And now for a review.
I don’t know whether there’s any truth in the old adage that there’s somebody out there for everyone. Could be tricky if your particular someone is working the oil rigs off the Norwegian coast whilst you’re herding llamas in Chile. However I do think that these days, there’s probably a knitting/crochet magazine out there for every knitter/hooker: it’s just a matter of trying a few until you hit the right one.
Hence this post. The folks at De Agostini sent their carrier pigeon my way with a message. (De Agostini publish part-works about all sorts of creative things: you want to build a life-size replica WW2 submarine out of matchsticks over the course of 20 weeks? They’re your chaps.*) Anyway, they’re just starting a new magazine, and they very kindly sent me a copy of the first issue for review. (That was tough on the poor carrier pigeon, I tell you.)
*OK, I made that example up.
With me so far? Jolly good. Let’s get the practicalities out of the way first. It’s available directly in a few countries, by which I mean that De Agostini have made themselves at home in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Malta. It’s published weekly and in the UK, the first issue is available for 99p, issue 2 will cost £1.99, and subsequent issues will be £3.99. I believe that Issue 2 is just out now.
So if you’ve ever bought part-works before, you’ll recognize the format here. Yes this is a magazine, but its pages are pre-punched and detachable so that you can file them in a binder, assuming that you’re of an organized persuasion. Every issue comes with a couple of balls of yarn which enable you to make squares which will eventually be joined together to make a colourful throw. (There are other patterns and techniques, too, but I’ll get to those in a minute.) The idea is that each square teaches you a different stitch. As you can probably tell, this publication is pitched more towards the beginner end of the knitting spectrum.
Now maybe my fickle head has been swayed by a free magazine (unlikely), but I happen to think that this is a rather splendid way of learning to knit, if you’re newish to the craft and want to expand your repertoire of skills. When I came back to knitting as an adult, I started out by working lots and lots of different squares in all sorts of stitches, just to get my confidence back. I keep meaning to dig these squares out and use them as dishcloths. And working from this magazine, at least if you miss an issue, it’s not going to ruin your whole project. The throw that you end up making may be larger or it may be smaller, but it’ll still be a throw.
Want to have a look at the kit that comes with it?
The yarn is 50% wool and 50% acrylic DK, and although it doesn’t feel like it was handspun under moonlight by your favourite local indie yarn magician, it is better quality than the yarn that comes with many magazines, and it’s adequate for learning and practising. The needles that came with mine were of slightly wonky bamboo, but they’re good enough to use, and I think the publishers have got this the right way round by prioritizing quality of yarn over quality of needles. Oh, and there’s a darning needle, too. A lass can never own too many darning needles.
Now I said earlier that this mag is pitched firmly at beginners. Absolutely no previous knowledge is assumed, and they’ve devoted more space than other magazines to the real basics of things like casting on, working garter stitch, etc. There’s backup via online videos too, so you should be able to master this stuff from scratch even if you haven’t got your Great Aunt Ethel ‘The Entrelac’ Evans looking over your shoulder to guide you.
In addition to squares for your throw, each issue covers a few other skills and patterns, in this case techniques such as winding yarn into a ball, and making pompoms, and patterns such as a simple mug cosy and an iPad cover. (There’s a smart fox on the front of the iPad cover, but it’s worked as Swiss darning rather than actual knitted colourwork.)
The layout is bright, clear, and uncluttered, and I think that there has been a real attempt to think through what a beginner needs to know. Oh, and there’s no advertising whatsoever, except for subscriptions to the magazine itself. All of the content is around patterns and techniques: there is no industry gossip, news, or reviews. I tell you this so that you can make your own mind up: you may love it or you may loathe it.
Hmm, I do worry that this post is sounding a little overly sane by Twisted Yarn standards, so at this point we get to the slightly more unhinged bit. Here, for your general edification and magazine budget decision-making, is a quiz in order to determine whether Simply Stylish Knitting is your lifelong partner in the knitting mag world, or whether you’d scarcely get beyond the first date. Ready? Go…
Why do you read knitting magazines?
A: To learn as much as I can and to get ideas.
B: To get the low-down on what’s new.
C: I don’t. I’ve got Ferret-Fancier’s Weekly hidden inside the cover of this knitting magazine, but I didn’t want anyone to see that when I got on the bus.
How experienced a knitter are you?
A: Which way round do you hold the needles again?
B: Hmm, I’m doing OK. I can churn out scarves, but I’m a little scared of fairisle.
C: Have you not read all six of my publications on advanced intarsia?
How chatty do you like your knitting magazines to be?
A: Not at all. I just want to knit, thanks very much. I’ll save the gossip for Stitch-n-Bitch night at the pub.
B: A little. I’d like to read about major knitting shows and new yarn brands.
C: Sister, give me all the gossip. First of all, I want to know whether there’s any truth in the rumour that the editor of Knitting World magazine was seen holding a crochet hook!
Do you like gifts included with your magazine?
A: Yes please. Some yarn wouldn’t go amiss, especially if it comes with ideas for using it.
B: Maybe, although I’ve already got WoolWarehouse on speed-dial, and my stash is causing local subsidence.
C: No thanks. I’m quite capable of finding my own way to the yarn shop. (Hardly surprising, given how much time I spend there.)
What style of writing do you like to read?
A: Clear, practical, calm text (which does slightly beg the question, WHY ARE YOU READING THE TWISTED YARN??), and with lots of how-to explanations.
B: Informal, chatty, and with personal anecdotes.
C: Yo, wassup? I like my mags totes down wiv da kidz, innit. I’m cravin’ da word on da knittin’ street! What gives, bro?
What type of magazine buyer are you?
A: Loyal. I like to build up a collection and it drives me mad if I miss an issue. I keep all my back copies in a binder.
B: I do have a favourite that I tend to buy the most.
C: Changeable. Last month I bought Knitter’s World because of the free gifts, but this month I might get World Knitting, or Mum might just lend me her latest Knitting The World.
What’s your attitude to adverts?
A: Don’t like ’em. They make the magazine look cheap and cluttered.
B: I don’t mind a few ads for yarn suppliers.
C: You kidding me? I only buy magazines to get retail discount codes.
And finally, what’s your aesthetic?
A: Light and white with brights. Modern. Tending towards minimalist. Zingy citrusy shades. I like pink.
B: Um, not fussy really. Pink is OK.
C: Victorian gothic. Dark and complex. I hate pink.
Right, the moment of earth-shattering truth revelation has arrived. Have a look at your answers to see whether they’re:-
Mostly A: I think that we may have just found your perfect knitting magazine. Enjoy!
Mostly B: OK so the publishers didn’t have a life-size cardboard cut-out of you at their planning meetings as inspiration, but there’s probably some stuff in Simply Stylish Knitting that you’d enjoy.
Mostly C: Look my friend, I’m all for trying new things, but I really don’t think that this publication was written with you in mind. Oh, and it’s not true that the editor of Knitting World was seen with a crochet hook: that was a malicious rumour started by her rival at World Knitting, OK?