I like the physical format of the book. It's a nice size and softback - personally I can live without hardcover knitting books. They're just heavier when you're trying to balance your knitting, a knitting book and a cat in your lap :^) The front and back covers have handy fold-in flaps that you can use to bookmark spots in the book. Silly of me, I guess, but these little touches can make a knitting book much more user-friendly. Mind you, my knitting books often have multiple bookmarks and sticky notes protruding from them as I swatch stitch patterns or plot out a design, maybe consulting multiple patterns for something like sleeve-shaping techniques.
The book consists of a little history of Irish knitting, profiles of three Irish wool mills and two indie Irish dyers, and 18 knitting patterns. The history part was fairly brief and nothing new to me, though the new knitter may find it interesting.
I really enjoyed the profiles of the Irish wool mills, tho I find it disappointing that they import a lot of their fleeces from New Zealand. Most Irish sheep are bred for meat not fiber, so their wool is coarse and not particularly suitable for spinning into knitting yarn. Too bad. The history of the mills going back hundreds of years fascinated me.
The patterns are well-presented. The photos are both attractive and in most cases give a good view of the knitted item. The instructions look clear and easy to follow, tho, of course, until you actually knit something, you can't be sure. I really like the clear schematics with measurements presented with each pattern. These should make it easy to check if your item is coming out the right size. Carol includes a section in the front of the book suggesting how to adapt the pattern to your size. Combined with the schematics, it should be relatively easy to adapt these patterns to fit well. There's also a basic techniques section at the back that covers the techniques you'd need to make the patterns in the book.
There are easy-to-read charts for the cable stitch patterns. Each chart has a nice legend for the different cable stitch combinations, but there are no written row by row instructions for the cables, so this book isn't for you if you can't or won't read charts. Personally I always prefer to knit from a chart, but I know some knitters hate them.
As for the designs themselves, they're attractive, but not quite my style. I love cables, but I prefer more traditional sweater shapes, rather than the tight-fitting silhouettes with hour-glass waists that the women's designs have. It's probably just aimed at a younger, thinner demographic than me :^)
I rarely knit other people's designs, so I doubt I'll actually knit anything out of this book, but there are three patterns that I could see knitting. I love the Kilmanagh Felted Tweed handbag. I think the gorgeous green of the sample is influencing me there. The Killybegs Cardigan is a nice basic cardigan with honeycomb accents. I've always had a soft spot for honeycomb and have been playing with a design that includes honeycomb, tho not at all in the way Carol has included it here. The last pattern I really like is the Straboy hooded pullover. I've been wanting a cabled hoodie for a while. I'll probably do a cardigan rather than pullover, but I do like this design.
Should you buy this book? I recommend checking it out from your library and having a look. The photographs of the Irish countryside are enough to justify a couple hours perusing it. And the wool mill profiles are well worth reading. I'd only buy the book if you think you'll actually knit one or more of the patterns.
Contemporary Irish Knits by Carol Feller
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 23, 2011)
Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 8.1 x 0.4 inches
Buy at Amazon