Here it is, the most exciting Fall/Winter fashion trend for 2013 for us knitters--Houndstooth!
Houndstooth was everywhere on the fashion runways, and now is flooding the department stores! I have seen it on everything-- skirts, jackets, and even fabulous fur wraps, like the amazing Michael Kors stole pictured above. Houndstooth in mink, can you imagine? Luckily for us knitters there is another way to get this effect that avoids both the expense and the animal pelts! I'm talking about colorwork knitting. The houndstooth pattern is not hard to master, just a little stranding with yarn and a color chart is all you need to get a fabulous wrap or skirt or top at a fraction of the cost!
The elegance of Houndstooth first caught my eye when I discovered a vintage photo book of Chanel. The photographs of her artistry with houndstooth in black and white or beige and white was a revelation to me:
The above houndstooth jacket, circa 2006, is truly divine, is it not?
But it was the designer Mondo Guerrera, Project Runway Season 8 contestant who made me see how fun and playful the simple motif could be. In the Jacqueline Onassis tribute challenge, Mondo created a vibrant joyful yet superbly elegant look with a magnified purple houndstooth skirt.
He paired the skirt with a bold black and white striped top and leather-trimmed black jacket lined with purple. I believe the fierce judge Nina Garcia sighed in rapture at the gorgeousness of it all. And check out the designer himself, wearing houndstooth socks!
Mondo demonstrated that houndstooth is not only classic, it can be cool as well. He proved this again with this final challenge dress, a super sexy black and white number that featured color blocking in houndstooth and tweed, again with leather trim.
The ultra short skirt and clever mix of tweeds makes this design really chic. Clearly, Mondo was way ahead of his time because this look is everywhere now, including the black leather trim and magnified houndstooth pattern. I was able to snap up this fabulous skirt at Nordstrom as a birthday gift to myself this September:
And now I just need to knit a fabulous houndstooth top to match! I think I’m going to make it a peplum top with a teeny tiny houndtooth pattern and contrast edging in silver and black. Perhaps you are saying to yourself, houndstooth on top of houndstooth, isn't that too much? Perhaps it is, but I am obsessed I tell you, I can't help myself!!
Luckily, some knitting designers are creating amazing pieces that capitalize on the houndstooth trend, and my favorite is the French designer Anny Blatt. My top pick from their No 217 Couture Collection this fall: The Dinky Pull.
Can you say retro chic? The minute I saw this, it was a love at first sight. I had to knit this top! No matter that the instructions were in French, the yarn wasn't carried by any store I knew, and the shipping fee just to import this thin magazine to the US was a ridiculous sum. Hmm, I thought, this is just my luck that I just received some birthday yarn money that makes this ridiculous flight of fancy possible. Luckily, after I spent half my yarn budget on shipping for the magazine, I happened to have some white angora haze yarn in my stash, and was able to find some black angora haze at a greatly discounted rate. In order to get a dk weight gauge with this fingering weight yarn, I am doubling the black and white angora with black and white kidsilk haze I have left over in my stash. This prevents a double thickness of angora, which would be unbearably warm in my temperate Californian climate. As for the French instructions? With the help of the Tricot and Co group on Ravelry, I have been puzzling through parts of it, and guessing the rest.
Here is my completed back piece, unblocked:
This is one of the most delightful fairisle patterns I have ever knitted. The angora yarn is so soft in my hands and the houndstooth pattern is so amusing! My biggest fear is that washing will create a bit of color bleeding, so I am wash testing my gauge swatch before I lay a hand on this large back piece! Here is a closeup of the houndstooth pattern:
For anyone interested in making a houndstooth coat there is another fabulous possibility: the Cornelian Manteau, also from Anny Blatt:
Or the Anny Blatt Arch Veste, also from the same magazine:
To be honest, I want to knit all of these pieces, but I only have two hands and a limited yarn budget and some of these yarns seem a bit out of my reach.
Whereas the Anny Blatt houndstooth designs are cutting edge with their use of angora and metallic yarns, Kim Hargreaves takes a more traditional approach using tweed yarn for her houndstooth blazer in her new fall/winter book, Smoulder. The name of the jacket is Honour, and it is knitted in Rowan felted tweed.
I made an initial try at knitting Honour with some yarn in my stash, but I had to use a smooth yarn because I didn't have the felted tweed and so the fabric lost its edge. Instead, the small houndstooth print seemed so subdued and conservative in contrast with the vibrant playfulness of the Dinky Pull, that I gave it up. However, I am thinking that the tiny, more conservative houndstooth in Honour in the smooth yarn would be a perfect compliment to my houndstooth skirt, and would work better as a top. It will be fun to experiment with the yarn and pattern combination to create a top that fits my skirt! And if the houndstooth on top of houndstooth turns out to be too much, I can always go “mondo” with it and make a black and grey striped top to go with the houndstooth skirt instead, like his Jackie O look!
Do any of you have a favorite houndstooth pattern? If so, please share it in the comments section!