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Review: Inspired Fair Isle Knits


First, the facts:

Title: Inspired Fair Isle Knits

Author: Fiona Ellis

Published by: Potter Craft, 2007

Type: Patterns

inspired fair isle

The In-Depth Look:

(Note: This review is copied from my knitting blog, from the review I posted there in October 2007.)

My copy of Inspired Fair Isle Knits by Fiona Ellis came today. I’ve looked forward to this book for months since I liked her Inspired Cable Knits so much, and now it’s here?

Um. Let’s see. You know how your Mom taught you that old saw, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”

Well . . . that scarf on the cover is really lovely. . . . There’s a pretty pillow in there, not that I knit pillows. . . . The writing is pleasant, and the little blurbs about different folk tales and legends, scattered through each section of the “elements” (Water, Air, Fire, Earth) are enjoyable . . .

But, um, the rest? Well, you’re not going to be hearing any paeans of joy like you did when the Cable book came out.

How do you politely say that there wasn’t a single thing in there I really liked? I mean, there’s a nice enough tank top, but I never wear tank tops, so that’s useless to me. The “Sway” cardigan is about the only thing I remotely liked, but still wouldn’t consider making it. There are a couple cute kid knits (but, really, put a cute kid in a handknit and you’ve got a good chance at a winner, and it doesn’t hurt that the one kids’ cardigan is the one most “classic” in design). But then there are a disproportionate number of patterns that I found downright ugly, though I will say the color combinations, as a rule, are nicely put together.

I’m all for creative uses of knitting techniques, and using a fair isle stripe in an unexpected place isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, as much as I love knitting tradition, it’s good to break out into something new, to stretch the boundaries. Eunny Jang’s Autumn Rose sweater certainly isn’t a traditional fair isle design, and yet it honors the tradition–it chooses the more fitted shape, the 3/4 sleeves, the scoop neckline as ways of updating the boxy gansey shape. The sweaters here, though, seem more slapdash, thrown together. Fair isle pockets on an otherwise stockinette sweater, but which only manage to look like afterthoughts. Wildly untraditional color motifs undulating up a sleeve or across a sweater that don’t do anybody any justice–the designer, the sweater, the knitter or the wearer. Sweaters that are half fair isle and half cabled, so that the two halves seem to be competing rather than working harmoniously together. Wide panels of fair isle weighing down an otherwise light, lacy shawl for no reason I can fathom. And then, the photography, while good enough and artistic enough in some ways, is aggravating in others–You get nice detail of, say, the stitch motifs but not of the whole sweater. Is the model standing sideways/hunched over/arms folded because it was the whim of the moment, or because the photos are trying to hide something?

Ultimately, for a book that uses the four, natural “elements” as inspiration, there are a lot of nasty weather systems going on in here, knocking the roofs off the fair isle tradition rather than freshening the air with a good, stiff breeze. In other words, this review comes down to one word: Disappointing. Such a let down. To me, anyway.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: Ugh. UNinspired. No gushing at all. This is one of the very few books EVER–of any kind–that I actually disliked enough to return. It is no longer a part of my library. And, if you knew how unusual for me it is to get rid of any book that comes into my hands, you would know how bad I really thought this was. An especially big disappointment after liking her first book so much. Other reviews for this author:

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Carrie K September 20, 2008, 1:35 pm

    I picked up this book after being completely enamoured of her short row stripe FI pullover but other than a couple of scarves and some jumping off points, didn’t find anything I’d care to knit either.

    She is a pretty fabulous designer though. Just can’t hit it out of the park every time.

    Carrie K’s last blog post..Giant Woolly Pillowcase

  • Pam M October 7, 2008, 11:50 am

    I felt the same way especially after the cable book. I appreciate balanced reviews because I don’t want a book that doesn’t suit my needs.

    Pam M´s last blog post..Gaelic Mist

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