Tag Archives: books

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.

Vogue Knitting Knitopedia: The Ultimate A to Z for Knitters

Another newish fiber arts book from the library: Vogue Knitting Knitopedia: the Ultimate A to Z for Knitters.

This is genuinely an encyclopedia in its layout: the articles on each topic are in alphabetical order. I’m a reference librarian, so I know that encyclopedias have their place, subject encyclopedias included, but this particular one isn’t particularly useful to me. If I didn’t have the Internet, I expect I would find this a useful reference, and make no mistake, this is a reference work. It doesn’t read smoothly from the beginning to the end: Magic Loop is followed by Make One is followed by Making Up (See Finishing Techniques).

The information in the book is good, though the parts about currently well-known websites will be dated in less than a decade.

All in all, I doubt I’ll be using this, but there are three categories of potential purchasers I would recommend it to: public libraries, yarn shops, and people who want to be able to look things up, but don’t want to search the Internet to do it or who frequently don’t have Internet access.

Two Books: The Knitter’s Book of Socks and Sock Knitting Master Class

I recently read The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes; I’m lucky that my public library has a good selection. This one is worth getting your hands on if possible. Aside from the patterns, it’s chock full of good information about what kinds of yarn make well-wearing socks, what gauge works well for which weights of yarn, and how to pick a sock pattern to suit your sock yarn.

There are also lovely sock patterns by well-known sock designers, from simple for beginners, to fancy for the adventurous.

I haven’t yet bought a book that’s only about socks, but I’m seriously considering this one.

Another new sock book I got from the library is Ann Budd’s Sock Knitting Master Class.

Where The Knitter’s Book of Socks is in large part about yarn choices and how to knit socks, Sock Knitting Master Class is about considerations of sock design. It provides different cast ons and bind offs, and has a whole section about different heels and toes for top down socks. Oddly, while it describes several different cast ons for toe up socks, it doesn’t have a section on some  of the heel shapes I’ve seen used particularly for toe up socks.

The sock patterns here are lovely, too, by an overlapping but not identical set of designers.

Two of the designs (by Meg Swansen and Anna Zilboorg) provided me with some insights about possible ways of solving some issues for a sock I started twice a few years back.  We’ll see!

The book comes with a DVD, but I haven’t looked at it, so can’t remark upon it one way or the other; I imagine it’s helpful!

Ann Budd wrote a sock pattern for Clara Parkes’ book; Clara Parkes wrote little descriptions of what about the various yarns used for the different socks helps suit them to the designs and how to choose yarns as substitutes. I thought that was friendly of them!

This is a book I very much enjoyed and would highly recommend.

Dictionary of Needlework

So I have a Dover reprint of S.F.A. Caulfeild’s Dictionary of Needlework. (Dover gave it a new title: Encyclopedia of Victorian Needlework. It’s a fine reference work for its time. This means it’s full of terms for various bits of needlework that have different names now, and what we would probably now consider bogus bits of history. Probably large portions of it are accurate; I’m not well-read enough to know all of which bits are which.

If you can decipher older terminology (or are willing to give it a try), there’s interesting designs in it for knitting, crochet (including Tunisian crochet), tatting, needle lace, bobbin lace, embroidery, and lots of other stuff. It’s hard to figure out what the needle sizes are, and I find the weights of yarns indecipherable. (I haven’t bothered to do the research yet; I imagine there’s a historical reproduction group on Ravelry that would be able to help me out.) It’s an English book, and so the crochet terms are closer to the modern English crochet terms (i.e. English double crochet stitch = US single crochet stitch).

If you live in the US, you can see a complete scan of the dictionary from the University of Michigan library:

(Yes, Caulfeild is spelled with an “ei”, not an “ie”.)