Knitting Around the World

knitting_World_cvr

Knitting Around the World

I would love to blame the complexity of this book for my lack of blogging, but truth be told,  I finished the book some time ago. I have no valid excuses other than life!

This slim volume was put together by the editors of Threads Magazine in 1993 and includes a wealth of material for those interested in the history of the knitting craft.

knitting_world_bk_cvr

Knitting Around the World – back cover

Knitting Around the World  includes more than a dozen different topics that were once articles in Threads Magazine.

Aran_knitting

Aran Knitting – Alice Starmore

Starting out with the renown Alice Starmore and Aran knitting is a great way to introduce the reader to historical knitting. Alice, who lives in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland and has written extensively on the subject is the perfect person to author this feature. Included on the next few pages are Aran cable patterns and an outline of how to design an Aran pullover.

bohus_knitting

Bohus Stickning – Margaret Bruzelius

The less well known Bohus Stickning from Sweden is written by an old associate of mine who seriously researched this colorful knitting style. With charts on the following pages, the reader can easily experiment with Bohus knitting.

stickning_knitting

Another Swedish knitting technique

Also called “two-strand knitting”, this technique seems mainly used for sturdy mittens and socks. A pattern for the socks shown in the photo is included in the book.

steek_illus

Illustrations drawn and photographed

After Fair Isle knitting and Argyles, there is a short article with illustrations and photos of techniques for managing stranded knitting by author, Maggie Righetti. I have included here as an example of the clarity used in Threads Magazine on each subject. They always go above and beyond to make the reader understand techniques.

 

Shetland_lace

Historical Shetland Lace

I loved the inclusion of historical articles with photos, illustrations and a workshop on creating simple versions of the knitted lace.

faeroe_knitting

Knitting from the Faeroe Islands

While not as well known as knitting techniques from the British Isles, this is nevertheless and interesting style of knitting and well-written piece of history.

FIsle_tam

Fair Isle Tam making – Alice Starmore

Knitting Around the World begins and ends with Alice Starmore – coming more or less full circle.

Should I keep this book? I’ve thought long and hard on this one. The subjects are interesting and varied. Would I knit from the book – probably not. I’m hoping the next knitter who gets it will love it! Sadly, it’s not going back on my shelf.

https://www.amazon.com/Knitting-Around-World-Threads/dp/1561580260/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1489005645&sr=8-3&keywords=knitting+around+the+world

Aran Sweaters and the big finish!

Man_AranAranKnitting

Today I went through the original Aran Knitting (hardcover, 1997) and the new and expanded edition Aran Knitting (trade soft cover, 2010). Most of the original sweaters were included in “new and expanded”. Some were recolored and rephotographed.  I really didn’t feel that the difference was really great in the update. I loved the red-haired model from the original book rather than the brunette used in the revised book, but that doesn’t really matter in terms of the sweaters.

The man’s sweater above is shown on the new book as the cover sweater on a woman. It was the one I’ve chosen to knit, even though I haven’t made much headway on the knitting.

The other sweaters (a few shawls and hats) are mainly classics that perfect for knitters who love cables. I was thinking that the two shawls (a bit heavy for shawl wearing) would be terrific as throws if they were made slightly wider. A few of the sweaters are a bit long with an ’80s vibe. That could be easily changed by a knitter with some skill in adaption.

My review of two sweaters in the expanded issue:

Boudicca’s Braid (Celtic Art based). I really don’t like this one. I would say “hate”, but that’s a pretty strong word. This cardigan doesn’t add much to the book that is until this sweater based on one-color beautiful designs.

Aran_colorwork

 

Eala Bhan (Alice designed this for herself). This is modern and beautiful. I do love this cardigan. It has very long instructions, but she says it’s not difficult to knit.

Aran_cardie

The final section is based on designing your own Aran sweater. I think it would be best used to help adjust a pattern, but for someone who wants to create a unique sweater. There is two pages that discuss blocking, seaming, making tassels and fringe and the care of wool garments. There is also “a word from your sponsor” with info on buying Alice Starmore Yarns. I do think this is really good for those who want to make the sweaters as they appear in the book.

Alice gives a web site – alicestarmore.com – which didn’t seem to go anywhere when I clicked on textiles. I also looked at virtualyarns.com where yarn, books and patterns by Alice can be obtained. This site seems good and up-to-date.

I give this book a thumbs up.

Worth keeping and having in my library. At this point I might keep both copies as I like the man’s version in the early book and the woman’s in the later version. One day I might have to choose and give up one or the other…..

Aran Cable Stitches

Aran_Cables

This book is going very slowly, but this week I feel like I made headway. I got through the text heavy  speculations on when Aran Knitting actually started. In the end in the final speculation Alice believes that the reality is that the first ’40s and ’50s – much later than anyone else dared to say. By the time I got through it, I’m not sure that I really care anymore. Aran Knitting is still interesting to many knitters – especially those who buy this book!

So from there I went on to Aran Patterns – Yeah! All the stitch pattern photos were knit in Alice Starmore Bainin (an Aran weight wool). It’s actually a really good yarn for the stitch pattern which appear crisp and stand out well from the reverse stockinette background. The light plum color photographed very well. Actually better than off-white and definitely better than a dark shade.

This is a meaty section – from page 52 through page 99. A great reference library for cable lovers.

I thought I knew lots about cables, but I did learn more than I thought I would from the book. For me, this is the most important factor in my own personal “keep or lose” in book reviews.

First, There is a good chart key, although the actual symbols are not ones that I see generally used in US publications. I give Alice good marks on including excellent illustrations/drawings of how to create various cables beginning with the simplest cable crossings.

Alice covers many cable variations from double cables to diamond shapes cable formations filled with bobbles, seed stitch, and twisted stitches. The honeycomb panels – I hate. The plaited cables – I love. The surprise was the openwork patterns.

What did I learn?

1) A problem I’ve often had is to figure out what row to actual make a cross. The drawing of “counting rows between cable crosses” shown from the back of the work makes so much sense. Why didn’t I ever think of that before?

2) A good tip – decrease stitches before binding off so that the bind off does flare out.

No, I’m not quite done with this book. In my next post I’ll talk about the designs shown in the book. I want to look at the original book to see if there are any new ones added. As we say in publishing – tk (to come)!

 

What is an Aran Sweater?

define_Aran

Great trip to UK. Not so great for my blogging. I feel a bit stuck in the Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore book. I know once I read Alice’s conclusion, she goes into Aran stitch patterns and then into actual sweater designs. The light at the end of the tunnel is coming…

I staggered through Alice’s conclusions on Construction and Style. The circular Scottish and/or British Gansey  was the beginning point for the final very commercial Aran Sweater (knit in flat pieces). Then she went on to how the patterns occurred. I’m not sure I completely understood the whole concept. Some of it came from designing sweaters and patterns that could be easily commercially executed. Some of the patterning came from ideas based on the original Gansey concept.

The best and most concise think I learned was how Alice defined the Aran Sweater.

1) Handknit garment of flat construction (in pieces)

2) Composed of of vertical panels of cabled patterns and texture stitches

3) Each piece of the sweater has a central panel flanked by textured patterns (usually somewhat mirror each other)

4) Made of heavy, undyed cream wool – not always

After that “Ah ha Moment”, I decided to stop for the moment. These pages are really text heavy – in small type I must say. I’m not sure that is a good thing. Not light reading!

The sweater above is a good example of a Classic Aran Sweater.

 

Aran Knitting – Take 2!

StEdna_man

OK – I really have been reading the background on Aran Knitting. It’s really hard to put it into words, but here’s what I’ve learned about the history of Aran Knitting.

Aran sweaters were not seen until the last 40’s and 50’s. Many of the myths for this knitting style were generated by Heinz Edgar Kiewe (1906-1986). Kiewe organized production of Aran sweaters based on a photo that was published in a book by Mary Thomas (no relation to me). Many of the sweaters were knit in the Western Isles of Scotland as there were not enough knitters in Ireland. So much for the Irish knit theory!

Alice Starmore believes that before her book called The Celtic Collection (1992), “celtic” cabling had not been seen in knitting.

Another myth debunked – Aran Sweaters are not traditional Fisherman’s garments. See my photo of the guys in the last blog post.

Here are a few books who offered history of Aran. These books were almost the only available books in the 80’s and 90’s when I was an editor. We thought of them as historical Bibles:

Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans – Gladys Thompson (1955).
Important in development of Aran Knitting. By the way, Aran was not mentioned in the title until 1971 when published by US publisher.

The Complete Book of Traditional Aran Knitting – Shelagh Hollingworth (1982)

Traditional Knitting – Michael Pearson (1984)
Michael (who I met years ago) cast doubt on Kiewe’s theories.

A History of Handknitting – Richard Rutt (1987)
The English Mr. Rutt was also known as the knitting Bishop.
His theory is that the origins of Aran Knitting may have come from the US.

Irish Knitting – Rohanna Darlington (1991)
Rohanna also talks about the US Boston connection by an immigrant woman.

Basically what I could learn is that the fisherman gansey may have been the origin of what we know as the Irish knitting tradition.

In the next chapter, Alice travels to Dublin to the National Museum of Ireland and talks about 3 garments (photographed in the book) and gives her conclusions. That to come!

In the meantime, I’ve been swatting. Gauges for the Na Craga (woman) Washable_Ewe

and St Edna (man) sweaters.
StEdna_swatch

 

A lot of knitting and ambitious projects!

Aran History

men_Aran

I’ve hit a blogging wall. Maybe it was reading about the plight of the Aran people against big landowners that did it. These people did not have an easy life.

Maybe it was reading that what we know about the truly Aran Sweater is really a fantasy that someone dreamed up. There is no long-past historical Aran Sweater? Who knew?

I’m not sure what exactly. I’m trying to slog through the rest of the chapters on the history and the Aran people through the eyes of Alice Starmore.

Notice in this vintage picture of men from the Aran Isles that they are wearing sweaters that really seem more like designs I would call Guernsey Sweaters with cabled rope patterns in the upper front. Maybe they are the precursor to the Aran Sweaters done in natural (off-white) yarns. I’ll give you an update when I get to that far!

Revelations about Alice Starmore’s Aran Knitting Book

 

 

 

AranKnitting     oldAran

After reading the new intro for this book, I realized that I have have the original 1997 Aran Knitting book. That’s what comes from having way too many knitting/crochet books.

Alice’s comments in the new preface in the paragraph titled “The Forces of Obfuscation” were unsettling. Basically she believes that what people know as “Aran Knitting” is somewhat of a made-up, mystical history. Basically, she strongly  states that the word “Aran” has been mis-used as a type of cable patterning used mainly in sweaters that have nothing to do with the Aran Isles off of Ireland.  That’s kind of a short, cliff notes version of what she actually said.

I somehow made it into her book in a round-about way. When I was working for Knitter’s Magazine, we created a contest that ultimately turned into a booklet of squares made up of various patterns that we loosely called “Aran Knitting”. It was titled  The Great American Aran Afghan. While we had no intention of saying these patterns or squares were authentic, historical designs from a country not anywhere near America.  Somehow Alice thought they “purports to be a showcase of Aran patterning”. Wow! Who knew! One of the squares used motifs picked up from Alice’s book. The square was created to honor a sister who had died of breast cancer. I’m sure the square’s designer didn’t realize that it was not correct to take someone else’s patterns to create a square for a published booklet.

After reading the new preface, I had to ponder before going on. I’m sorry for my part in Alice’s distress. Next week I’ll read more about the historical background and share….

Aran_book The Great American Aran Knitting booklet.

 

Alice_intro  diamond

Alice’s Original Patterns from her book.

Square_new

 The square that used designs created by Alice Starmore.

Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore

PrincessMitts

AranKnitting

Na_Craga

Here’s the checklist –
1) Finished the Princess Mitts – check!
2) Reading At Knit’s End by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee – check! (not finished)
3) Found a new book – check!

In reading Stephanie’s book of essays, I realized that I need to do it in bits a few pages at a time. The witty Stephanie has to be absorbed in small snatches!

That being said, I found a book that hasn’t even made it to the shelf yet. Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore – New & Expanded Edition book was a Stitches East purchase in November. Ok, Ok so I’m not obsessive about organizing my books. That’s half of why I’m doing the blog to see if I can get any of the books out of my library.

Why Aran Knitting? Why Alice Starmore?

I love the history so I really want to read Alice’s take on the subject. I’ve heard a bit of her thoughts over the years, but a refresher couldn’t hurt.

I also love Aran patterns (to knit that is). I’ve already picked out my favorite. I’ve had it in my mind to knit my niece and her husband (of Irish heritage) plus kids Irish Knits. I could start with the Na Craga pullover for her. I know – call me crazy! A bit ambitious for sure. In this lifetime??