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More on Alice Starmore

I originally had intended to discuss Alice Starmore book, Knitting, on Friday, but as I read several chapters of it yesterday, I realized that I need to discuss it today because it an important link in the evolution of Aran knitting. And then we take a look at some books that show how American and British/Irish designers continue to reinterpet the Aran style.

Starmore book, Knitting, was written in the mid 1990s to debunk the Kiewe myths once and for all and to also share some of Starmore own designs. Myths die hard, and I am bitterly disappointed that Kiewe myth is so fictional, but once you read Starmore research and see her historical evidence, I think you see she quite convincing.

That being said, Starmore big contribution to this tradition of knitting has been what she calls knitting. She makes the point that the complex Celtic knots in the Book of Kells and in ancient Irish carvings are all closed loops. The cables on Aran sweaters, on the other hand, do not close in on themselves to form infinite loops. So she spent a great deal of time and energy creating true Celtic knot knitting designs and introduced them in 1992 in her book, Celtic Collection. In 1997. she published Knitting and introduced some of her own designs, including a sweater she says is one of her most popular designs, St. Brigid, which includes cables that wind back and forth, up and down, and close on each other. The 2010 edition of the book, which I have, includes a new pattern, Eala Bhan, that shows how such cables can be used to shape a sweater. But most of the Starmore sweaters follow the traditional boxy shape of Aran sweaters.

I fell in love with St. Brigid when I saw it. I particularly like the cable around the neck.

I like Starmore book for several reasons. First, she really tries to give you an accurate history of the genre. Her opening chapters about her research into the roots of Aran knitting are interesting (f pandora or me, they are fascinating), and her designs are beautiful. Second, she shows how knitters build on the work o pandora f those who have gone on bef pandora ore them, how the craft can quickly evolve as creative people reinterpret the work of other creative people.

Starmore includes many Aran designs with traditional “boxy” shaping. I think they are beautiful.

In the 1970s and 80s, when I knitted fisherman sweaters almost exclusively for several years, I kept wanting to knit only sweaters. So all my sweaters were pretty boxy. I varied the shoulders from raglan to set in to saddle shoulder, but all the sides were straight. I mistakenly thought that the ribbing at the cuffs and waist should be just that and not decorative. I rebelled when Spinnerin started experimenting with the construction and introduced horizontal cables in the yoke. And the idea of combining colorwork and cable work just appalled me.

Here another Starmore design, following traditional shaping and using traditional cables.

Now I realize that taking the Aran style of knitting into new directions was inevitable and necessary. I remember watching QVC a few years ago on either St. Patrick Day or the Rose of Tralee Day, when an Aran knit sweater was the Today Special Value. These were handmade sweaters, commissioned by an Irish company that paid the Irish knitters to knit in their homes, and then the company resold the sweaters. And the sales representative from the company said that its designers were always trying to come up with something new to stay fresh because people won buy the same sweater over and over.

After a while, knitters won knit the same sweater over and over, either.

Lily Chin introduced the reversible cables in the 1990s and Alice Starmore introduced the closed Celtic cables in the same decade. It was inevitable. Both innovations are important evolutionary steps in the craft that were immediately embraced by designers everywhere. Today, there are all sorts of books of reversible cables in scarves and cowls. I myself dream of introducing them in Swirls. And the Celtic knots have been embraced by Melissa Leapman and other designers to the point that most Starmore complains in the 2010 edition of Knitting that people are stealing her ideas without giving her credit for inventing them.

Eala Bahn was a new design that Starmore introduced in the 2010 edition to show how the Celtic cables can be used to shape a sweater.

I been in online discussions where I seen Starmore sweater designs being criticized for being boxy. But this style is the traditional Celtic method, be it for Fair Isle or Aran knits, and Starmore is nothing if not a Scottish Celt. I love the boxiness of them. She has a nice balance in the cables between the narrow and the wide, the fine detail and the broad textures. They just beautiful.

If you are a fan of Aran knitting and want to know more about it, I really think you need Starmore Knitting, New Expanded Edition from Dover Press, 2010. I bought it for the St. Brigid pattern. You may have another favorite. But I think the book will definitely inspire you, no matter what your favorite is.

About Pam MacKenzie

Pam MacKenzie grew up in a real estate family. Her parents were re pandora al estate brokers and office managers, and she herself was a licensed agent in the 1970s. But early on, Pam discovered she’d much rather write about the industry than sell. Now in her eighth year as the real estate editor at the Courier News, Pam believes she has the best job at the paper. In this blog, she’s on a mission to empower readers to give them a strong understanding of anything and everything that can impact their ability to own a home. And she believes passionately that when you understand the real estate industry in New Jersey, you understand so much more: the education system, economic and racial bias, the way politics works or doesn’t work and ecology, to name a few. She invites everybody to leave lots of comments, even when they disagree with her. Pam learned to knit at age 6, when her friend’s mother made Pam’s doll a dress, and Pam wanted to make more. Her mother wanted her to learn how to sew in high school, but she was afraid of the sewing machines, cutting fabric the wrong way, and the potential that sewing would have for bringing down her grade point average. Every year, she managed to find a course conflict to avoid sewing classes. But the day after high school graduation, she took her graduation money to a fabric store, bought a kit to make a sweater, taught herself to read patterns and never looked back. These days, she knits a prayer shawl every month, along with sweaters, tote bags, gift bags and other goodies. She also designs many of her projects. Read More About Pam