Book Review: Twisted Stitch Sourcebook

There’s something about twisted knit stitches that I adore. Perhaps it’s because I began my knitting life by unintentionally twisting them. It took my first project in the round (a pair of socks) for me to understand why what I created was different from a store-bought sweater. I love that this stitch can be used with purpose and create beautiful combinations.

A year ago, one of the last books I checked out from my public library before lockdown was Twisted-Stitch Knitting by Maria Erlbacher. I was thrilled to have extra time with this book and a gorgeous hat in Oink Dapper resulted from my study, sketches, and swatches. However, as I worked to translate my scribbled notes into a pattern written to modern conventions, I became stuck on two questions. How to describe the method of twisting the stitches? How to chart them so a modern knitter wouldn’t be faced with a completely new set of symbols?

I set the pattern aside until my brain was able to work through these challenges.

I’m still working on that but have a great helper now in Norah Gaughan’s newest book, Twisted Stitch Sourcebook. The subtitle speaks truth: it as a breakthrough guide to knitting and designing.

How? This book is has three main parts, but before you get there, Gaughan shares techniques for successfully working twisted stitches on both the right and reverse side no matter how you knit. She also helps you figure that out by examining not if you pick or throw, but more importantly how your stitches are arranged on the needle.

There’s also a neat feature here which I believe premiered in her other book, Knitted Cable Sourcebook. It’s called Percentage of Stockinette Stitch, or PSS. This number helps you figure out how much pull a stitch will have on the completed fabric. This is very useful for a garment you may want to have stretch and freedom of movement, such as a hat. It’s also very useful if you want to substitute one stitch with another.

Part I covers 126 stitches and they are grouped by type, beginning with basic diagonals and progress through different combinations that build upon the prior section (chapter): small, horizontal, vertical, compass (all directions at once), eyelets (open up twisted stitches); finally taking it to the extreme where there are twisted stitches on every row — much easier when worked in the round. Gaughan also shares how to work polygons of twisted stitches.

Each stitch explains how it was created, and if it builds upon a prior stitch (or stitches) and what some characteristics of the fabric are. There is a clear photo of each swatch. The instructions are provided in both charted and written form. Each swatch includes both the PSS and information about the repeat. Most swatches are condensed to one page so there is no flipping to continue instruction. I am in love with the sketch stitch (number 115). I have yarn wound to work up a practical swatch (aka a cowl).

Part II shares fifteen patterns. I mostly skipped over these for now as I’m still in the basic swatching stage. When I look to create something more complex, then I will review this section to see how the parts play together.

With that in mind, I’d love to work up the Sketch Coat, but I’d change the instructions to work it in the round with steeks. I’ve been trying to work this swatch flat and working twisted stitches on the wrong side isn’t something my brain likes to do.

Part III helps you learn how to design your own twisted stitches. This section is where you can learn how to put together different elements on a knitter’s grid (twisted states are shorter than they are wide), this will help you visualize how the chart will appear knit up. There are also other grid patterns that will help you shape the designs with use of diagonal grids. There’s even a blank chart that can help you design a yoke, hat, or hexagon. The final chapter includes the gem of this book, ten lessons of tricks Gaughan learned while putting together this amazing stitch dictionary and the designs.

Where this volume differs from Erlbacher (I think, I borrowed it from the library and can’t find my notes) and the Japanese stitch dictionaries is these twisted stitches don’t increase or decrease. Garments that require shaping ask you to work affected stitches with basic shaping methods and stockinette instead.

Overall, this is a delightful volume that would do well as part of any knitter’s stitch dictionary shelf.

Book cover for Norah Gaughan’s Twisted Stitch Sourcebook

Norah Gaughan’s Twisted Stitch Sourcebook: A Breakthrough Guide to Knitting and Designing
By Norah Gaughan
Abrams Books, Published January 12, 2021
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