Knitting with Icelandic Wool is the English translation of Prjónað úr íslenskri ull, an Icelandic pattern book published in cooperation with Ístex. The book opens with two historical essays, "The Origins of Icelandic Knitting" and "The Wool Industry in Iceland." Both are interesting for those of us who are needlecrafts history nerds.
After the essays, the book dives into the pattern collection, which includes 25 garment designs for women (mostly sweaters, with two dresses, two vests, a skirt, and a slip), seven sweaters for men, seven unisex sweaters, 10 children's sweaters, and 19 "miscellaneous" patterns (mostly accessories for women and children, along with a dog coat and a girl's dress).
Each pattern is presented with a full page photo, often in a beautiful outdoor environment, an introductory paragraph, a detailed materials list and sizing information, and a note about construction. Pattern instructions then follow. In most cases, a flat picture of the item with measurements is presented (instead of a schematic) along with one or more color charts.
The book ends with a short Information section, that provides brief instruction on stranding, swatching for gauge, care of Icelandic garments, and finishing/detailing techniques.
In general, the photography is wonderful, the patterns are beautiful, and the instructions are written clearly. The book is a hardcover, and feels and looks like a classic that you will return to time and again for wardrobe staples.
I would have liked to read more about the unique properties of the Icelandic wool, or about the process used for felting (since it is mentioned that Icelandic sweaters are sometimes felted). The book is clearly marketed towards intermediate knitters and there is no skill level listed on any pattern.
Back in January, I had a chance to get my copy autographed by Vedis Jonsdottir at Vogue Knitting Live. I shared with her my concern (fear?) about making one of these beautiful designs, and she reminded me that Icelandic sweaters are simpler to make than they appear. Most of the instructions for these patterns are only 1 page long. Many are constructed in the round in stockinette stitch with minimal shaping. While most of the patterns feature exquisite colorwork, it is typically confined to the yoke or trim. I think it would have been helpful if the translated version included a page of tips for working in the round and colorwork prior to the introduction of the patterns. While I agree with Vedis that the projects are straightforward in terms of construction, I think that the apparent complexity might scare away some knitters who could be easily converted with just a page or two of information.
All of the patterns are quite striking, but I was particularly drawn to Bláklukka, Dropar, Fjara and Vormorgunn, Keđja, Klukka, Kria, and Útjörð. There was even a sweater that my boyfriend could appreciate, Strax, because of its masculine simplicity. (Ravelry members can view most the patterns on the book's source page.)
Most of the patterns in this book are available elsewhere, as they are part of the large Istex pattern collection. As I mentioned, though, there is something wonderful about having these patterns collected into a sturdy hardcover book, that can lay flat while you are working on one of the classic projects.
I recommend this book for knitters who like the classic Icelandic sweater look, who enjoy (or who want to venture into) stranded colorwork, and for those looking for a pattern book that will outlast the latest trends in knitwear.
Full disclosure: A free review copy of Knitting with Icelandic Wool was provided by St. Martin's Griffin. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.