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Review: Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 2013

August 9, 2013

The print edition of Interweave Knit's Unofficial Harry Potter Knits collection hit shelves on Tuesday, though the digital edition has been available for a little longer than that. I purchased the digital edition earlier this week and, knowing that pretty much everyone loves Harry Potter, figured I'd do a little review on it. Some parts of this review may be specific to the digital edition but all notes on the patterns will hold true for both.

I admit that I browse knitting magazines the same way people browse Playboy: it's really not about the articles, I want to skip to the good stuff.  That being said, the articles included in this magazine look pretty interesting. There's an interview with costume designer Jany Temime (who took over for Prisoner of Azkaban and all subsequent films), an article on the meaning of knitting in the Harry Potter universe, and the locations throughout Britain that inspired J.K Rowling and the pattern designers in this magazine. There are a few more articles too, but I skipped those altogether because OMG there are so many patterns in this magazine, can we just get to them already?

Fair warning: every single pattern in this magazine is for a clothing item or accessory. It all goes on your body; there's nothing in here for home, or even a bag or anything.  I was really hoping for a Burrow-inspired blanket or something like Hermione's Bag of Greater Holding (or is that a D&D thing? I can never remember). As much as I love sweaters and socks and hats and whatnot, I also love knitting things I know will bring character and coziness to my home.  Overall the count per item is as follows:

Sweaters: 11 (4 pullovers, 2 cardigans, 4 vests, 1 shrug/wrap)
Scarves/Shawls: 4
Cloaks: 3
Socks: 5
Hand (gloves, mitts, fingerless): 6
Hat: 2
Other: 1

That "other" category is one hair accessory: an Umbridge-inspired bow. So overall this collection is pretty heavy on the sweaters - I count vests as just sleeveless sweaters - and on extremity accessories.

The patterns are divided into  5 different categories:

History of Magic: These patterns seem to be inspired by Hogwarts itself and some of the major events that take place there. Modern Stripes House Scarves, The Sorcerer's Sweater, Dragon's Egg Socks, Heliopath Vest, Tracery Vest.

Care of Magical Creatures: Inspired by the staff of Hogwarts (mainly Dumbledore, Madame Pomfrey, and Hagrid) and the classes they teach. Dumbledore's Smoking Hat, Dumbledore's Warm Socks, Herbology Socks, Pomona Mitts, Hagrid's Sweater, Forbidden Forest Scarf, Juicy Fly.

Transfiguration:  Not quite sure why these patterns are grouped together. Albanian Forest Mitts, The Gray Lady's Cloak, Ignotus Peverell's Cloak, and Mermaid Song are all based on myths; Fred & George's Socks and the E.L.F. Cap don't seem to fit in at all...

Charms: Seem to be inspired by the two young heroines of the novels, Hermione and Ginny. Pattern's are light and girly and fun, definitely my favorite category by far. Ginny's Cardigan, Sword of Gryffindor Mitts, Mudblood Cardigan, Hermione's Time Turner Mitts, Yule Ball Engageants, Bluebell Flames, O.W.L. Mittens.

Defense Against the Dark Arts: Patterns inspired by the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters they fight.  Order of the Phoenix Winged Vest, Severus Pullover, Tonk's Togs (a two-part pattern: pullover and vest/sleeveless over-sweater), Narcissa Socks, Malfoy Manor Wrapper, Lestrange Cloak.

There are a lot of patterns in there, so I'm not going to go over them one by one, but I'll give you my top 3 favorite and least favorite patterns.


3. Juicy Fly. This is that Umbridge-inspired black bow. I just really don't understand who is supposed to wear this. Maybe if you shrunk it down a little and put it on a headband or something? It's just so weird.

2. Forbidden Forest Scarf.  Two words for you: tentacle porn.

1. Modern House Scarves. No. No no no. NO. *baps you on the nose with a newspaper* The HP house scarves (both the wide stripes of SS/PS and CoS, and the trapped-bar style of PoA and beyond) are iconic. Classic. Beautiful. Not-to-be-messed-with.  These scarves aren't even in the right house colors!


3. O.W.L. Mittens. OMG OWLs. I love the idea of these mittens - little knitted cheat sheets for your OWL exams! These are traditional trapezoid-shaped mittens (as opposed to rounded ones) with the top side featuring "a parliament of owls" in white on a blue sky, and the bottom a list of handy-dandy spells. Two-word spells, and really long ones, have half on the left hand and half on the right, so when you look at the palms of your hands they will spell out "Expecto Patronum" and "Expell iarmus." My one issue is that the right-hand glove says "Leviosa," and the left at the same line says "Lumos," as if each is just a one-part spell. It's "wingardium leviosa," people. Levi-OH-sa, not Levi-oh-SAH! And "lumos" can be combined with "maxima" to create a brighter light. Sigh. I mean, if you're a complete nerd/stickler for detail like I am, it would be too hard to re-do the chart to have the PROPER WORDS on the mittens.

2. Sword of Gryffindor Mitts. I'm a sucker for sleeveless gloves, and the vintage German lace pattern on these is just gorgeous.  I love the buttons along the ulna (... uh, outer portion of the arm. Is that a phrase I can use for it?) and the fact that unlike some fingerless glove patterns I've seen, there's an actual thumb bit instead of just a hole. The underside of the gloves is very plain so you won't go blind making so many lace panels. I love that the description markets them as "a handy place to conceal your wand in case you come across the Carrows in the corridors." I'm totally buying a wand just so I can do that.  Maybe something in a rosewood...

1. Ginny's Cardigan. There's a reason this is the cover photo. It's a nicely-fitted cardigan with an absolutely adorable owl-ish motif on the back panel. I love the yarn choice for this (Classic Elite Woodland in Prussian Blue), a soft slightly heathered blue that Ginny would totally rock. Normally I just sub in whatever (usually cheaper!) yarn I want for whatever yarn the pattern recommends, but in this case I think the designer's choice was spot-on. And in addition to the cute owls on the back, the front also sports a very pretty button band and adorable pockets. I love the extra long rib sections at the hem and cuff. I'm definitely going to be knitting this one just as soon as I finish the other sweater I'm making, actually no probably not, I can't wait...

HONORABLE MENTION goes to Dumbledore's Warm Socks. There's nothing terribly fancy about these socks. They're worked toe-up (my preferred method) with a short-row heel (also my preferred method) in a fairly simple seeded rib pattern, with a contrast toe, heel, and cuff. I just freaking love Dumbledore and thought it was so cute that what he really wants in life is a pair of warm, cozy socks; and I also love that some HP fan out there loved Dumbledore too, enough to design a pair of socks he'd really like and use, and even put his initials at the top - Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

The photographs in this magazine are wonderful and showcase the knit items beautifully...but Interweave, I'd really like to have both a physical and digital copy of this, as it is going to KILL my printer trying to print any of these patterns. All those gorgeous full-color photos (and the way you colorized each page to look like aged paper) are going to suck my ink cartridges dry, even if I print in only black and white.  Would it be so hard to include a digital download link with each physical copy you sell? Because I would have totally bought the print edition if I could have also gotten the digital for free, or even a couple bucks extra.  The margins are infinitely higher on a digital copy, so I can see why you'd sell them separately but... come on.

I bought the digital edition because I hate carrying entire books and magazines in my knitting bag when all I really need is one pattern. I was thinking I could just print whatever pattern I was working on, but that's pretty unfeasible with the amount of color that's on each page. I'd rather have bought the physical edition and just sucked it up and carried the whole thing around with me. Maybe I'll get Dear Hubby to print out the pages I need on his fancy (and free) laser printer at the office.

My one big gripe with the digital format is that it gets kind of screwed up in my browser and on my ereader.  Whenever the letters "f" and "i" occur next to each other, the characters either disappear or are replaced by one big box with an X through it.  It's got something to do with the fonts chosen, and apparently something called "ligature" where part of one letter interferes with part of another letter (in this case, the line through the "f" and the dot of the "i") and makes it hard for the browser/reader to see... so it just leaves it out. I can't figure out how to turn off ligature and essentially separate the characters, so I just have to tolerate this utter nonsense. Again, really wish I had a print AND digital version.

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