Now that it’s Winter, it’s an ideal time to get out those needles and wool, cosy up in front of the fire and start knitting! While I am definitely no expert in the art form, hence I suspect my large number of books on the subject, I have still managed to make quite a few scarves and hats over the years, which I will feature throughout this post, including the odd challenging and stimulating technique! I actually did do a brief course in knitting at TAFE years ago, some of whose samples are also featured in this post!
Here are some of the knitting books in my craft library, which I have found particularly useful! Because this post is quite long, I have divided it into two posts: General Knitting Books (Beginners and Advanced) this week and Designers and Patterns (including toys) next week.General Knitting Books
How To Knit: The Definitive Knitting Course Complete With Step-By-Step Techniques, Stitch Libraries and Projects For Your Home and Family by Debbie Bliss 1999
An excellent book for the beginner, the Introduction covers yarns and equipment and instructions for working from a pattern and knitting a tension swatch, to holding the yarn and needles, making a slip knot, casting on and off, increasing and decreasing, the basic stitches and the first of a number of simple projects throughout the book to familiarise the reader with the techniques.Chapter Two covers single and double rib, picking up stitches, making a stitch and cast-off buttonhole, as well as a simple stitch pattern library.While Aran knitting, with its intricate cables, twists and bobbles creating amazing textures, is the subject of Chapter Three, personally I was more drawn to the colour workshop in Chapter Four with its emphasis on Fair Isle and Intarsia techniques. Joining in yarn, securing ends, weaving and stranding, working from a chart and working in the round with circular needles or a set of four needles is also covered.Chapter Five focuses on lace knitting, with instructions on yarn overs, additional decreases and making lace edging, as well as a lace stitch library of pretty lace patterns. While I will probably never do the complicated -looking entrelac knitting, it is still good to know that I can learn how-to in Chapter Six! I am more likely to use Chapter Seven, which discusses all the decorative details like embroidery, Swiss darning, loop knitting and fringing, the use of sequins and beads, making pompoms and cords, and finishing a garment with a decorative hem.
For more experienced knitters, there is a Design Workshop in Chapter Eight, which discusses design principles and how to design a simple sweater, making sweater calculations, patterns and motifs, edgings and designing for children.
The final chapter appropriately focuses on finishing the garment: Making up and joining pieces, seams, picking up dropped stitches, unravelling, finishing fabrics by blocking and pressing and caring for knitwear.
Standard knitting abbreviations and yarn weights are included in the appendix, along with a list of stockists.
The Encyclopedia of Knitting: Step-By-Step Techniques, Stitches and Inspirational Designs by Lesley Stanfield and Melody Griffiths 2000
Another excellent book covering the basics, it is divided into three parts:
The Essentials: Materials, basic skills, and essential and additional know-how, including four different cast-on methods, knit and purl, garter and stockinette stitches, seven cast-off methods, picking up dropped stitches, shaping a garment with increases and decreases, picking up stitches, reading patterns and charts, understanding gauge, making up, hems and facings, fastenings, grafting, turning rows and bias and chevron knitting.
The Stitch Collection advances from basic knit and purl and ribs through cables, twists, bobbles and leaves and lace to stranded colour knitting, intarsia and special effects like cross-stitch and embroidery, incorporating beads and sequins, loops, slipstitch colour knitting, motif entrelac, tucks and pleats and circular knitting. The chunky cowl below was knitted in seed stitch on circular needles to a free pattern called Marian by Jane Richmond. See: http://www.janerichmond.com/products/marian-cowl.
Design and Inspiration covers the fundamentals of the design process: Measuring and number crunching, planning repeats, motifs and patterns, combining colour and cables, circular yokes and designing a cardigan, as well as a gallery of vintage patterns from the 1920s to the 1960s, multicultural influences, contemporary designers, colour and texture and knitting for kids and for fun.
In the back is a key to chart symbols, needle sizes and abbreviations and a glossary and index.Knitting: Over 20 Exciting Projects For you To Make For Home and Family Published by Treasure Press 1986
This simple old book was my introduction to knitting back in my early married days and I am including it, because it was the source of my very first completed project and introduced me to the art of Fair Isle Knitting.
There is a brief history of knitting at the start, followed by information on different types of yarns and needles, needle sizes, basic skills and shaping, advanced techniques like cables, bobbles, buttonholes and colour work, reading patterns, tension and abbreviations and stitch symbols.
Stitch patterns include ribs, Aran patterns, colourwork, lace, slipstitch colourwork and lacy edgings.
There is also a small section on finishing off, laundry symbols, aftercare, design and decorative finishes.
The rest of the book is devoted to patterns for a variety of sweaters and dresses, baby layouts, cushion covers and bedspreads and a beautiful Fair Isle trio of socks, gloves and hat, the latter which I knitted for my two girls- the book’s bright version for Caro in the photo below and a softer version in pastel blue, pink and green mohair for Jen.
And lastly, for the kids…!
Fun With Wool Published by the Australian Wool Corporation 1981
An oldie, but a goodie, from which my children learnt to knit. It starts with Finger Knitting and French Knitting with a homemade nancy, though we used the old wooden cotton reels with four nails in the top, as well as plying, plaiting and twisting cords and making wool collages.Basic Knitting is next with easy illustrated instructions for casting on and off, knit and purl stitches, stocking stitch and rib, increasing and decreasing, joining seams; reading a pattern, tension, pompoms and tassels and embroidery stitches.
There are many suggestions for knitted projects from jewellery, finger puppets and toys to pencil cases,tennis racquet covers, patchwork throws, scarves, hats and mittens, and simple jumpers made out of squares and rectangles.
There are also chapters on basic crochet; simple weaving using cardboard looms or picture frames, forked branches and even cross of two sticks to make a God’s Eye; and basic spinning using a pencil or spindle. Here are two photos of my children knitting scarves- 14 year old Caroline knitting a bright colourful scarf for the Armidale Winter (above) and our 20 year old university student Jenny, who made us all long red scarves in the even colder Canberra Winter. She also commemorated her knitting forays in this cute illustration and even her own song- ‘The Long Red Scarf’!More Advanced Knitters
The Handknitter’s Design Book: A Practical Guide To Creating Beautiful Knitwear by Alison Ellen 1992
While probably a bit advanced for me, this book is perfect for knitters, who want to create their own designs! It starts by examining the precedents of knitting- its history and traditional techniques; different kinds of yarn: wool, alpaca/angora and cashmere, cotton and linen, silk, synthetics and more unusual material like string and ribbon, rags and waste packaging; the properties of stretch and drape; choosing needles, tension and basic knitting techniques with all the possible variations including casting on and off; picking up stitches and colour knitting. The swatches below feature in order: Simple Cable Ribs (Cable to the left; Cable to the right); Horseshoe Cable; and Plaited Cable.
Texture, colour and patterns (horizontal/vertical and diagonal stripes; grids and checks; dots and repeat motifs; geometric; motifs; pictorial/floral and abstract/ random) are examined in great detail in Chapters Four to Six, while Chapter Seven focuses on shapes and details: block patterns; calculations and measurements; adjustments for different body shapes; shape variations-chevrons; waisted shapes, peplums and frills; skirts; sleeves and cuffs; armholes; necks; collars; openings; buttonholes and loops; pockets; and joins and seams. Below is a photo of a beautiful Broken Cable Pullover, which I bought thirty years ago and which still attracts admiring comments every Winter!The Stitch Library is an excellent reference guide to over 50 different types of knitting stitches and is followed by a few projects, which can be used as a starting point for your own individual designs, with basic patterns for triangular and diagonal shawls; simple jumpers, cardigans and hats; and cushions.
Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting by Alice Starmore 1988
While designing my own garment from scratch is probably beyond my capabilities, I do love colour and am much more prepared to take up the challenge of Fair Isle knitting, with which I have had a lifelong love affair! In fact, we even spent a weekend staying at a bird observatory lodge on the Fair Isle, when we visited the United Kingdom in 1994. While we were there, I bought a beautiful warm polo neck jumper from some local knitters, featured in the photo below.Alice Starmore is a foremost authority on Fair Isle knitting and I own two of her books, one of which I have already featured in my post on Design Books. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2018/01/23/craft-books-colour-design-and-inspiration-part-one/.
While Charts for Colour Knitting has a distinctly multicultural feel with traditional and adapted patterns from all over the world, her Book of Fair Isle Knitting is specific to this beautiful little isolated island, with the first chapter giving a brief overview of the island’s history, as well as the origins and development of its unique style of stranded knitting.
In Chapter Two, she discusses Pattern: the different types; reading pattern charts and creating patterns with a pattern library for Peerie, Border, Large, Allover, Norwegian Stars and Seeding patterns. Chapter Three focuses on Colour: its effect on and use in design with a gallery of different colour combinations for inspiration, while Chapter Four really gets down to the nitty-gritty with an emphasis on Technique: Circular knitting; Tension/ gauge; Casting-on; English and Continental knitting methods; Weaving in strands and corrugated ribbing; Increases and decreases; Steeks (the Scottish word for bridging openings like cardigan fronts or armholes when circular knitting); Joining knitting; Trimmings (buttonholes, pompoms, fringes and cords) and the care of Shetland wool garments.
The Wardrobe of Patterns contains patterns for ganseys, sweaters, cardigans, jackets, vests and accessories (tammy, gloves and mittens), so the readers can gain confidence before embarking on the final section titled: Creating Your Own Designs, definitely a section for the more advanced knitter than myself!!!
It discusses measurements, drawing a plan, gauge, calculating stitches and rows, fitting patterns into widths/ lengths, centreing patterns, and progressing from design to working instructions.
There are notes on designing tammies and caps; a gansey with a gusset (love the phrase!); gansey variations; cardigans; and variations in the shape and style of necklines, sleeves and lengths.
An excellent reference guide for anyone interested in developing their knowledge and skill in Fair Isle Knitting!
Next week, we will feature books on knitting designers and their patterns.