Book review and giveaway: Knitting with Icelandic Wool

Posted by Underground Crafter on May 27, 2013 | Short Link

knitting with icelandic wool

Back in the winter, I received a review copy of Knitting with Icelandic Wool by Védís Jónsdóttir from St. Martin’s Griffin.  I was immediately drawn in by the stunning photography and the beautiful designs.  The nice folks at St. Martin’s Griffin were also kind enough to share another copy which I’ll be giving away today at the end of my review, so read on for more details.

Some of you may be wondering why I would review a book about (mostly) sweaters towards the end of May, but to my mind, summer is the perfect time to get started on a larger, cold weather project!

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.

Back in January, I had a chance to get my copy autographed by Vedis at Vogue Knitting Live.

Vedis Jonsdottir signature

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.

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.  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 VormorgunnKeđja, Klukka, Kria, and Útjörð.  There was even a sweater that MC could appreciate, Strax, because of its masculine simplicity.  (Ravelry members can view most the patterns on the book’s source page here.)

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.


I’m pleased to share a giveaway for a copy of Knitting with Icelandic Wool by Védís Jónsdóttir, courtesy of St. Martin’s Griffin.  Due to the increasing costs of shipping, this is only open to U.S. residents.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, June 2, 2013.  


To enter:

  • Leave me a comment telling me about about your knitting garments.  Have you made garments before?  Constructed flat or in the round?  What techniques have you used?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

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  • cris says:

    I have only knit socks and shawls as it pertains to wear ables. I think I’m finally moving into an intermediate level with my knitting. A book like this, after your review, may be the kick I need to start making sweaters.

  • Sheila says:

    I have knit sweaters before, among them sweaters in the round doing traditional Fair Isle style stranded knitting.

    Amusingly, I have my public library’s copy of Knitting With Icelandic Wool sitting on my coffee table at the moment. It is a lovely book. I hope I win it, otherwise it will definitely go on my (looooong) wishlist of knitting books to buy.

  • autumngeisha says:

    This looks like a great book. I have been following Kay from the Mason-Dixon blog and her Icelandic sweater knitting saga. She mentioned the author of this book in her posts. Such lovely designs! I have knitted many sweaters with differing constructions (top-down, bottom-up, flat, sideways), but never a lopapeysa. Although I have the yarn already to make one…go figure!

  • MJ says:

    I’ve knitted garments both flat and in the round. I prefer knitting in the round to avoid having to seam. My next challenge is going to be knitting in the round and then steeking.

    I’ve joined your Underground Crafting group on Ravelry and have liked you on Facebook.
    MJLegg (on Ravelry)

  • patsy says:

    I have knitted a sweater and a vest, but I’d rather knit hats, scarves, and shawls.

  • Karen Baque says:

    I have been hoarding some Icelandic wool that was given to me for a sweater, I didn’t like the pattern so was saving…wow checked out these and in order…Strik, Varmi and Voff. I don’t know what the translation but after that 2 different sweaters caught my eye.
    I have felted up bags, sweaters ties and knitted just about everything once. I need to do this and a few other things on my list.
    Sign me up for the giveaway please, Karen

  • Carol says:

    I’ve knit a little of everything; I like to change up what I have on the needles so my hands don’t get tired. Not to mention my brain. I’ve done sweaters, both pullover and cardigan, stranded and textured; lots of scarves, hats, mitts; a skirt (I only have one relative who has the figure to pull off a knit skirt); shopping bags, purses, jewelry…. I’m not too shy to say I’ve won some blue ribbons at the state fair for stuff. I even have some Icelandic wool in my stash right now, a gift from my son when he visited there on his way home from 4 years in Europe.

  • Luv2CUSmile says:

    This book looks wonderful! I was looking at the patterns and they are all equally gorgeous! I have not knit a sweater before and it is definitely my goal this year. I have knit slipper socks, hats and shawls as far as garments go… i have been researching everything i can on garment construction in the last few months to prepare myself. These patterns would certainly motivate me to jump in to it!
    Thx for the awesome giveaway!

  • Connie K. says:

    I have knit hats and scarfs, but no finished sweaters. I do have a vest and a sweater in progress, both knit flat and seamed. This looks like a beautiful book, and I am a fan of Iceland – sooooo, we’re a perfect fit.

  • Luv2CUSmile says:

    I facebook shared… first name Cheri…. is that good for ID?

  • Luv2CUSmile says:

    I liked at facebook too… and joining you at Ravelry too. Not sure if a separate comment for each though…
    I like your blog btw!

  • ~Julie says:

    I am finding myself drawn to Icelandic sweaters. I would love to make one for myself, but have no idea where to start. This book looks like a good place to get direction. I have experience making non-fitted garments like scarves, socks, hats, gloves, and a couple of children’s and baby sweaters. No sweater for an adult yet. Thank you for hosting a give-away.

    strawberrykid on ravelry

  • Rachel McKinney says:

    Nice! I just started knitting garments for myself. Previous versions were baby size, one one piece and one seamed. I love knitting in the round, and want to do more color work.

  • Librada says:

    I have knitted mostly shawls and hats, only one sweater for a toddler that I knitted in the round. At this time, I am venturing on knitting socks. I just fisnished one foot and have misplaced the pattern to finish the second one :( Hopefully I’ll find it today at work. Thanks for the chance to get this book.

  • Rose S. says:

    I have knit many, many sweaters over the years. I really love to make Arran sweaters and Fair Isle sweaters and would so love to have a go at an Icelandic sweater. Thank you for a great giveaway.

  • Terri Smith says:

    I mostly knit socks, lace shawls, and hats but have knit a few sweaters and would like to start learning color work. i would love a copy of this book. Thanks.

  • Christina says:

    I have made only a few garments and so far the’ve all been for my 10 yr old. [I'm building confidence (^_^) ] I love making garments in the round and Colorwork always seems to go faster in my opinion. I even made one tank-top kinda lacy. I would love to win this book.

  • Christina says:

    I “like” you on Facebook. As Trenody85

  • Christina says:

    I am a member of your Rav. Group as Trenody85

  • Christina says:

    I shared this giveaway on FB.

  • britney says:

    i’ve never made any garments before beyond things like hats and socks, but there are quite a few sweaters–especially those with impressive and beautiful colorwork–in my bookmarks and ravelry favorites!
    i am bapsi on ravelry!

  • Evelyn says:

    I started knitting garments only a couple of years ago and absolutely love making my own sweaters. There’s still so much to learn about sweater construction but my go-to technique is top-down raglan.

  • Noreen says:

    With more than 50 years knitting, I’ve pretty much done it all–fair isle, mosaic, a tiny bit of Icelandic (but not sweaters), cables…etc. This book looks like it could be interesting.

  • Toni Lipsey says:

    I’m not a knitter myself. My mother is. She, at one point, taught me crochet and knit. I gravitated to crochet myself, but have always been fascinated with how well she knits. She makes gorgeous garments for herself and friends, mostly made flat, but sometimes in the round. She likes to work with self striping yarns, or ones with unique variants. She’s truly my craft inspiration, and I would love to give this book to her.

  • Carmen says:

    I’ve started a couple of garments in the last year but haven’t finished them. Both were knit flat

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