A Knitting Library: basic reference

I wanted to add  book posts to the mix again. I am, after all, a reference librarian by training. Also, I learn best from text and diagrams. A conversation on Ravelry led me to the idea of gradually posting a list of books I’ve learned from, and possibly a few websites as well.

I’m going to start with the books I turn to when I have a question—one part of my core collection.

This list of books is written up in the order I acquired them. These are the three I own in paper format:

Knitting in the Nordic Tradition, by Vibeke Lind. Lark Books. Translated by Annette Allen Jensen. ISBN 1887374310.

This is essentially a basic knitting book – it’s got cast-ons, bind-offs, basic stitches, basic patterns. It was my earliest exposure to multiple cast-ons (and has some you might not see so often in basic manuals from the US). I don’t refer to it as often as I used to, but I still return to it occasionally.

I also really appreciate the way it shows multiple ways of making and decorating basic garments. The patterns aren’t highly detailed – they’re pretty much schematics with generalized text instructions.

Reading through this book encouraged me further to think of knitting design as something I could do by myself with the knowledge of certain basic principles. (I already had some of that attitude from sewing – I had learned to make sewing patterns as a child by tracing my rag dolls onto paper and adding seam allowances.) It doesn’t say that in so many words, but it’s primarily a book about those basic principles.

It’s got some nice bits of knitting history in it, too.

Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook, by Montse Stanley. Reader’s Digest. ISBN 0895774674 (hardback), 0762102489 (paperback).

This is a more comprehensive manual, much more detailed. Where Knitting in the Nordic Tradition would be shelved in the regular non-fiction in a public library, the Knitter’s Handbook is properly a reference book. It’s all about techniques, with some history, and includes no patterns.

It talks about tools, cast-ons, bind-offs, decreases and increases, all kinds of textured and color knitting, finishing, laundering, and mending. It includes odd little techniques I mostly haven’t seen in other books, though I can usually find them online in one or two places. (An example here is twice-knit knitting.) Every time I flip through it, I find something I hadn’t noticed before. In other words, it’s not the sort of book I read from cover to cover (though I know people who might).

There are also many attractive examples of historical tools and knitting.

Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book, by Mary Thomas. Dover Publications. ISBN 0486228177.

This is an unabridged republication of the 1938 original.

This is a real classic. I’d read about it online as having lots of useful information, but I hadn’t really grasped how comprehensive it was until I laid hands on it. I wonder about the accuracy of the historical information, but I find this book valuable for the techniques. I find it worth having for the chapter on “Knit Movements, Stitches, and Fabric” alone, which is the section that talks about stitch mount. I should have referred to it when I was looking for information about double decreases. While it doesn’t have a good abbreviation for my unusual one, it does contain it as well as the method for making it while purling! It’s got sections on color knitting, frame knitting (loom knitting), fringe and loops, embroidered knitting, beads, garment shaping (rather succinct, and assumes the reader isn’t intimidated by pattern drafting), garment details (like hems), Shetland shawls, gloves, socks, and hints for troubleshooting and mending.

There’s another reference work I currently own only as an ebook, but wish I owned in paper. Fortunately, my public library has it, and perhaps I’ll get the paper one someday:

The Principles of Knitting, by June Hemmons Hiatt. Touchstone (Simon & Schuster). ISBNs: 9781416535171, 9781451688412. (This is the second edition.)

This is an amazing book, full of careful descriptions of all kinds of techniques. There’s a fair amount of overlap with the Knitter’s Handbook, but not completely. There is so much here; it’s worth leafing through regularly and consulting whenever I have a question. Unfortunately, I forget to consult ebooks, and it’s hard for me to leaf through them in the same way.

That said, I’m really glad to have it. If you learn best from text, this is probably a book you will like, not least because it goes into many of the reasons behind the instructions provided. I do have one caveat: Hiatt is understandably frustrated by the terminology used to describe knitting. She therefore invented her own where she didn’t like what was already available. This is wonderful in some ways – it’s internally consistent and logical. It’s also really frustrating when it comes to looking up techniques; the best way to find something is often to go to the chapter that the technique would logically belong in and then leaf through it.

Next time: Lace Knitting references.

These are my most frequently-used references, though I do have others I’ll discuss later. What books do you turn to most often?

One thought on “A Knitting Library: basic reference

  1. Thank you for this — clearly the beginning of something very useful and I hope you will continue. It really helps to have some information and opinions rather than just a listing — particularly now that there are so many books for a new knitter to consider.

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