As you can tell by this site, Susi and I love to do all sorts of crafts, but I think the first love for both of us (and the one that brought us together) is knitting. Susi comes from a line of expert knitters and used to own a knitting store. I ran a large knitting group. One question both of us were always asked was, “What is your favorite knitting book?”
Books for Learning to Knit or Beginners
Kat – Stitch ‘N Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook– Ok, look past the name that has been used too much (and litigated over) this is the book I always send new knitters to. It is well written and the illustrations are easy to follow. To me the sign of a good book is that I go back to it time and again for a refresher. This is one of those books. Plus, it has fun projects to try as you are learning. Ok, most people aren’t going to make a knit bikini, but the hats and sweaters are much better than most learn to knit books.
Susi – Lots of people came into the store, and asked for a learn-to-knit book. There are a few that we kept in stock at all times. The learning books are divided into two categories: one that is just reference for technique, and ones that combine some learning and techniques with some patterns.
For the reference books, you need to find one that seems like it resonates with you. Do you like the way it’s laid out? Do the drawings or illustrations look clear to you?
The most popular was The Knitter’s Companion
This book has super clear illustrations, and very simple language. It defines terms and stitches. And it’s nice to have this book in hard copy. Sure, you can look any of this up on the web, but most of the time, the whole reason you are knitting is to unplug for a minute. This book is spiral bound, and the spiral is on the top. It can lay flat OR it can stand like a tent on the table so you can refer to it while you knit.
This book also stays with you. You will use this book even after you have “learned to knit”. It is a real reference book.
The kind of beginner that would want this book is someone who actually has some yarn and needles at home. And maybe even a pattern. But they are still feeling shaky, and they want something to reference.
The one thing this book is not, is inspirational. For that, you will need a book with some patterns. “WHY do you want to learn to knit?” (the most common answer way “I am going to have a baby”. The second most popular answer was “my grandmother did it, and I want to learn too”. )
The most popular book that combines instruction AND patterns was/is Stitch-n-Bitch. It is hip and modern, and there are projects in there for all ages, sizes, and genders. For me personally, I would not feel comfortable giving a 7 year old a book that said “bitch” on the cover. Yep, I am that conservative. If that is a conversation the parents want to have with their kid, more power to them! But to me, that is like giving a toddler a tambourine and a Kazoo for their birthday. Insensitive to the parents. For the 20’s – 50’s, it is a great book.
The other book that I would steer people to is an unlikely choice: Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. This book is divided up into projects biased on the amount of time they will take. So, by default, the shorter projects are easier. This book is beautifully photographed. And has WONDERFUL projects in it. Joelle owns a store in Manhattan called Purl Soho. Back in the day, she worked for Martha Stewart and her book reflects that sense of crisp refinement.
Here is the real truth in the “learn to knit” genre. A lot of people actually have learned to knit before. They tried it in the 5th grade. Or their Mom taught them long ago. But it didn’t stick. So when you are looking for a “learn to knit” book, you want to get something that is going to get you past the hurdles that you hit before. Something that inspires you. Something that speaks to you, and your learning style. Buy good yarn. It will motivate you through the rough patches. Pick a realistic project (a hat, a scarf). Get help. Finish the project. These are the most helpful things I can say. The books will help keep you going.
Have fun, and happy knitting.
© 2005 – 2012 Kathy Lewinski & Susan Cornish