I’m going to be teaching a quick intro to knitting class tomorrow evening. It’s only an hour and a half long, so we will only be able to cover the very basics. My main goals are to help my students understand the fundamental mechanics of knitting and then have a list of resources for where to continue on from there.
One of the best resources you can have in learning how to knit is a really good book. There are thousands of knitting books, and dozens of really good ones. As I was preparing my handout for my class, I thought I’d share some short reviews of my very favorite introduction to knitting books.
A great beginner’s course in knitting
Kids Knitting, by Melanie Falick
Used price: $3.50-$4.00, including shipping. This is so worth the price that I just ordered a copy while writing this handout.
What’s good about this book: I’ve used this book so many times while teaching others to knit, either formally or informally. It has such simple instructions, clear, colorful diagrams, and easy but interesting projects that it’s one of the best all-around intro to knitting books I’ve ever read. It has beautiful color photos too, full of happy kids wearing colorful knitwear. Unlike the other three books listed here, this is designed as a complete introductory course in knitting. This book really walks you through all the steps of learning how to knit, including providing successively harder projects to practice your new skills.
What this book doesn’t have: Any advanced projects or techniques. Or any intermediate ones either. This really is a beginner course aimed at kids, so while it does a great job explaining knitting in simple terms, it is a book you’ll outgrow both in skills and in style.
Upshot: This book will hold your hand and walk you through all the basic skills of knitting. The simple projects are perfect introductions to knitting. And once you’ve mastered all the skills and projects in it, you can use it to share your love of knitting with others.
Two good all-around knitting reference books
The Encyclopedia of Knitting, by Lesley Stanfield and Melody Griffiths
Used price: Around $5.00, including shipping
What’s good about this book: This slim volume is a very attractive, concise introduction to knitting. Every page is filled with glossy photographs beautifully illustrating the text. It covers all the essentials of knitting, from tools to yarn to stitches and construction methods. It also has a small “stitch dictionary,” which shows you how to combine the basic knit, purl, increase and decrease stitches into 150 different deceptively complex-looking fabrics.
What this book doesn’t have: It isn’t going to have all you’ll ever want to know, but it is a great place to start without getting flooded with unnecessary details. After you move beyond the most basic projects, you will need to supplement the information in this book with other resources to interpret more complicated patterns. Online videos, such as the ones on Knittinghelp.com will help if you’re looking for supplemental information.
Upshot: If you’re only going to buy one book on knitting, this would be a good choice. It isn’t comprehensive enough to satisfy a serious knitter for long, but it’s a good choice for the casual hobbyist.
The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting, by Margaret Hubert
Used price: Around $10.50, including shipping
What’s good about this book: This large knitting reference book has a little bit of everything. It illustrates essential knitting skills, it has a smattering of projects, and it has a respectable, stitch dictionary with almost 200 different patterns. What’s best about this book is the large glossy color photos. The knitting pattern sample swatches are printed in actual size, so you get a great feel for how the pattern should look when you knit it up. The stitch dictionary also has several really neat stitch patterns I haven’t seen in other books.
What this book doesn’t have: With the stitch dictionary in this book taking up almost 2/3 of the book, the “knitting basics” chapter gets a little squished. This book will not answer all of your knitting questions, but it gets you started.
Upshot: Like The Encyclopedia of Knitting, this book won’t satisfy the avid knitter for long. However, it’s great stitch dictionary makes it a good pair for Montse Stanley’s Knitter’s Handbook.
The book that WILL answer all your questions about knitting
The Knitter’s Handbook, by Montse Stanley
Used price: About $5.50, including shipping.
What’s good about this book: This is one of the great tomes on knitting. Any question you have about a knitting technique will be covered in this heavy, 318 page book. This book focuses on the “hows” of knitting, so it has all the information you need on different construction methods, techniques, ways to finish your projects professionally, and more. It is extremely handy to have while reading a pattern or working on a project with new-to-you skills
What this book doesn’t have: This isn’t an organized course on beginning knitting. It doesn’t have projects arranged in an increasing level of difficulty. This doesn’t have to be a big downside, though, because I’ve always wanted to pick out my own projects and just picked them after looking at the difficulty and skills required and knowing what I was capable of doing. It also does not have a stitch dictionary, like The Encyclopedia of Knitting mentioned above. It also isn’t the most attractive book, with simple three-color illustrations filling most of the pages, and dated color plates featuring fashions from 1993.
Upshot: If I were to teach a multi-week class on knitting to adults, this would be the required textbook. And if my students were to show a great interest in continuing on to design their own projects, I’d recommend they get a stand-alone stitch dictionary. But as a knitting reference book, this one can’t be beat.