Top 10 Knitting Books

Filed in Point of View by on August 25, 2014 9 Comments

I was recently seeing some Facebook posts about the 10 books that have stuck with you. This made me think about the 10 knitting books that have had the most impact on my knitting, and thus, my life.


These aren’t exactly in any order, so to help give some perspective, I am also including some thoughts as to why they were so important, meaningful or useful to me.  As always, your mileage may vary!

Designing Knitwear – Deborah Newton

My copy of this book has a different cover and is in hardback (it was part of the original printing). It was the first and only knitting book (up until a few years ago) that I actually read cover to cover. I had always loved Deborah’s designs and had started doing a little designing for myself, so her thoughts, insights and sharing of her process was amazingly helpful. Although originally published some time ago, the information is pretty much timeless.

At the time I would have never guessed that I would join this industry and one of the results would be that Deborah and I have become industry friends.

A Treasury of Knitting Patterns – Barbara G Walker

This was my first stitch dictionary and opened up my world into all sorts of possibilities. My knitting path was different in that I “got” how the numbers worked and engaged in some level of designing fairly early on. But even more than that, this book helped me truly grasp the vast number of fabrics available to the knitter once a few basics were understood. This is one of my most worn books in my library. Of course, this is not the only BGW treasury that is going to be on this list!

A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns – Barbara G Walker

Once I was hooked by Barbara’s first stitch dictionary, it didn’t take much convincing to get me to purchase her second book. Although I have always gravitated first toward texture in my knitting, the wonderfully simple to execute slip-stitch color patterns in this book keep me coming back again and again. In fact, because I use it so regularly for certain patterns, there are several pages that the book will “automatically” open to when I place it on its spine. Barbara G Walker has done it once again!

Charted Knitting Designs – Barbara G Walker

Charted Knitting Designs, also known as the third treasury, changed my understanding of knitting forever! As someone who has always had a strong grasp of spatial awareness, the concept of charts made sense right from the beginning. And of course, cables and textures are a particularly well-suited sub-set of stitch patterns to be charted.

For years her style of charting was not available within any of the commercially produced charting software packages, so I drew my own, as they were style that made the most sense to me. This book truly was a revolutionary publication for the knitting industry.

Color Works – Deb Menz

As someone who “struggles” with color, this book changed my perception of working with color. Deb talks about and provides examples of many variations of color concepts and ideas. In particular, the beginning of each new topic starts with a 9-square picture showing fiber-based examples of this color family/theory. So whether your medium is fabric, beads, yarn, thread, or some other fiber based craft, you can see an example of how it will work in your preferred craft. In my opinion, these pages alone are worth the price of the book.

In addition to solid information, the book also includes card stock based tools the reader can use to try out and implement color combinations. This is a true, hands-on, try-as-you-go kind of book.

Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book – Editors of Vogue Knitting

The original edition of this book was my first knitting reference book. And having a good, detailed reference book is important for any person who is knitting more than one project every few years. It is the place you can explore new techniques, find answers to those puzzling questions, and get help with the local yarn shop is closed.

These days, with easy internet access, some of these book may seem no longer needed, but I would disagree. These book tend to provide consistent and reliable information, which is not always true when searching on the internet. And today, there is a smaller, condensed version that is easy to carry with you in your knitting bag so you have the knowledge, even when you don’t have signal!

The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques – Nancie Wiseman

By the time this book was first published, I had already become friends with Nancie Wiseman as she was relatively local to me and we had spent time at a knitting camp together. So I knew this book would be wonderful, but honestly, it was better than I had hoped. All the details of finishing a project (garments in particular) were covered with detailed photos, descriptions and a list of pros and cons whenever appropriate.

Now, as a professional knitter in my own right, I still find myself reaching for this book whenever I want to review a technique or try something outside of my normal comfort zone. This is one book I hope never goes out of print!

The Knitters Guide to Sweater Design – Michelson & Davis

This book is currently out of print and will probably remain so. However, copies can still be found thanks to the power of the internet. As I started thinking about creating my own sweaters there was no book I turned to more often. The wealth and depth of information within the pages of this hardcover tome are amazing. A few specific designs are provided in the center which at this point seem very dated. But the technical information for designing and calculating the numbers associate with any or all aspects of a garment is timeless. Obviously this is not a book for every knitter, but if you are headed down the road to designing, it is definitely one I would consider.

Art to Wear – Julie Schafler Dale

Of my top 10 list, this book is the only one that is here purely for inspiration. This is a big coffee table style book with inspiration for all types of fiber media. Although my design sensibility tends toward the practical and somewhat mundane, I love leafing through this book to help me imagine “what could be” if I was willing to not only step outside of my box, but run away from it completely! When I bought my copy I spent nearly $100 for it, so now it is a BARGAIN at significantly less than the original cover price. A second copy may be in my future, if not for me, definitely as a gift for a friend!

Entree to Entrelac – Gwen Bortner

Last but not least is my own book. The process of writing a book and getting it published was one of the most significant experiences in my life to date. Although I had developed most of the content during the previous 20+ years of knitting, I was still able to learn new things about entrelac, create projects I had not previously dreamed of and develop some new techniques associated with the fabric. Probably no surprise, of all the books on my bookshelf, it is the one I treasure most.

And just to tie things back to the beginning, this is the only other book I have read cover-to-cover. But I only did so a few years ago when we were getting ready for a second printing and I was reading it with red pen at the ready!

What would be on your list of Top 10 Knitting Books?

 

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Comments (9)

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  1. Colleen Smith says:

    Anything by Elizabeth Zimmerman! She helped me free my knitting head and made knitting more approachable.

    • gwen_bortner says:

      I know that a number of EZ’s books would be on Kellie’s list as well. I was lucky enough to have access to local yarn shops and a mother who was able to help me as I was getting started. So although I appreciated her work, it wasn’t quite as revolutionary for me. But I am grateful for all she did to make knitting more accessible for so many people!

  2. Linda says:

    My ‘go to’ book when I was a new knitter was Knitting for Dummies. I’m in a position now where I teach a lot of new knitters and I recommend it to them as well. While I own Vogue Knitting and use it too, I find you need a basic knowledge of knitting to understand a lot of what it says.

    • gwen_bortner says:

      I have been knitting long enough the “Dummies” series didn’t exist when I was first learning to knit. But I do agree that some of the references do require a reasonable base knowledge.

  3. Melissa says:

    You are NEVER going to believe this, but I was composing an email to you and Kellie about suggested books for those of us who are geeks and need to read and knit, lol. Thank you for this list, now can you talk Kellie into playing, too? Smile.

    • gwen_bortner says:

      I think I can! We love know what you (this applies to all readers not just Melissa) want us to write about.

      • Melissa says:

        Here’s another question for you. I recently had the opportunity to view Barbara Walker’s books along side Vogue’s Stitchionarys. I found that it only confused me as to which group would be the best to put in my library – which is ever growing, yeah! Any suggestions? Insight? Sorry to bother you, but if I don’t do it now, I’ll forget and live will go on, laugh.

        • gwen_bortner says:

          Ultimately, most groups the stitch dictionaries have lots of the same patterns. So the answer is to go with the group that seems “right”. I have probably more than a dozen different stitch dictionaries on my shelves including Barbara Walker’s and Vogue’s. She was my first and that often sways opinion, but Barbara Walker’s books have truly stood the test of time. So there is one answer for you.

  4. Melissa says:

    My ‘go to’ book has always been “The Knitting Book” by Frederica Palmore and Vikki Haffenden. Then I realized knitting was on youtube, so between the book, youtube, and my LYS, I get it done.

  5. And of course, as you’ve probably already noticed, knit stitches are not square. Viewed from the right side, stockinette can be abstracted to an array of rectangles that are longer than they are tall. This means that adding four stitches and four rows does not add the same amount of width or length to a piece.

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