I bought Carol Feller's Contemporary Irish Knits (published by John Wiley and Sons, 2011) as soon as it was available. I know there are buyers out there far less impulsive than I (sneaky sneaky Amazon.ca sent me an email when this book came out, and I couldn't help myself) who might appreciate a review, so I thought I'd share. Visit Carol's website, Stolen Stitches, to see more of the book and of her other work.
I really don't think I could say enough about these lovely knits. I'd been watching them appear on Ravelry with great anticipation, and I got more and more excited as each one arrived in the list of new patterns. I think there is only one pattern in the entire book that I don't plan on making, and only because it's a skirt (there's nothing I feel sillier in than a skirt, except perhaps a dress). Feller is true to her Aran inspiration in the details of the patterns, but the styles are modern, fitted, and attractive. Her approach to traditional Aran cables is fresh and adventurous- the cables spring to life from simple ribbing before blending back into the fabric in the Killorglin jacket (this design, featured on the cover, was the selling point of the book for me); they frame pockets of lace in the Dalkey Cowl; they define the shaping of the Killybegs cardigan; and they peek out from pleats in the Tralee skirt. There are patterns for women, men, and children, and each design is extremely wearable. The children's knits look great for playing in, the women's knits are flattering and timeless, and the men's knits look like they'll actually, you know, get worn outside the house. There are several accessory patterns that would make wonderful gifts, but the focus is predominantly sweaters. The size range is fantastic - every single women's garment has my size, and then some!
The down side? I'm going to have to buy a lot more yarn, because I'm making sweaters!
Fellers goes beyond simply riffing on the standard of the Aran cable - This book is inspired by Ireland and its knitting traditions in every way. The photography is stunning (an important note - the poses are comfortable and natural and the sweaters look fabulous, proving that there are no design flaws hidden by uncomfortable fashion poses) and is entirely set against the backdrop of the Irish landscape. Another source of inspiration is contemporary Irish yarn, which defines that layout of the book. Each chapter is based around the mill that makes the project yarns. Each mill's history, specialty, and process is charmingly presented, and the yarns used in the projects are to die for. The history of knitting in Ireland is presented as a living, changing industry with a great deal to offer to knitters the world over.
The down side? My travel budget my have to cut into my yarn budget.
The Book Itself:
One thing I really like about Contemporary Irish Knits is its size. 152 pages and 20 detailed patterns, (with anecdotes, a good appendix, and lots of photography) fit in a book small enough to actually, you know, knit from. At 8" x 9" and barely 1/2" thick, the book is small enough to take on the go or even tuck into a large project bag, but the layout isn't cramped or busy. The appendix has a long list of clearly illustrated techniques. Several substitutions are listed for the yarns used, and a comprehensive list of retailers is given, should you wish to try these lovely Irish yarns. The patterns are clear and readable, with easily spotted headlines, large schematics, and charted cables. There's a succinct but informative section on fit, measurements, and ease.
The down side? I know it's a petty quibble, but I'm not a big fan of the font used on the cover and as the headings.
Verdict? Just buy it. The cover price is $24.99 US/$29.99 Canadian, but it was considerably less on Amazon.