Rowan is an internationally renowned handknitting company. As well as producing their bi-annual magazine, Rowan publishes many dedicated yarn brochures and books throughout the year. Usually each new yarn range is launched with an accompanying pattern book to provide inspiration and practical application for their new product. I had some of Rowan's Holiday yarn in my collection and was struggling for ideas so looked up their pattern book Tuscan Retreat, which features a collection of designs all made using Rowan Holiday. This is very difficult to get hold of in the shops as Rowan's Holiday yarn has been discontinued, but I found a copy of the book on eBay straight away and was able to purchase it for only a couple of pounds.
Product description: "Beautifully shot on location in Sicily, `Tuscan Retreat' promotes Holiday as one of Rowan's new yarns for Spring 2006. `Tuscan Retreat' contains 13 lovely designs by the Rowan's new designer Marie Wallin. The brochure reflects a relaxed summer holiday atmosphere from paddling in the sea to leisurely shopping in antique markets."
Marie Wallin joined Rowan's design team in 2005 and has created 13 different designs for this collection. The Holiday yarn is quite unusual, as it has a woven ribbon construction with a laddered effect. It is very lightweight but also quite bulky, and I was unsure of what sort of garment I could make to best showcase the unique properties of this yarn. The book contains a mixture of patterns for womens clothing and accessories. They are aimed at the Spring / Summer seasons to suit the light cotton blend material that the yarn forms when knitted up. The book features knitting patterns only (sorry crocheters!) with the addition of crochet edging on two items.
The patterns include:
Arabella, a striped chevron pattern cardigan.
Arabella, a striped chevron pattern scarf.
Cara, a small knit handbag with pocket details.
Donatella, a cropped wrap around tie vest top.
Florentina, a woven pattern knit tote bag.
Isabella, a lace patterned vest top.
Julietta, a halterneck vest top.
Lorenza, a textured wrap around tie cardigan.
Lucia, a striped v-neck jumper.
Mariella, a short sleeve t-shirt top with lacing detail (see cover image).
Rosa, a striped cropped wrap over cardigan with crochet edging.
Sabrina, a moss stitch knit wrap over cardigan.
Sophia, a knit cardigan with crochet lace trim.
In the end I chose to make the pattern "Donatella" which is a lovely cropped vest with long wrap-around ties that form a mock-cabled effect at the neckline. I was really pleased with how this turned out and the design seemed very well suited to the yarn. The directions were clear and easy to follow, with yarn requirements, needle sizings, measurements and tension scale included. I was slightly unimpressed with part of the pattern instructions, when getting near the end it included my least favourite phrase "reverse shaping". For those not in the know about knitting, this is a lazy and sloppy approach taken by some designers that means the knitter has to interpret an earlier part of the pattern guidelines and calculate how to reverse it on the opposite side, without being given the full written instructions on how to do so. I really dislike this and was a bit disappointed to see this in a book produced by Rowan, as I hold them in high regard as being a top quality design house and manufacturer. Nonetheless, my top turned out beautifully and I am very happy with it.
Overall I think that some of these designs look really dated and unfashionable. Maybe it's the colour or the shaping of the fit, but I was not keen at all on some of the clothing and would never make some of the items as they would not flatter my figure. The yarn is very bulky and I think this does not work in some of the pieces as they look disproportionate. Rowan's aesthetic is usually either for classy heritage pieces, or modern stylish pieces. The designs for this range do not fit into either bracket and I think that the yarn itself can be difficult to work with so it is essential to have some patterns to guide you as a knitter on how to work with it to get good results from your finished piece. The photography is beautiful and each pattern is provided with one full page colour image. This is obviously the most helpful part of the book in terms of deciding which piece you would like to make, but I would prefer it if there were more pictures to provide shots and views from different angles, and maybe even some close ups on the areas on detail. The book is arranged with a photo gallery section at the front, followed by the pattern instructions together in a separate section. There are some basic guidelines included for things like abbreviations and finishing techniques.
It was well worth purchasing this book as it gave me the inspiration and pattern support that I was looking for. However as a collection I think that this book is quite weak and some of the designs look very old-fashioned. I am really happy with the top that I've made and give credit where it's due that the pattern is lovely. I'm also planning to get my hands on some more Holiday yarn so I can knit the Cara bag as it's really cute. I'd recommend the Rowan Tuscan retreat knitting pattern book to use specifically with the recommended Rowan Holiday yarn, as it is so unusual and would not suit being used in most normal patterns due to its laddered ribbon texture.