Saturday, 12 February 2011

Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore review

Book Depository Link; Ravelry Link

Types of patterns: mostly garments, a few accessories

Number of Patterns: 15

Split of patterns: Jumper (6); Jumper Child (2); Hat (2); Cardigan (3); shawl (2)

Size Range: 32-48" (81-122cm); Children 23-28"(58-71cm)

Colour/Black & White: Colour

Schematics: yes

Target Audience: Intermediate to advanced.

How to knit guide: no, some information but it does assume that you have knitting experience

Experimental/Classical/Modern: classical

Comments: This is a reprint of the out of print book that was quite popular online. Alice takes a look at the historical truth behind the garments and presents it quite well in an introduction that is only missing a bibliography. The second part is Aran Patterns, taking both traditional and her versions.

The third portion are the "Classic Aran Designs"

(all links are to Ravelry)

Starting with Aranmor, knit in aran weight bainin yarn this has a saddle shoulder and ornamental rib, photographed with both male and female models.

Killeany - designed for children, another saddle shoulder pattern worked in Aran wool

Galway is a gansey yarn hat, to fit children age 4-8

Na Craga - is in a 3ply yarn, again saddle shouldered, the cables on the front of this run both directions.

Fulmar is in an even finer yarn, saddle shouldered, ornate ribs.

Kittywake is a hat knit in a fine yarn with fairly complicated cables.

Irish Moss is in a 3ply yarn with ornate cabling, while ornate it isn't too busy. Pictured on both Male and female models.

Maidenhair is a round-necked collared cardigan knit in Gansey yarn, aran and openwork

Maidenhair shawl uses the patterning from the jumper in a shawl.

The Fourth Chapter is "Celtic Designs"

First is St Enda, a ornate saddle shouldered cabled unisex jumper, knit in aran yarn

St Brigid, ornately cabled with a braid around the neck, knit in 3-ply

Sigil uses a simple knotwork and some decorative details for a childs aran weight jumper

St Ciaran is an ornately cabled shawl knit in 3-ply yarn

Boudicca's Braid uses contrasting colour yarns to create an interesting cardigan. Remastered in 2-ply yarn for this edition

Eala Bhan is an ornate cardigan with tapered cables and body shaping, knit in 2-ply yarn, I would really like to knit this one for myself some day.

The last chapter is about designing your own Aran Jumper.

The patterns are designed to be knit in Alice Starmores' own yarn and by all accounts this would produce the best results. Substitution should be done with care and results won't be the same as the originals. The back describes it as a definitive guide and while it is quite extensive I would say that there are other ideas that could be got from other books. I like many of the patterns but some of the necklines look somewhat like afterthoughts. I also have to admit that I would be sorely tempted to use some of the elements of some patterns to make into cardigans for myself rather than jumpers, that way I would be more likely to wear them.

Overall this is an amazing book, the patterns are inspirational, with an interesting twist that takes them out of the tourist set and into classic design. It demands an eye for detail and you would need to be determined to put in a lot of work to finish one of these pieces.

Buy/Borrow: This is a book for fairly advanced intermediate and advanced knitters. It's inspirational and the patterns are complicated but I would say rewarding. If you're interested in Aran patterns or the history of Aran Knitting I would say that this is one of the better books out there on this topic. The various different patterns are charted and it would be pretty simple to adapt or change some of the patterns to suit various people.

Where found: I bought a copy for myself when I saw that it was coming back into print, Dover publications have it available directly. Once my copy was in and I saw the extensive history of Aran Knitting I recommended that Dublin City Public Libraries invest in a few and there are some copies in stock now.

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