Monday, 31 January 2011

Traditional Aran Knitting

Traditional Aran Knitting

Book Depository; Ravelry Link

Types of patterns: mostly garments, some cushions as well

Number of Patterns: 23

Split of patterns: Jumper (6); Cardigan/Jacket (3); Waistcoat (2); Child's Coat (1); Hat (2); Mittens (1); Coat (1); Tabard (1); scarf (1); Cushion (3)

Size Range: 28-42"

Colour/Black & White: black & White

Schematics: no

Target Audience: intermediate to experienced

How to knit guide: No

Experimental/Classical/Modern: fairly classical

The foreword is written by Heinz Edgar Kiewe. His theories about the Aran Islanders is largely discredited. He also contradicts himself, talking first about the islanders meeting "strangers on the ocean and exchanged their catches of fish for spices, as I disovered, as far away as Maroc" and then he talks about the "seclusion of Ireland and Aran". Kiewe's history of Aran Knitting is held by many historians of the craft as being as trustworthy and founded in truth as Baignet and Leigh about the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. His claim that Daniel in the Book of Kells wore Aran-patterned knitted Stockings, breeches and sweater is intersting but the figure is quite small, and we know very little about the period garments and their construction, a raised pattern can be created by padding or by embedding cords within a fabric. Having done Calligraphy myself the urge to decorate largely blank items with some sort of patterning is quite strong.

Rant over, let's return to the book. The author talks about the lack of history and then about the meaning of some of the stitches. Like everything else this is quite subjective but with the wealth of carving on the island it would be difficult not to be inspired and people are prone towards creating stories about shapes and designs, by investing them with a story it makes the sequence more memorable and rooted in a person's consciousness. In all likeliness sequences were passed from woman to woman; and probably as much of the knitting was piecework the ability to clearly identify a piece as your own was of vital importance to these women. Subtle variations would have identified different women in a family.

Shelagh then explains the essentails of Aran knitting and then talks about designing your own (she uses a saddle shoulder for some of the illustrations) She does a run-through of some basic stitch patterns, starting from fairly simple and moving onto more and more complicated and involved patterns (this is where some updating and charts could be incredibly useful).

Patterns start with Pattern 1 the Traditional Fishing Shirt, an ornamental rib and saddle shoulders. (where the top of the sleeve continues to form part of the shoulders)

Pattern 2 is also a traditional Fishing shirt with different cables, again with an ornamental rib and saddle shoulders.

Patter 3 is different, pattern taken from one of the first Aran Jumpers to be recorded, again with saddle shoulders

Pattern 4: Family Sweater Round Neck; (5)Family Sweater, V-Neck and (6) Family Sweater Polo Neck, drop shouldered jumper made for men, women and children.

Pattern 7: v-neck raglan shaped cardigan.

Pattern 8: Cable-Patterned waistcoats - child and adult sized waistcoat

Pattern 9: Easy Knit Jackets - multi sized jacket with a single panel ("making it ideal for a beginner to knit") - this is the cover jacket, it's a Starsky and Hutch style cardigan, with a drop shoulder.

Pattern 10: Man's zip-fronted jacket - this is relatively plain, all over trinity stitch with a wide rib along the front that has cables, this is fairly modern, if I was to knit it I would consider doing something with the collar, it doesn't really add enough to the garment.

Child's Aran Patterned Coat also has a matching patterned hat and mitts (patterns 11, 12, 13)

Pattern 14: Child's Sweater with Crossover Shawl Collar, raglan shoulder

Pattern 15: Lady's Full Length Aran Patterned Coat - Bobble fan, trinity and moss stitch coat with drop shoulders, slits to the bottom and a high yoke, this isn't a bad design and could possibly be great with some work.

Pattern 16: Lady's Evening Waistcoat, knit in finer yarn (twilley Goldfingering to be exact) this would probably be quite good in a unsubtle yarn as the patterning is quite low, honeycomb and trinity stitch mostly.

Pattern 17: Lady's Tabard. This is a long-line sleeveless tank top with bobbles running down it with some other patterns. It would probably be vastly improved by losing the bobbles.

Pattern 18: Lady's Hat - a pretty basic pull-on hat with a tassel.

Pattern 19: Lady's Mitts - mitts to match the hat

Pattern 20: Lady's Scarf to match hat and mitts

Pattern 21: Square Cushion Cover - 8 squares joined together to make a cushion, designer suggests you could use a number of cable patterns, a good way to see how the aran patterns can pull in the yarn.

Pattern 22: Oblong Cushion Cover - this is 92 stitches wide which could be close to an actual garment, this would be a useful swatch as many aran patterns are best measured across the whole pattern.

Pattern 23: Bolster-shaped cushion cover, a woven basket stitch makes this a sumptious cover and the basket stitch gives it a great texture.

Yes some of the patterns are dated and it completely lacks charts and schematics but overall it's not a bad book if you want to make an Aran Jumper as is found in many a tourist shop. The patterns may not be entirely to modern sensibilities but overall it's not bad, you just need to take the history with a pinch of salt.

Buy/Borrow: for what it is it isn't a bad book, the patterns are pretty standard with some tweaks in some places to make it a little more than just a guide to the standard arans as are found in tourist shops. I own a copy and doing this review I found myself thinking about knitting at least one or two of the waistcoats, with possible revisions. You just need to remember that the history is in the realm of myth rather than fact.

Where found: Dublin City Public Libraries has got a copy in. Dover sell it in reprint.

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