Hiatt’s Principles of Knitting

I have some knitting books. Not nearly as many as some designers I know (I like to rely on the public library), but still, about fifteen knitting books.  Almost none of them are pattern books; instead they fall into two categories:

1. Stitch dictionaries. I never met a stitch dictionary I didn’t want. Mind you, I have one that is more in the nature of a horrible warning instead of a good example – but I’ve still found some stitch motifs in it that I haven’t seen elsewhere. (Let me just say that some of the photographs don’t even show a full repeat of the stitch pattern.)

2. Reference works, such as Montse Stanley’s Knitter’s Handbook.

I’ve also browsed a number of books from libraries and ordered others through interlibrary loan. It’s a great way to pick up techniques.

A classic in the field was republished in a much revised version a couple of years ago: June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting. I bought it as an ebook, and it’s been languishing on my tablet ever since. (I’ve learned my lesson: reference books only work for me in paper, especially if they’re as long as this.)

So I checked the hardback out of the library recently and have been browsing it with great delight. One difficulty, however, is that Hiatt uses wonderfully internally consistent and logical terminology for knitting techniques that doesn’t necessarily match up with the names used by anyone else. (She has good reason to do this – she says herself that for some things, there’s already great variation in terms, so if she has to pick something, she might as well pick something that makes more sense.) If one is only using Principles of Knitting, this doesn’t matter. But it makes it very hard to look for techniques in the index to see what she says about them.

Take knitweaving, which I wrote about last week. It wasn’t in the index and I didn’t have the slightest notion of what she might have named it. I didn’t find it when flipping through the pages. (There are 700 pages; it’s easy to miss things.)

It turns out that she calls it inlay and has a very thorough chapter describing both kinds of knitweaving/inlay, its advantages and drawbacks, and discussing how to use it functionally as well as decoratively.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend the book to anyone with the caveat that cross-referencing with other work is difficult.

PS. I think I’d qualify it as my desert island knitting book. You know: if I could have just one knitting book, what would it be? This is it.

6 thoughts on “Hiatt’s Principles of Knitting”

  1. I love collecting knit/crochet books too! And although I have mostly pattern books, my favorite books are definitely stitch dictionaries & reference books as well. Mayhap I’ll put this one in my wishlist…

    1. Hah, when I went to add it, I saw that I had Montse Stanely’s book in there too & I cheerfully removed it ’cause as you know, I recently acquired a copy! 😀

  2. Hiatt’s Principles of Knitting offers two cast-ons that I like very much.

    The one is a variation on the long-tail cast-on which is the only true way to loosen the cast-on (I have the older book, haven’t looked at the new one). It is called Double-Needle Cast-On (not to be confused with a long-tail cast-on which wraps the top loops around two needles rather than one) and it begins on the second half of page 132. It actually loosens the loops formed at the bottom of the cast-on by catching each loop with a second needle creating a truly elastic cast-on. Googling around I note that it is available as a pdf here:


    and here is a you tube tutorial of the method:

    The other really nice cast on is for lace called the Eyelet Cast-On, on page 167.

    It is so lacy you might actually have to use smaller needles for the cast-on than for the actual project but once you get the hang of it, it makes a nice beginning for lace.

    I don’t know that there is a ‘matching’ bind-off for this so it might be best for bottom-up triangle shawls or lace projects that are kitchenered in the center.

    Agree in general that Hiatt’s book is the desert island book, since it would be the only one to read so all the time in the world to learn her terminology.

    1. I’ve actually been browsing later in the book, and now I wish I’d started at the beginning. There’s so much to take in and I’ve had a specific topic I’ve been researching.

      I knew I couldn’t have been the first person to think of using a second needle to loosen up those bottom loops! (I invented it independently last year.)

      The Eyelet cast-on is one I’ve used before and like. There’s definitely not a precisely matching bind-off, but, hm. Now you have me pondering!

      I’ve thought about using it as the middle cast-on for a stole, but haven’t gotten around to it.

  3. I see that now.

    There’s another detail on the double-needle cast-on both Hiatt and Dorothy P., creator of the video above, add which makes for a very nice edge: they roll the needles after each stitch. This prevents the bottom which is now loose, from looking sloppy.

    As to using the eyelet cast-on for a middle cast-on, great idea, I will definitely stay tuned.

    Thank you,

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