The internet can be a vast and wonderful space, full of information beyond your wildest dreams. It can also be vast and overwhelming, full of information beyond your wildest dreams.
It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve knit or crochet for weeks or years, sometimes the urge of curiosity strikes. Sometimes a mug of warm tea and a flip through a large volume to wonder at all the possibilities sounds like a perfect evening.
Yes, you could just search videos and blog posts, or read an ebook, but sometimes you just need the weight of an encyclopedic tome to guide you.
These sorts of books are useful for a variety of reasons, not only do they show you different techniques but they also often describe them in different ways. Perhaps you’ve been struggling to find the way you always work a specific technique and you can’t seem to find it online. Sometimes I’ve found what I’m doing described in a new-to-me-way in one of my books. Once I know the relevant words, then the world beyond my books beckons and I can often then make better use of my online research.
As Debbie Bliss writes in her introduction to The Knitter’s Book of Knowledge, “Ways of doing things can be subjective, and after trying many different methods over the years to improve my own technical abilities, I have my personal favorites, but I am aware that other knitters may be equally passionate about the techniques they prefer. With this in mind, I have included … variations of methods, so you can try them out yourself and decide which one suits you best.”
It is also true for books. Sometimes I like the colloquial ease of The Crochet Answer Book and at other times I want The Principles of Knitting. It’s why I have more than one for each craft and am constantly checking more out from my library to review. Below, I’ve tried to describe what makes each book unique.
The Knitter’s Book of Knowledge: A Complete Guide to Essential Knitting Techniques
by Debbie Bliss
This slipped through my radar and I discovered it in the library today. The scrapbook layout of the pages may be distracting and tiring to many even though much care has been made for the pages to look beautiful. I found that while the photographs are pretty, they don’t often add relevance to the page. The illustrations, by Cathy Brear, however are what caused me to check this out from the library and spend more time with its 320 pages. I learned from illustrations in the Knitter’s Handbook (see review below), and I often prefer them over photographs as I’m not distracted by wondering about the yarn choices. Care has been taken with the colouring to assist in explaining each technique or tip. If you can look past the page textures and layouts, then I think you will enjoy this book.
The Principles of Knitting
by June Hemmons Hiatt
This is often considered The Book, it definitely weighs enough to claim that title! Most knitters that have encountered it are either in the love it or hate it camp, and with it’s heft and tone it reminds me of many a spinning resource I’ll discuss next week. I don’t take the author’s word as the only law but find it very nice to have just about any technique I can think of in one place without being distracted by the rest of the internet. I love the simplicity of the illustrations and the photos enhance the text. If I could have only one book, I would choose this.
Knitting Know-How: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
by Belle Meyers
Organized not by topic, but from A to Z, this 1981 title provides techniques, tips, and even a few patterns . I love the line illustrations by Phoebe Gaughan (yes, I’m pretty sure she’s Norah’s mum). I love this book for its simplicity and it’s different organizational structure.
Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook
by Stanley Montse
This is the book I learned to knit from. While I really don’t recommend it at all, it is a versatile reference book and has been on my shelf since August 2001. It’s illustrations aren’t as clear and easy to follow as those found in more modern publications, however I like it.
The Knowledgeable Knitter: From Planning Your Project to Fitting and Finishing, All You Need to Know to Unlock Your Knitting Potential
by Margaret Radcliffe
I’ve attempted to write a coherent review of this amazing resource for a year now. How is it? It’s on my wish list, and there is a shelf space reserved for it. That doesn’t happen to every volume that I read cover to cover. Think a cross between The Principles of Knitting and The Knitting Answer Book. The photographs have made me eat my words that I prefer illustrations. One tiny unexpected love? The page numbers are in the middle of the page, making them easy to read as you flip through either from the index or a cross-reference mention.
Knitting in Plain English and Sweater Design in Plain English
by Maggie Righetti
These titles may look dated to some eyes, but again, it’s another explanation of techniques. I find these valuable when working with older patterns as pattern writing has changed over the years.
Confession: I’m slowly evaluating the world of crochet reference. You may be surprised to discover I only acquired my first stitch dictionary a few years ago. I’ve known how to do many things in crochet for most of my life, but don’t always have a clear idea on how to explain it in written form. That’s why a good technical editor and a good reference book is key! I’ll work on expanding these reviews as I source more titles to compare and contrast.
The Crochet Answer Book, 2nd Edition: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask
by Edie Eckman
This little book is one I mentioned last week. It’s conversational in tone and I find that helpful because it’s often how I think of things and I might not be able to find out the hows within the index of a traditional comprehensive guide.
Crocheting in Plain English
by Maggie Righetti
Yes, this title may look dated to some eyes, but again, it’s a clear and comprehensive explanation of techniques.
What reference books do you turn to?
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