Guest Author - Lisa Linnell-Olsen
The original 1997 edition of Alice Starmore’s book “Aran Knitting” had a tremendous impact on the hand knitter’s world. With this one text, Starmore gave a detailed history of the Aran sweater based on historical research of primary sources such as first-hand interviews, historical document s and photos, and examining historical knitted piece. Her conclusions went against what she stated were myths about the origins of the Aran Sweater. At the same time, her beautiful designs and patterns inspired knitters to get clicking on making their own classic, historically based Aran Sweaters.
The new Dover Edition includes a new preface where Starmore reviews the impact the original edition has had on the knitting world. This preface is one of the main features that set apart the new edition from the old. Starmore states that she feels that although she set the story straight on some myths, several more were created. If you are unfamiliar with Starmore and had just picked up this book and started reading, you may believe that she is awfully full of herself. The thing is, Starmore is dead on. She has done the research, done the designing, and walked the road she describes so well. If she says that her stitch motifs that were not historical Aran have since been misquoted as being historical, Starmore is right. She is the authority on Aran knitting she claims to be.
Her authority is what makes this book so important to the knitting world. After the preface, the history information she uncovered and researched is detailed out. Knitters will have a great appreciation for the practicality and organic process of design that grew on the Aran Isles.
The Following Chapter explains Aran designs, from expanding on the sweater construction and stitch patterns used in Aran knitting. The chapter is full of technical information, but is written in such a way as to encourage knitters to want to knit these beautiful designs. Starmore’s tone is one of encouragement that almost all knitters can successfully knit what appears to be even more complicated than Arans really are.
Next in the book are the written patterns. The Dover edition features updated fit, increased sizing for many patterns, and updated photos. The ever-popular St. Brigid’s pattern no longer has the fringe on it.
There is a brief section on designing your own Aran. Combined with all of the other information in the book, an adventurous knitter may want try their hand at designing. The four pages in this book alone probably won’t be enough to get a completed design create, however, those who understand basic design principles will be able to move forward in creating a more traditional based Aran.
One of my major concerns about the new edition is that Starmore once again used exclusively her own brand of designer yarn. I understand that it allows her to have the control of keeping the colors true and in color families that work with her other well-known and beautiful color work designs. It also allows her to get the most accurate weight, ply and spin for true Aran sweaters. My concerns stem from a few issues:
1) The price of the yarn is out of the budget of some knitters. Some knitters will simply have to substitute as best as they can if they would like to try these patterns or knitting techniques from the book.
2) You can only purchase the yarn through Starmore’s website. You don’t’ get to see it or touch at your local yarn store before purchase.
3) Starmore also had her own yarn line when the original was written. The line was discontinued for several years. This left knitters wanting to knit these beautiful, classic investment type pieces and unsure what the best yarns were. I know several knitters substituted Jamieson brand yarns with good effect. Now, with the new edition, Starmore once again expects everyone to buy her own brand. Several talented designers such as Debbie Bliss also do this. There isn’t the history of the yarn being discontinued, however. I just really hope that Starmore was able to do what she could to prevent this from happening again.
Overall, this is an awesome knitting guide to Aran sweaters. Intermediate knitters who want to knit in this style should probably have a copy of this book. The new edition is much more affordable than the first edition. If you want to knit Arans, look into getting this book.
I checked out this book from my local public library to write this review.
To order this book from Amazon, click the link below:
Aran Knitting: New and Expanded Edition (Dover Knitting, Crochet, Tatting, Lace)