Fred Perry Knitting Patterns

Fredperry

If you are like me and have long admired the longevity, distinctive mod styling, and careful brand aesthetic of British retailer Fred Perry your heart may have skipped a wee beat when you read those words. Fred Perry Knitting Patterns? Really?

fp4

Yes, really. The gorgeous golden cardigan on the left currently retails on Fred Perry’s website at £125, but the company is also offering knitters the amazing opportunity to really re-create this look themselves – why not download the pattern for free and whip one up today!

FP3

There are eleven designs for men and women, including both garments and accessories. Every attention has been paid to the patterns’ careful vintage styling and ‘authentic’ mid-century graphic design and layout.

FP2

But sadly, the same care and attention has not been paid to the content of the patterns themselves.

pattern

The recommended yarn for these patterns is Rowan British wool Red Faced Leicester. Have you come across this yarn? Or heard of a Red Faced Leicester sheep? No, nor have I. In effect, Fred Perry is suggesting you knit this sweater with a yarn which does not exist, that grows on a non-existent sheep.

Red Faced sheep do exist:

Sheep%2C+California+Red+2
(California Red Faced sheep)

One must assume Fred Perry is unable to distinguish between these delightful creatures and others, equally delightful, but rather different.

bfl
(British Blue Faced Leicester sheep)

Sadly, the problems don’t stop there. There’s no gauge or sizing information (!), nothing about yarn weight, quantities, shades, or other materials required, and the ‘language’ of these patterns would, I imagine, confuse any hand knitter either vintage or modern.

FPknittingpatterns

. . . certainly this contemporary knitter could make neither head nor tail of the incomplete and oddly constructed Cabled beanie pattern, which you might imagine, would be one of the easiest designs to get to grips with. Could it be, then, that Fred Perry’s offer to “knit your own” garment from their Autumn / Winter 2013 knitwear collection is merely a sneaky marketing ruse? A way of spinning and bolstering the brand identity of mass-market knitwear through recourse to familiar ideas of the ‘vintage’ and ‘handcrafted’? Surely not!

aranknitcardigan

But, when you fail to knit yourself a lovely golden Aran cardigan from Fred’s badly-put-together pattern (which fails to include instructions for the sleeves) , you can easily return to the website to purchase one ready-made. As you can see, this cardigan was “originally designed for fishermen on the Scottish isle of Aran” [sic] as opposed to the Irish Aran islands . . . you know, Fred, where actual “Aran” knitwear comes from? Perhaps the error-ridden and confusing “knitting patterns” are merely the tip of an eroneous marketing iceberg? Oh Fred! How cruelly you shatter my mod dreams!

Discussing a British brand I like and admire in this context is all the more galling as I really think these patterns are a brilliant idea. Why not engender more collaboration and interplay between high street retailers and hand-knitters? Between ideas of making and consumption? Between the world of “knit” as it is currently taught on fashion and textile courses, and the world of “knitting” as now practiced all over the world by savvy and talented craftspeople? Having had a good look at the Fred Perry Knitting Patterns, it strikes me that their single biggest problem is that they have been produced by someone who might know an awful lot about designing for Shima knitting machines, but has no understanding of the evolving descriptive vocabulary of contemporary hand knitting. With just a little more effort Fred Perry might have produced something truly innovative here, rather than this epic – and slightly cynical – fail.

All of your thoughts are welcome.


Thanks to Karie (@kariebookish), Helen (@ripplecrafts) and Benjamin (@knityounexttues) for the enlivening twitter debate which prompted me to write this post.

cloudy

melcloud2

The cloud pattern is now ready, and you can find it here! To celebrate its release, I thought I’d show you some pictures (taken in a cloudy Edinburgh yesterday) which suggest the different ways that the sweater might be made and worn. Mel’s storm cloud (warning – rav link) is knit in a yarn (rialto 4 ply) that is both more drapey and more form-fitting than the bowmont braf that I used. The shift to a light, even yarn, together with the lack of pocket, turn the hoody from fuzzy and cartoon-like to sleek and sophisticated. The puffed sleeves make for a light and feminine summer sweater:

melcloud1

But you can still stick your hood up for some furtive window shopping. . .

hoodup

i-cord (ah! the wonder!) gives a neat finish to the neckline. Check out the deep purple facings. Very stormy.

neckline

As you know, I love the finish on this sweater — the facings and edgings are what really make it for me — so the pattern takes its time over the finish, with stitching notes, and diagrams for clarity.

detail

There are also instructions for an alternative, plain, lozenge-shaped pouch (if you don’t want a cloud, but do want a pocket on your sweater). I’ve written the pattern in nine sizes (covering girls 22 inch to woman’s 44 inch chest) and highlighted several points in the instructions at which you might modify the sweater to create the best fit for your body shape. Of course, the fact that the sweater is knit top-down makes it infinitely, and easily, modifiable. The neckline is nice without the hood, for example, and would look lovely with a different edging, (if one was, for some unaccountable reason, tired of all that icord). Hearty thanks to Mel for expert knitting and advice, as always. You can see some more photos of her looking fabulous in her storm cloud over on ravelry and acquire the pattern, if you are so inclined, above from the designs page. Cheers!

mel
(thankyou, Gordon, for this great photo)

me news

rowanshot

Some of you may be interested to know that I’ve a feature in the new Rowan Magazine (no.46), which is out today. The piece is about British industrial textile history, and the past and future of two important mills — Cold Harbour, and New Lanark.* I really enjoyed writing this feature, as I’m sure you can imagine. In other me-related news, I have finally found some time to finish off not one, but two patterns, which I will be able to ‘release’ in a few days. The first is, at long last, the cloud (about which some of you have been asking) – hurrah! The second is what I am knitting here, on this Jura beach, several weeks ago.

knittinglyttleton

More about this garment very shortly.

Thanks for your thoughts on the last post. I now find myself able to step back and ponder my own cashmere-antipathy, which — legitimate and important objections to a particular global economic model and and its environmental impact notwithstanding — I fear may also be tinged with a (perhaps suspect) aversion to cashmere’s (incidental?) associations with empire, excess, and a certain kind of femininity. Should one really condemn a fibre and an entire fibre industry because of the way its symbolic connotations feed into a particular (gendered) debate about luxury and the mass market? Because I feel that cashmere-as-commodity somehow offends my version of feminism? I feel much the same way about cupcakes, for example, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying them. And, as Colleen points out, pleasure is not an insignificant component of one’s relationship to ‘luxury’ textiles which can be consumed and enjoyed in thoughtful (and sustainable) ways. Heather also neatly puts her finger on my capacity for self-delusion. While I am a complete sucker for a certain kind of nationalistic marketing (the kind that involves sheep and rolling hills, roaming free and Yorkshire Tea, ahem) I sneer at another which (to me) unfortunately suggests lounge or leisure wear, golf**, and Ronnie Corbett (cue ‘sorry‘ theme tune). Show me a coachload of cashmere-clad English golfbuddies heading for the House of Bruar and I will run a mile. On the other hand, wave 100g of sludge coloured yarn under my nose that smells vaguely of the farmyard, with an ovine phizog depicted upon it, and I’ll have shown you the colour of my money before you can say “British Sheep Breeds.”

I also wanted to say how much I always enjoy your book recommendations, and to thank you for two recent ones in particular: Sigrun for Lucy Lippard’s The Lure of the Local and Kate M for the poetry of Sorley MacClean, which I am really enjoying, and wishing I could read in Gaelic.

*special thanks to Felix and the Felix-mobile
**apologies to Fiona

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,067 other followers