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The Knitter's Desert Island Bookshelf

For many knitters, buying knitting books is almost as seductive as buying yarn. With the proliferation of published pattern collections, stitch-dictionaries, and instruction guides, it’s all too easy to drop serious money each year on the latest and greatest tomes. If space and funds are tight, however, it’s nice to know which books stand the test of time. Here are my “Desert Island Bookshelf” choices.

In my opinion, Knitting In Plain English is, hands down, the clearest, best written guide to basic knitting in publication. Written by the forthright and opinionated Maggie Righetti, it’s also great fun to read. It is possible to teach yourself to knit using this book alone; that is in fact how I learned! While I don’t always agree with every one of her pronouncements, this is a reference guide that keeps me returning.

In a similar vein, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears is an essential guide to trusting one’s own abilities and knitting creatively rather than as a paint-by-numbers exercise. Folksy and down-to-earth, this book demands re-reading every few years for a refresher course on why we do what we do when we sit down to knit.

Once the basics are mastered, intermediate and advanced knitters will look for books which dig into particular techniques or topics connected with the craft. If you’re interested in how fibers work, read. The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, Written by Clara Parkes, this reference will give you all the basic information you’ll ever need. Parkes writes in a tone that’s almost scholarly, and her knowledgeable style makes this book a must-have for those who want to do more than blindly follow patterns.

Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns gives instructions for making hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, socks, and basic sweaters. Budd does the math for us so that we can simply knit. It’s possible to take these instructions, add in a stitch pattern or two, and create personalized items. Budd has also written The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns and The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweater Patterns. What I especially love about these books is that I don’t have to match someone else’s gauge: I make a swatch, find my gauge, and look for the set of numbers that matches.

As the years pass, I find myself more interested in stitch dictionaries than in pattern collections. My current favorite is Wendy Bernard’s The Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary.. While there are other tomes more venerated and with greater reach, I appreciate the way this book gives written and charted instruction, as well as different charts for knitting bottom up or top down. Patterns are marked if they are two-sided or reversible, great information for scarf knitting.

My final and quirkiest choice reflects my fascination with the technique of entrelac. It’s hard to find good information and pattern collection, but Rosemary Drysdale has authored two books on the subject. Because it’s so hard to understand each step without face-to-face teaching, it’s difficult to be concise on the subject – but Drysdale is very clear. Each of the books include stitch dictionaries that show what is possible with this technique. Of the two, Entrelac: the Essential Guide of Interlace Knitting is my favorite.

Disclaimer: I am not associated with these writers. I have paid for these books with my own funds.

Bernard, Wendy. The Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary. STC Craft, New York. ISBN: 978-1617691959.

Drysdale, Rosemary. Entrelac: the Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting. Sixth and Spring, New York. ISBN: 978-1942021315

Parkes, Clara. The Knitter’s Book of Yarn. PotterCraft, New York. ISBN: 978-0307352163

Righetti, Maggie. Knitting in Plain English. St Martin’s-Griffin, New York. ISBN: 978-0312353537

Zimmerman, Elizabeth. Knitting Without Tears. Fireside Books, New York. ISBN: 978-0684135052

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Content copyright © 2013 by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.
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