you’ll enjoy Room 606 collection as it’s a brilliant fusion of great craft skill, contemporary style and surprising little details you’ll love to knit.

The Room 606 book is available directly from Isager priced 199 DKK – that’s around £20.00 –  and you’ll find the full range of yarns available there too.

Isager online shop: http://shop.isagerstrik.dk

Helga Isager’s website: http://amimono.dk/?lang=en