Sunday, March 6, 2011

Knitting Book Recommendations

I have to admit, I was a little surprised when Borders declared bankruptcy, given my penchant for buying books. In fact, my bookcase bears a strong resemblance to their knitting and quilting section; they keep sending those 40% off coupons, and I keep buying craft books. Today, in fact, I bought New England Knits, mainly because there is a pattern in it for a really neat hat that my LYS has as a sample that I covet (they were out of the book themselves, and yes, the irony of me posting an Amazon link in a post that begins with Borders declaring bankruptcy is not lost on me).

Generally for me to buy a knitting book there has to be at least three projects that I like and think I will actually knit in this lifetime. Despite this criteria, I've noticed that certain books get used much more than others; in fact, some have been life savers and some have been complete wastes of money. So, I thought that in the event anyone out there is trying to build up a knitting library, it might be helpful to know what I've found worth the purchase price. I'd say I'm an advanced beginner to intermediate knitter, and most of these books fall in that range, though a few might be worthwhile for the experts.

1. Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. While I was already a fairly practiced knitter when I first purchased this book, I think it's probably the best one out there for a beginner knitter. It's a great combination of love and enthusiasm for the craft mixed with very practical advice and technical knowledge. Many of my socks have been knit using the instructions in this book, and I frequently consult it when I get stuck when using other patterns.

2. Simple Knits for Cherished Babies by Erika Knight. I love knitting for babies - partly for the cuteness factor and partly because the projects get done before I get bored with them. This book has just lovely, simple patterns that are fairly straightforward to knit. She uses some high-end yarns in the book (eg, cashmere), but I've used bamboo, cotton, and merino wool with excellent results.

3. One Skein Wonders by Judith Durant. This is the first in the "One Skein" series. To be totally honest, I own some of the other books and have never knit anything from them; I flip through them from time to time but as of yet nothing has grabbed hold of me. But this first one has some pretty easy patterns that I've knit a number of times, including several scarves. However - fair warning: I have always found I needed one and a half to two skeins of yarn for the scarf patterns because I'm on the taller side (5'7") and I prefer longer scarves that I can wrap around my neck. This book also has a couple of patterns that can be used for American Girl dolls, should you have nieces or other little girls in your life who think their dolls need sparkly purple knitted things.

4. 60 Quick Knits (Cascade 220). I've knit a bunch of hats and mittens from this book, and not one of them with Cascade 220 yarn (for no other reason than I just never seem to find it on the shelves at the yarn stores I go to; one doesn't carry it and one sells out of it very quickly). There is a wide range of patterns for different skill ranges, and while it's mostly for adult women there are a few really cute patterns for kids too. I think anyone living in a state where it gets cold and snows a lot, and has a tendency (like someone else I know...) to lose their winter stuff on commuter trains, would find this book quite useful.

5. Favorite Socks (Interweave). There had to be ONE sock book on my list! I will say this is probably not a beginner book; in fact, I've only knit a couple of the patterns (but I've knit those patterns a number of times each). My brain learned how to knit socks top down on dpns, and simply cannot wrap itself around the idea of doing it any other way (like toe-up or with two circulars)- but if you are a flexible sock knitter you will love this book.

Those are definitely the books that get the most use around here. There are also a couple ofother books worth mentioning that I have and will never part with, despite the fact that I have not and may never actually knit anything from them. Mostly these contain either pretty advanced projects or a lot of sweaters, something that I haven't really tackled yet (or rather, I have yet to finish the one sweater I started 3 years ago...). I think you'd have to be a seriously swift and experienced knitter to tackle these, or at least have a goodly amount of time and patience on your hands...but the projects are quite fun to dream about knitting:

1. Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan. This book is so beautiful that it's kind of like a knitter's coffee table book; it's something I pull out every once and awhile to ooh and aah over. And, because despite being terrible at math I kind of like it conceptually, it is interesting to read about and ponder these designs that are recurring in nature that have geometric properties. Alas, most of the patterns are beyond my knitting skill right now, and I've read that the patterns in the book are riddled with errors and one should do some Googling before knitting anything from the book. But it really is stunning, and great for inspiration.

2. A Fine Fleece by Lisa Lloyd. Also a beautiful book, with gorgeous patterns - many with Celtic-inspired motifs. There are a lot of sweaters in here, but a few socks and scarves as well. It features handspun yarns, and while I'm not a spinner I found the introductury text really interesting as it discusses handspinning and describes some of the different types of sheep and wool. Some commenters on Amazon were unhappy with the photos in the book, but I actually love them (perhaps it's because I haven't tried to knit anything from the book yet?).

What knitting books have you found helpful? What criteria do you use in choosing to buy them? Or do you stick with project patterns from Ravelry or your LYS?

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