So, now I finally have the book and had indeed gone through it, what do I think? Before I go on to that, I'd like to show you some photos.
What goes into your mind? Yeah, the Tribal section of Rowan 39. When I first saw the photos on the Rowan International website, I didn't have the vigourous reactions of many knitters to this section. I just thought, "Last time it was Scottish Highland (that was what the Eco Romantic section appeared to me) and now it's ethnic minorities in China." Gradually, reading more of those negative criticisms, I felt a little bad. I am quite sure if it were a Mexican or Spanish theme, people would be able to recognize the roots and not think these are ridiculous clothes created for aliens. These ethnic minorities are significant components of the Chinese population and their cultures are as valuable as those of those tribes in South America or Africa. But it seems that the world at large is just so ignorant of their existence, not to mention understanding them. I am not pretending to be an expert here ... actually I only know enough to recognize where the inspirations for the Rowan shots came from.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Tribal section. For knitting pattern magazines, you always need a safe section like the Provence and Aqua Marine to provide knitters with patterns that they can feel an urge to make. But I appreciate Rowan's courage in exploring the more unusual arena in Tribal or Eco Romantic. There are always risks involved ... but it is in taking such risks that new directions / trends can be created. I like the explosiveness and liveliness of the mixture of styles - Asian ethnic minorities, Spanish, Indian, Tibetan, Andean folk ... and many more. What's better is that some of the patterns in this section are actually do-able and wearable.
Among the men's sweaters, I like Ash (interesting combination of textures and colours) and St Mawes ... but don't really get it why they keep putting stuff like Warrior and Chieftain in each and every issue.
And of course, being an unashamed fan of KSH, I think all the three patterns in Fashion Revival are heavenly. There is no photo of this section on their website, but here you can see Regency (dress) and Victoria (stole):
There are patterns I like in the other two sections too. But my feeling is that if Rowan 39 only contains Provence and Aqua Marine, it would just be another knitting magazine ... and there is really nothing too outstandingly spectacular to distinguish it from, say, the Rowan Classic collection or Debbie Bliss collection.
I know I am an oddball in my opinion concerning Rowan 39. But really, if I had any hesitation whether to continue my membership, this issue succeeded in driving it all away ... okay, the 2 balls of KSH help too. ;)
Note: If you are interested in reading and learning more about the costumes of these tribes, here is a list of websites which may be useful:
Costumes of Minority Peoples of China
China's Ethnic Minorities
Travel China Guide: Chinese Ethnic Groups
Edited to Add: Thank you very much for responding to my opinions. There are a few points that I'd like to respond to. li has made a good point that "the magazine is a consumer knitting magazine and as consumers, knitters have what they want in mind" ... and thus they make choices whether to buy the magazine or not. This is exactly why I applaud Rowan for their guts in challenging themselves and their readers. As I said, there are risks involved, and I am sure the Rowan people are well aware of this too. Very often you just don't know what you get yourself into when treading outside your own comfort zone ... that's the challenge. Obviously, Rowan got themselves into troubles with a lot of knitters this time! hahaha ... But just ask me what I would buy - Rowan 39 or Cast On (or substitute any knitting magazines you've given up on) - I'll tell you in a heartbeat no way I'm going to buy Cast On again. Consumers make the choices.
About the busy attires taking attention away from the Rowan knitwear, those tribes people may have a hard and simple life, but they certainly make their costumes and attires extremely colourful and heavily decorative. If Rowan has to capture this tribal spirit, there is no way they can do it well by being minimalistic. And I went through that section again ... what really are being "buried" among the tribal attires are belt, bags and armbands. To me, all the garments are clearly presented in the photos ... sometimes not to their advantage, if you ask me!
Finally, all these are personal opinions, yours and mine the same ... no right or wrong. I just want the Rowan people to know that their spirit is appreciated here.