Just before I headed off to LA, I received this gem in the post:
Carol Feller invited me to be part the international blog tour of her first book Contemporary Irish Knits. Having seen some of her gorgeous designs in The Twist Collective and Interweave Knits, and knowing from her classes at Knit Nation 2011 that she has a penchant for seamless construction and innovative structural design (I think a background in engineering and art are to thank for this), I naturally jumped a the chance. Following on from Stephanie Tallent’s interview, it’s now my turn to review her book. If you want to follow the tour, the next stop is Michelle Miller. The full Tour is listed below.
15/9/2011 Stephen West
17/9/2011 Hoxton Handmade
21/9/2011 Shannon Okey
23/9/2011 Rosemary Hill
25/9/2011 Ann Kingstone
27/9/2011 Marly Bird
29/9/2011 JC Briar
1/10/2011 Woolly Wormhead
3/10/2011 Anne Hanson
7/10/2011 Stephannie Tallent
11/10/2011 Alice Yu
13/10/2011 Michelle Miller
15/10/2011 Deirdre Thornton
17/10/2011 Ilga Leja
Carol’s take on tradition is much like my own; that instead of a relic of the past, tradition is actually a creation of our own heritage, that is, a part of us that we create into something new and meaningful. I was surprised to learn that Aran knitting is not a centuries old Irish craft – but instead, like Bohus sweaters, arose out of financial necessity in the 1950s and were knit primarily by women for family income. Despite its relative youth, its impact has been such that Aran knitting is now a typically Irish tradition. Carol embraces this and infuses it with her own creativity, making garments which are shaped and flattering for more 21st century tastes.
© Joseph Feller
What makes this book stand out is the background information Carol provides alongside her designs; Contemporary Irish Knits is effectively a comfy armchair voyage into the heart of Irish knitting tradition. Three sections of the book are dedicated to the remaining mills in Ireland which continue to produce hand knitting yarns. Each section has a review of the mill’s yarns, including how to use the qualities of each yarn to their best advantage (for example, sticky yarn for steeking, firmer yarn for structure and shape, and nepps for colour and texture). Paired with a peek inside each mill are Carol’s designs, each using the showcased mill’s yarns. True to Carol’s take on tradition, she doesn’t ignore tradition in the making; the final section is dedicated to contemporary Irish hand dyers – Dublin Dye Company and Hedgehog Fibres. Again Carol provides a pair of designs for each dyer’s yarns, a cowl and fingerless gloves for Dublin Dye Company and a hat and matching fingerless gloves for Hedgehog Fibres.
Coming from an engineering background, it’s no surprise that the garments themselves are engineered so that the textured elements of the garments run along parts of the body where thicker or firmer fabric won’t have a detrimental effect on fit – nicely set shoulders, properly fitted waists and underarms are all cleverly integrated into a well thought out design. Carol doesn’t just keep with women’s cardigans -no, no! Not so dull here – the garments range from shawls, to fingerless gloves, men’s jumpers, boy’s vests, little girl’s shrugs – something for everyone as you can see from the photos above. Each women’s garment has 7 sizes to work from, the men’s and children’s garments have 5. In addition to these, Carol also provides excellent tips on shaping and fitting to your size, for women, children and men.
Along with clear charts and schematics to size each garment Carol helpfully gives not just the finished measurements but also the suggested measurements of the wearer to give the knitter an idea of the ease each garment should have – vital when it comes to textured garments since cables can make the fabric quite thick and thus affect how much ease one should have for a comfortable and flattering fit.
Leave a comment at the end of this post by 9pm BST Friday 15 October for a chance to win a copy of Contemporary Irish Knits generously donated by Carol Feller. You can also purchase the book here.
Don’t forget to visit Michelle’s tour stop on the 13th!