Book Review: Reversible Two-Color Knitting

I’ve long been fascinated by fabrics (and garments) that are reversible. My interest is in large part practical—I’m adept at hiding coffee stains with accessories—but it’s also because I prefer multi-functional items.

When we knit, we often encounter instructions that indicate the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side. This word choice can have unintended consequences, not only may the reverse be intriguing, but it can also cause a new knitter to think something is improper or incomplete with the fabric. I experienced this myself. Many years ago, after gifting a lace project that taxed my skill, the recipient fell in love with what I considered was the wrong side. It took many years (and observation of ready-made fashions) to understand that the preferred side didn’t matter. That’s when my interest in reversible knit stitches was formed.

There are several stitch dictionaries and websites that can help you to determine the characteristics of a specific stitch. This list of Reversible Pattern Stitches in Barbara G. Walker’s Treasuries is a useful resource for those who own the first two volumes.

The dictionary reviewed below is one I’ve borrowed from the library many times over the years. I was able to add it to my personal collection after finding it at a used book sale recently. I think it’s a book that’s worth adding to your bookshelves if reversible knit stitches are something that you find interesting.

Two-Color Reversible Knitting Stitches

By Jane F Neighbors

Scribners, 1974.

Find a copy: worldcat

As this is a knitting book from the 1970s, it requires some patience to work through. Neighbors has compiled a clear and well written collection of reversible stitches. While some of the garments look dated by today’s standards, the stitches all still work!

The book begins with an introduction to the basic techniques. Then there are three chapters covering different types of reversible knit stitches: simple, chain, and geometric. After the stitches, several projects showcase reversible fabrics in different designs—some accessories, a sweater, vest, and some home decor. The book closes with additional tips on yarn selection, dealing with edges, seams, shaping, working in the round, as well as designing your own geometric patterns.

Example Entry

Example stitch from Reversible Two-Color Knitting, page 13. "Textured Stitch".
Entry for Textured Check, an opposite reversible knit stitch

For every stitch, there are clear black and white swatch photos accompanying the written instructions, also showing the reverse if it isn’t a complete reversible. Many entries include tips and hints for success, including indicating if use of DPN is necessary. In every case, the reversible features of the fabric are described: true, opposite, alternate, upside-down, mirror, and “unclassified” (almost a true reversible). The details also include the number of stitches for the stitch and suggested cast-on color. Some of the terminology may differ from current standards, but it’s consistent and I believe straightforward to rewrite if desired.

Additional Thoughts

As my interest is on the stitches not the patterns, I don’t have much to write about the included projects. The samples look dated to my eyes, but I know that with modern color choices and some small tweaks to shaping, they might look lovely today.

If you are truly curious about reversible stitches this vintage stitch dictionary is worth checking out.

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