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Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection

A Look Back at Four Decades of Knitting

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Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection

Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection.

Taunton Press.

I don't know what it is about Sasha Kagan's knitwear designs, but they just look British to me. It could be the bold patterns, the bright colors that remind me so much of Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Malby, the way everything just looks like it was ripped from the pages of a Rowan book, even when they weren't.

Kagan has been an icon of the British and world knitting scene since the 1970s, and Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection takes a look back at 20 designs -- 5 each from 40 years of knitting -- showing that the classics can still be fun and interesting.

About the Book

  • Pages: 160
  • Format: Hardcover with ribbon bookmark
  • Number of patterns: 20, though some have more than one component
  • Skill level: None given, but all are suited to intermediate or advanced knitters with a firm understanding of colorwork and reading charts
  • Sizes: the garments, all for women, are sized extra small to extra large
  • Illustrations: full-color photographs, color charts; knitting techniques are illustrated with color drawings
  • Knitting lessons: two pages cover reading charts, stranded knitting and intarsia, all of which are used heavily in the book
  • Publication date: September 2011

The Patterns

Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection begins with a brief introduction and then dives right in with a large gallery of photos of the finished projects. This gets readers into the spirit of wanting to knit -- or at least learn the stories behind -- these colorful, sometimes whimsical designs.

The patterns are presented by decade, with a simple line drawing of the garment the only thing to remind you what garment you're looking at. It would have been nice to have either a small picture of the garment in question included with the pattern or a note on the pattern as to where the photograph could be found. It's a small detail, but it would have been a nice addition.

Each pattern includes a little information about the original design -- the Spot Tuxedo Waistcoat, for example, was worn by Cagney and Lacy on the 1970s television show -- and includes large schematic drawings and full-color charts.

Most of the patterns feature large repeating motifs, often floral or botanical, while a few more classic "Fair Isle" style projects are included as well.

Some of my favorites are:

  • the above-mentioned Spot Tuxedo Waistcoat, a slim number worked in stranded knitting with four formalwear-style pockets
  • the Bavarian Flower Beanie and Fingerless Gloves, with a small floral pattern worked in shades of pink
  • the Tulip Peplum Jacket, with bold floral motifs running down the body and arms
  • the Ivy Hooded Coat, which still has an allover pattern but somehow comes off more understated than a lot of the other projects
  • the Carthinia Tunic, maybe the only project in the book I'd actually consider knitting, it features bands of stranded knitting and intarsia motifs along the bottom, a dotty pattern as you move up and a solid bodice

Learning More

In between the chapters with the patterns from each decade are essays that add to the reader's understanding of Kagan's place in knitting history, her lengthy relationship with Rowan Yarns and more. This information is helpful for readers who might not known the scope of Kagan's work and allows even those who do know her stature to gain a deeper appreciation for her work.

It is interesting, for example, to read Vogue Knitting's editor Trisha Malcom saying that Kagan's move from London to the Welsh countryside changed her designs and to be able to see those changes in the patterns represented in the book. The essay by Sandy Black, a professor at the London College of Fashion, on the resurgence of hand knitting and seeing knitting as a part of fashion, is particularly interesting.

Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection is a lovely look back at one designer's huge body of work. It allows readers to see the evolution of a designer's aesthetic through the years and how some of the basics remained the same.

Fans of Kagan's work are sure to want to pick up this one, as are knitters who like stranded knitting, intarsia, floral and animal motifs (both cats and Scottie dogs are represented here). The book will serve those knitters as a fine introduction to a design icon whose work is as classic as it is colorful.

Publisher's website

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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