Before the web existed, it was sometimes hard to find much information about handcrafts, online or not. (Usenet and Gopher were useful, but insufficient.) I combed the libraries where I lived, and haunted bookstore craft sections.
I learned to broaden the kinds of books I looked at, and if you’re fond of handcraft books, you might want to look at some of these too.
When Kate Atherley writes a knitting book, I always want to get a good look at it. She knows her stuff and is quite thorough about explaining it. So I was pleased to see Knit Mitts: Your Hand-y Guide to Knitting Mittens & Gloves at the library last week. (My book budget is tight, so I like to get a good look at a book before buying it.)
This book is written for everyone from beginning mitten or glove knitters to those who have knit many a pair; for people who want to knit custom mitts to those who just want a rote pattern; for knitters who want a basic design to those who want fancy cables, lace, or colorwork.
A friend suggested that there’s no reason why my book reviews should be limited to new books, and this made sense to me. So when I acquired a nifty book at a local craft supply reuse shop called the Scrap Exchange, I immediately realized that it was a good candidate.
Decorative Knitting, by Kate Haxell and Luise Roberts, is a book about ways of embellishing and decorating knitting. Many of these are fairly standard techniques, but some of them are quite unusual. When I was flipping through the book, the moment I knew I needed to buy it and look at it more carefully was when I noticed the swatches of inlay.
I’ve been admiring Hitomi Shida’s stitch patterns for quite a while now and have been planning to buy one of her stitch dictionaries. So when Tuttle Publishing offered me a copy of one of her books in exchange for a review, I jumped at the chance. It wasn’t until after accepting that I realized that it was even more exciting than I’d thought: this is one of Hitomi Shida’s stitch dictionaries translated into English for the first time, with a complete glossary of the chart symbols and an explanation of how to read Japanese knitting charts.
Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible: 260 Exquisite Patterns by Hitomi Shida, translated with an introduction by Gayle Roehm, will be available on October 10. You can preorder it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or through your local bookstore.
I’ve flipped through a few Japanese stitch dictionaries at fiber festivals, and I’ve read a little bit about Japanese charts online, but this is the first chance I’ve really had to use any of these charts. Here are the things I knew before even opening the book:
There would be a lot of gorgeous stitches that aren’t in any of my other stitch dictionaries.
Japanese knitting symbols and charts are completely standardized; once you know how to read them, you can open any stitch dictionary and understand what’s in front of you.
They are also different from any of the English language knitting charts I’ve encountered. This makes having an English language guide to Japanese charts valuable.
So, what did I think of the book? The short version is that aside from a very few minor quibbles, I was impressed. Moreover, I would have been willing to spend twice the list price of $17 to get this book.
Recommended for: cable lovers, knitting designers, and confident knitters who are ready to move beyond basic lace. This book will be especially useful for anyone who wants an English explanation of untranslated Japanese stitch dictionaries.
When I went to library school, one of my favorite classes was about the history of books and libraries. I thought it was fascinating, both in terms of the changing ways that information has been conveyed in text throughout history, and in terms of the kinds of physical objects that can be described by the word book. I also learned to be a reference librarian, which led me, in a moment of strange inspiration in the library stacks, to my techniques for turning words or library call numbers into knitting stitch patterns.
Learning about various ways of filling a page with words also influenced the patterns. For instance, the layout method I use most often for my encoded words was loosely inspired by the way that line breaks in some medieval manuscripts might come anywhere in the middle of the word, without benefit of hyphen or syllable boundary. And sometimes I toy with the idea of boustrophedon.
So as someone who combines words and knitting and who is interested in the history of books as physical objects, I am filled with glee by Karie Westermann‘s Kickstarter for a book that combines her academic background in the history of the book and her skill in designing knitting patterns. I’m pleased to report that the Kickstarter was completely funded within 25 hours. (It’s reached 135% of the original goal as of this post!) I gather that Karie has some stretch goals in the works since there’s been such tremendous interest. Keep an eye out! I hope you’ll join the people who’ve pledged so far.
This Thing of Paper will contain ten knitting patterns based on imagery from old books, as well as essays about the history of books and the way that people’s access to information changed with the invention of the printing press. I want to hold this book in my hands. I hope you do too.
I’d like to thank Karie for including me in the blog tour to share her Kickstarter. It’s feeling a little like an online party, celebrating the community of people who think that this book should happen. Karie’s clearly thought hard about what’s involved in the complete process of running a Kickstarter and publishing a book.
Because I was so excited by all this, I couldn’t resist making a stitch pattern as a gift to my visitors. Naturally, I had to choose a word somehow related to books. I’ve always liked the sound of the word folio, and so here we are: one lace pattern and one chart for any craft.