Review : Rib Magazine, No.3 — Alchemy

In the sea of knitting magazines, Rib presents itself as an outlier. Made for men, by a man relatively new to the world of knitting1 (like yours truly), it targets a market where I think I fall right in: the urban male interested in knitting with disposable income and a fondness for more exclusive (read: pricier) yarns. I started knitting a few weeks before the first edition of rib became available and one of the first “serious projects” I made was the Stalactite Scarf by Nathan Taylor. After two successful editions, I think Rib is ripe for an honest review from one of their loyal readers.

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Cover of the third edition of Rib Magazine. (C) Rib Magazine.

 

Rib as an object: First impressions

If you have never held Rib in your hands, you are in for a treat. This is a small book, not a magazine. I love this trend of gourmet publications that are laser-focused on delivering content in a pleasant object. The cover has a slight waxy feel and the pages are sturdy and rigid, to the point where you feel a little bad about opening the book flat (the binding will hold up nicely though). The cover is tastefully done and I found myself leaving it on my desk or my coffee table since they look like something that shouldn’t be kept hidden. If you have all three editions, the white can feel a little flashy compared to the darker, more subdued look of the first two ones. They still have a cohesive look and everything is (almost) aligned when they’re all three together in a bookcase.

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All three editions of Rib Magazine.

The covers showcase what I consider to be the “showstopper pattern” of the edition — in this case the aptly-named Alchemy Sweater — as well as the name of the designers whose patterns can be found inside. No flashy headlines, no free gifts, no gimmicks. This design sensibility goes as far as printing a full-color, fitting picture on the back cover. Space comes at a premium in this kind of publication and Rib uses this to its advantage.

Opening the magazine: what’s inside

Opening the magazine, you’ll get right away a scratch code allowing you to download all the patterns from Ravelry. This isn’t something unique to Rib but I think this is pure genius and should be mandatory for other knitting/crocheting publications. If you are like me, you want to keep your books in a nice condition for as long as humanly possible. This integration allows you to print a copy (or keep it on a tablet) and keep it close to your knit. No scanning, no clumsy photographing of the pages. Fallait y penser!

The magazine starts with a letter from the publisher, Eric Lutz, announcing its intent with the theme (Alchemy) as well as the content in the following pages. The patterns are then introduced one by one in a tasteful manner: you get a few well-made photos as well as one paragraph introducing it.

Beside the patterns (reviewed in the next section), there are four complementary articles. The first one is “Sequence Knitting 101” by Cecelia Campochiaro. While her book has been on the market for a little over a year2, there seem to have been a resurging interest on the topic in the past few months. This introductory article is very well written and explains the disarming simplicity of what she explores at length in her book.

Following this is a “Why I knit” essay by Jared Flood. This seems to be a permanent staple of the magazine, the previous edition having a beautiful essay by Matthew Rippeyoung. Jared’s essay pales in comparison, feeling unfinished and a little bare-bones. It is impossible to be a man knitting (or knitting for men) without knowing Jared and his communicative stance on the craft. I ended up wanting a little more and hope the future editions will have longer, meatier essays.

Steph Nappa signs a very interesting article about the chemistry of color. It couldn’t be more fitting. As a trained chemist, she draws a parallel between alchemy and fiber dyeing, with a focus on “coal tar dyes” (the precursor to acid dyes). She brings her personal perspective and explains her subject in an approachable manner.

At the end of the publication is the traditional cocktail recipe. While I tend to avoid knitting under the influence of alcohol, I think this is very fitting with the rest of the content (hey, we all deserve a reward!). This adds a touch of manly flair to the overall magazine and you could do worse than pour yourself one before the read.

Rib has relatively few ads: eight on three pages. I don’t mind them as they are curated to the theme of the publication. I also appreciate them being in a dedicated space.

The patterns

Six patterns are made available in this edition, similar to the first one but down two from the second. At this point, I didn’t have the opportunity to cast-on any of them, but having made a few of the previous editions’, I can attest to the quality of them. A review of the pattern/s I choose to knit will form another post.

For the first time, I can honestly say I would — time permitting — knit all of those patterns. The garments are graded in 6 different sizes, hats in 3 and socks in 2. Bonus for the Isometric Scarf being made available in two sizes. This is giving me confidence that I will be able to have a properly fitting knit and look as dashing as the men in the pictures.

Two pages summarizing abbreviations and special techniques (Kitchener stitch and Provisional Cast-on, in this case) is a nice addition — it removes the burden of looking up online in the heat of the moment.

Out of the six patterns, three of those yarns don’t seem to be readily available on the Canadian market: Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage, O-Wool O-wash fingering, Jaggerspun Greenline Organic Merino. And The Fibre Co. Cumbria is a challenge to find on the online Canadian market. I would not consider any pattern as being affordable: 100g of the recommended yarns start at ~$20 and goes up to ~$34. Buying all the supplies from scratch to knit the largest Alchemy Sweater (20 skeins @ $17) would set you back $340, leaving you with 9 half to three-quarter skeins from the colourwork. It would be best to find another suitable pattern to use up all this premium yarn before mindlessly splurging. The pattern author was mindful of the budget-conscious knitter and provided an alternative using only 5 colors, a very thoughtful idea that is worth mentioning.

While finding the yarn for some patterns might prove a challenge to the local yarn-buyer, you still have detailed yardage and gauge to facilitate yarn substitution. The pattern sizing information is also quite complete and you get the ease made for the sample shown, a nice touch. All this information will certainly ensure the pattern will outlive the yarn.

Bonus: Rib is dedicated to detail

Errors in a pattern are one thing, and I don’t think we can hope for a publication to be absolutely perfect in every way. Having found an error in the first edition of Rib, I want to highlight the promptness of the team to correct and update the pattern promptly, with a very positive attitude. You wouldn’t expect any less from a premium product, but I was happy to see them exceed my expectations.

Wrapping up

Rib is an expensive publication. At $15USD, that magically transforms into almost $27CAD, you can rationalize the purchase in two ways. First: those patterns on their own would easily sell for $7 to $15 USD (approx. $9 to $19 CAD @ the day of publication). You get a lot of bang for your buck in a very nice package, as well as a mean to print them as much as you want for your personal use. If this doesn’t resonate with you, remember that this is a groundbreaking publication: knitting for men has been an afterthought in the community for many years, and it’s good to see people dedicated to bring inspiration to the field. I think this is worth the asking price, and once you get a copy in your hands, you’ll agree.

We like…

  • the beautiful format, worthy of your finest coffee table;
  • the very detailled patterns available in various sizes, with extensive gauge and sizing information;
  • goodies like the cocktail recipe and the Ravelry integration.

We wish…

  • to know how we can get patterns from past issues (No. 1 is already sold out!);
  • longer stories for future issues;
  • a better Canadian pricing: for a Toronto publication, the exchange rate from USD is painful.

Visit your local yarn store for a copy or on ribmag.com.


  1. Eric Lutz is also available on Youtube @ Sticks + Twine 
  2. I plan on reviewing the book, but in the meantime, you would be foolish to miss this review by Clara Parkes herself

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