25 March 2009

French Girl Knits - preliminary report

In my last post, I mentioned that I received French Girl Knits for my birthday, and Andrea asked for a review. Here it is!

I had seen several patterns I really liked from the book, which is why I wanted it. That said, I have to say I'm not crazy about the conceit behind the book. I know that Griffin-Grimes' editor was probably saying "there's got to be a theme uniting everything!" but I don't need to be sold a concept; I had the same issues with the dominknitrix book - I like a lot of the patterns, but I don't need them embedded in some cutesy framework. In this book, it's "frenchify it!"; in the dominknitrix book, it's "dominate your knitting." It's not like a cookbook, where you probably do want to know a dish's nationality. But food - ingredients - tend to show either a strong local and / or historical provenance: you understand why chocolate would show up in mole, and you know how ingredients from the americas like chocolate, tea and potatoes got to be in european recipes. I'm not saying clothing doesn't exhibit these tendencies, it's just that as soon as the historical element means adding and borrowing styles, the local flavour might become diluted, less obvious. At any rate, less obvious to me.

I guess I am a bit hung up on the authenticity of it. If I want to understand French style, or make a garment that's distinctly "French" (besides the obvious stereotypes, what would that even be?), I would just buy the new spring issue of Phildar's Tendances. Which is exactly what I've done. I don't know if my link will go to the right page, but if not, the pullover I really like is on page 6, though not in those colours. The clothing in Tendances does actually look "french." I'm still not sure what this means, but they, being french themselves, have done a better job of catching the national flavour. Yes, in my opinion.

Anyway, back to French Girl. I am in the midst of knitting Paloma, a cap sleeved little blouse, and once again, I'm enjoying the complicated process. Complicated not because the stitches are hard, but because the pattern changes literally every row (so far). I like this. It keeps my mind from dwelling on less pleasant aspects of life. Like the crappy girl at the office who made sure that I won't be getting a full-time job there.

But I digress. Again, back to French Girl.

I'll report back when I've finished Paloma, but my gut instinct says that the patterns are worthwhile and I think there are quite a few patterns I'll like making, as long as I don't read the painful little intros to each piece, which feel so forced that I'm embarrassed to read them. Let me give you an example: "In the heart of every French Girl is a wild child, an enfant sauvage who longs to sunbathe au naturel or dine on chêvre and vin rouge curled up on a picnic blanket under the stars." I mean, really? Really? Is that what wild children do? What do non-French wild children do? And, most importantly, is that really wild, for crying out loud? 'Cause eating goat cheese and drinking wine, in my book, sounds more on the civilised side. And nude sunbathing, from what I understand, is pretty normal on this side of the Atlantic, though maybe not up here in the cold north. Do you know what I mean? I'm also embarrassed that I can never remember how to spell "embarrassed." Thank goodness for spellcheck, eh?

Some other patterns I'm interested in: the tunic tank, the leather-laced cardigan (nowhere near as racy as it sounds), the lace-up tank, the bell sleeve pullover, and the flare sleeve cowl sweater.

So, to sum up: the patterns look pretty good, but the concept's pretty naff.


Kathy said...

I'm glad Andrea knew to ask you for this book review. You are GOOD!
I've seen the book on Rav and I also think the patterns are lovely and was interested to know, what was the 'French Connection' actually?

Thanks for posting the link to Phildar. I'd almost forgotten how terrific those patterns are. I have a few issues from some years ago, and they do still maintain their 'je ne sais quoi'... (uh-oh, now I'm trying too hard!)

amanda said...

Oh the wonder of modern marketing - a theme for everything.

Kathy said...

P.S. Tell 'crappy girl' you prefer not to work full-time with crappy people anyway.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's the best, and most honest, book review I think I've ever read! I lose tolerance for knitting reviews that are consistently gushing. I haven't seen the book yet, but have a feeling that I would share your views.

I'm so sorry to hear about the job - let me buy you a vin rouge in the very-French South Ken. x

button said...

I really see what you mean about this French thing. I'm French myself and I really don't fit in their description :)
I think it actually stops me from buying the book

At Home Mommy Knits said...

Thanks so much for the book review! I always love hearing/reading what actualy knitters think about new books and patterns. I love everything Phildar by the way. I'll skip to the patterns when I look through the book :).