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Book Review: Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore (revised edition)

Aran Knitting

Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore, Dover Publications; New Exp edition (September 24, 2010), 224 pp.

And there was much rejoicing!

Okay, if you’re a knitter with an interest in traditional techniques, I’d be beyond shocked if you’d not heard of Starmore.

The trouble is, most of her books, of course, are out of print*.  You can get them, of course, on eBay — for a goodly sum (though prices have dipped a lot with the recession).  The original Aran Knitting was one of the more popular;  not as hard to get as some of the others (Scottish Collection, anyone?), but still going for a couple hundred dollars.

St Brigid (from back cover)

With the reprinting of Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting, and now Aran Knitting, both through Dover, the two most comprehensive (covering history & technique as well as patterns) of Starmore’s books are now available for normal prices.

I have a copy of the original (and I’m keeping it) yet I still ordered the reprint, for several reasons:

  • I wanted to see the designs that were re-knit in Starmore’s Virtual Yarns.
  • I was curious about the new pattern.
  • I can keep my original nice, and use the softcover Dover edition as my primary working copy (not that I’m going to purposely abuse it).

The original historical review and stitch dictionary sections remain the same.  What is different?

There’s a new multi-page preface in which she reviews the changes in the cultural views of Aran knitting and Celtic knotwork inspired knitting.  Read it;  it’s entertaining as well as educational.

Eala Bhan: Front

The designs that have new photos include Aranmor, Na Craga, Kittiwake, Irish Moss, Maidenhair shawl, St Brigid (san fringe), St Ciaran shawl, and Boudicca’s Braid.  Sizing has been extended for many of the sweaters (especially those like Irish Moss, which was originally just sized for men).  These sweaters have not otherwise been substantially changed; the familiar boxy silhouette is still there.   If you like tweedy, complex colors, and you haven’t tried any of Starmore’s Virtual Yarns (available only online through her site — but shipping is quick and included with an easy-to-meet minimum order), this book is likely to get you to finally check them out.

The new design, Eala Bhan, a fitted, set-in sleeve cardi, is lovely — I feel it’s Starmore’s “So THERE” rebuttal to criticisms of the lack of shaping in her other sweaters.  Unfortunately it’s sized only from busts 32-39 (though I’ve already noticed a thread on Ravelry about sizing it up).

I highly recommend this book for anyone with a love of Aran  knitting.  I purchased my copy from Amazon;  you can do so by clicking on the book cover above.

*Other books currently in print:

  • Fisherman’s Sweaters (lovely, and often overlooked, I think, because it’s not out of print)
  • Book of Fair Isle Knitting
  • Celtic Collection

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