The Principles of Knitting.

Here is a book that has been much-anticipated, a healthily revised version of a classic knitting tome: The Principles of Knitting, by June Hemmons Hiatt.

As I’ve expressed here on the blog before, I have a great love of serious knitting resource books. I don’t need a lot of beautiful photography, though I’m in no way opposed to it, and while pattern collections can be wonderfully inspiring, there is nothing more exciting to me than a knitting book packed full of text, charts, and diagrams. The Principles of Knitting is right up my alley in this manner, as it is something of an encyclopedia of knitting at 736 pages. It is a thick, heavy book, one best perused at a table, with time and concentration.

Hiatt takes an analytical approach to the craft, cataloguing many versions of many techniques and offering an informed opinion on their best applications. As the length of the book suggests, Hiatt does not use words sparingly, as so many knitting technique books do. Instead, Hiatt takes all the room that is necessary to clearly and deliberately explain a technique, even one as deceptively simple as holding the yarn.

For someone who learns best from written instructions, this is a real treat, a book tailored to that very learning style. For me, The Principles of Knitting is a perfect fit, a big, beautiful book that I’m happy to page through for pleasure as well as instruction. If you have ever wanted a book of every imaginable cast-on, or have wondered which kind of increase or decrease to use, and why there are so many, The Principles of Knitting deserves your attention. It is a book to grow with, and one that reflects how much there is to learn and to do with knitting needles and yarn.

If I’ve intrigued you, come by the shop and see the book for yourself, where you’ll find it weighing down the teacart importantly, a mere stack of two copies tall enough to tower over all the other new releases. See you at the shop.

Books, new and old.

We got a box of books in the mail last week, some of which were new, and others of which were merely in need of being reordered. From the department of Books That Have Sold Well That We Are Pleased To See On The Shelves Again:

  • The Magic Loop: Working Around On One Needle, by Bev Galeskas
  • The Knitter’s Book of Socks, by Clara Parkes
  • My Grandmother’s Knitting: Family Stories and Inspired Knits from Top Designers, by Larissa Brown, featuring contributions from Meg Swansen, Jared Flood, Cookie A., Norah Gaughan, and many more
  • Coastal Knits: a Collaboration Between Friends on Opposite Shores, by Alana Dakos and Hannah Fettig

And from the rather more exciting department of Books That Have Never Before Graced Our Shelves:

  • Stashbuster Knits: Tips, Tricks, and 21 Beautiful Projects for Using Your Favorite Leftover Yarn, by Melissa Leapman
  • Brave New Knits: 26 Projects and Personalities from the Knitting Blogosphere, by Julie Turjoman

Look for these and other knitting and crochet books at the shop. Hope you find something inspiring within their pages.

Knitting with Two Colors.

Back in November, I wrote about two of my favorite new colorwork resources: Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting and Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs. I remember the feeling of contentment I had in placing those two on my bookshelf at home, thinking, “This completes my colorwork library.” That, however, was before Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors appeared. Now, having seen this new book from Schoolhouse Press, gaps appear in my colorwork library where none existed before. Where was the technical detail on preparing for and cutting steeks? The guidance on altering existing colorwork patterns, and designing your own? Ways to incorporate shaping into a colorwork sweater without completely confusing the patterning? The hows, whys, and whether-or-nots of various hems, borders, and necklines? Why, here they are, calmly and clearly explained by these two most experienced colorwork knitters, Swansen and Detjen.

Knitting with Two Colors is neither a book of sweater patterns nor a book of colorwork charts, but truly a book of techniques, a slim paperback volume that is absolutely bursting with information. I can imagine no better companion to Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting or Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs than Swansen and Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors. Colorwork enthusiasts, and anyone else who’s curious, should take a look at this book, and take home a copy if there’s an ambitious colorwork project in your future. Find it on the teacart.

Two new colorwork resources.

It seems we’ve been getting tons of exciting new books this fall, one right after another. I confess, I’ve added about four new knitting books to my collection at home in the past month alone. Two of those have already been carefully reviewed here on the blog, but the other two have not yet had their moment in the sun. Given my proclivity towards stranded colorwork, it may come as no surprise that these two new titles focus on that technique in particular.

Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting is exactly what it sounds like: a book of charts. Not a book of sweater or hat patterns with charts, just a book of charts. Starmore begins with a chapter on designing simply shaped, drop-shoulder colorwork sweaters, and ends with “A Word on Colour,” but in between, she leaves the knitter alone with pages upon pages of charts. The charts are organized by place of origin, so that in flipping through the book, one can glimpse the color-knitting culture of Norway, then Sweden, then Russia, then South America, and onward. In addition, Starmore also offers charts she’s adapted from ancient manuscripts, architecture, carpets, jewelry, and stonework, and encourages knitters to do the same. Colorwork charts are easily invented, after all–graph paper and a little color knitting experience is all that’s needed.

Mary Jane Mucklestone’s new 200 Fair Isle Motifs is similar to Starmore’s Charts, but focused on the particular Scottish colorwork tradition for which it is named. The book begins with clear tutorials on all kinds of techniques used in Fair Isle knitting, from swatching to steeking to correcting mistakes. For those overwhelmed by the endless possible color combinations (all of us?), there is a little tutorial on color theory. Then come the 200 motifs. Mucklestone has organized these motifs by the number of rows and stitches in each pattern repeat, making it easy to find a pattern that divides evenly into the number of stitches you’re working with on any given project–hat, socks, sweater, etc. Each chart is shown not only in the traditional black-dots-on-a-white-grid style, but also in a color photograph, a color variation, and an all-over version, giving the knitter a jump start on adapting these patterns for many uses.

These two books have me itching to cast on for something new. I am utterly overwhelmed by the number of half-formed knitting ideas rushing around in my mind, which is, by the way, a most pleasant experience. I am so excited by these two books, which complement one another beautifully. Until I figure out exactly what my next colorwork project will be, I’m enjoying simply poring over Starmore’s black and white charts and Mucklestone’s brightly colored motifs, inundated with ideas.

The Knitter’s Book of Socks.

Clara Parkes has done it again, and by “done it again,” I mean “provided a practical, beautiful, fascinating, rigorous resource for knitters.” From the author of Knitter’s Review, the woman who brought us The Knitter’s Book of Yarn and The Knitter’s Book of Wool, here’s The Knitter’s Book of Socks.

If you’re a sock knitter, this is an indispensable book. If you’re an aspiring sock knitter, this book may be a good place to start. While many of the patterns include cables, lace, or colorwork, the first is an introductory-level sock with a simple texture pattern, using worsted weight yarn. Once you’ve worked up a pair of those, you’ll likely be ready and eager to dip your toes into some of the more complicated patterns. Also: those of you who are worried that your knitted socks will be too baggy or too tight, not stretchy enough, or that they’ll fall apart after one wear will be encouraged and emboldened by The Knitter’s Book of Socks. Parkes spends entire chapters on the effects of various fibers, twists, plies, and stitch patterns on the structure of a sock, giving knitters the information they need to avoid the potential pitfalls that may concern them.

The patterns come from an astounding group of designers, using all kinds of techniques to make socks in a wide range of styles. Cat Bordhi, Lucy Neatby, Ann Budd, Norah Gaughan, Nancy Bush, Cookie A, and Jared Flood all make appearances, as does a favorite new yarn of ours: the Swans Island Organic Merino, in fingering-weight.

I’m almost halfway through a sweater using this yarn, and had never considered it for socks, as it’s hand-wash only. Then I came upon Parkes’ ode to hand-washing hand-knit socks, which made the task sound more pleasant than inconvenient. Having just accidentally felted a pair of colorwork socks, I’m ready to make the switch to hand-washing, and it sounds like my socks will look better and last longer that way. Suffice it to say, I’m reconsidering putting that beautiful Swans Island yarn on my feet, and I have no doubt that The Knitter’s Book of Socks will change the way I pair yarns and sock patterns, making me a better, more educated sock knitter. Come by the shop to peruse this new book, and plan your next pair of socks!

The Knitter’s Life List.

Here is a rare case, indeed: not only can this new book be found in our shop, but our shop can also be found in this new book.

The Knitter’s Life List, by Gwen Steege, is a compendium of knitting inspirations. Steege offers an introduction to practically every facet of knitting culture: tools, fiber, techniques, reference books, and particular people and places, each one placed in the greater context of the knitting world at large. If that sounds like a lot of information at once, that’s because it is. It’s not the sort of book you sit down and read from cover to cover, though. The Knitter’s Life List would be best enjoyed, I think, by perusing at random, allowing yourself to be pleasantly surprised by the many directions it may point you in. One such direction is toward your local yarn shop, as Steege suggests in the “Explore your LYS” section of this book. She profiles two yarn shops, one on the east coast and one on the west, telling the stories of the owners and the unique communities they’ve created among their knitters. And who is profiled? Why, it’s your local yarn shop, that is, the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. We could not be more proud and delighted to be included in this book! Come by to pick up your very own copy and see where it takes you.

Reading material.

It hasn’t been a huge week-or-so for new yarns, though I do have a few to share in the coming days. There have been new books arriving, though, in their trademark smaller, heavier boxes. New yarn is exciting, of course, but I must say, I get a particular thrill opening a box of knitting books. My fondness for resource-type knitting books having already been expressed, this may come as no surprise. Join me, then, in welcoming a smattering of the latest books.

60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties, Sweaters & More in Cascade 220 Superwash, from Sixth & Spring Books. But why, you might ask, do we carry this book, when we don’t carry Cascade 220 Superwash (at least, not in the worsted weight–we’ve got sport weight)? The answer: we are all about yarn substitution. We have at least eight worsted weight washable wools that I can think of off the top of my head, not to mention worsted weight cottons, which are also popular for baby things. A good pattern is a good pattern, and there is no one right yarn for any given pattern. Confused about how to substitute yarn? Just ask. Figuring out which yarn to use for a pattern is one of my favorite pastimes. 

The Knitting Answer Book, by Margaret Radcliffe. A small but thorough reference guide, perfect for a new knitter, or anyone who has ever wanted a knitting reference right in their knitting bag.

Fresh Vests to Knit, by Edie Eckman. A booklet for those knitters that seek only vest patterns.

A trio of toe-up sock books came in to join the other sock books: Socks From the Toe Up and Toe Up Socks For Every Body, both by Wendy Johnson, and Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks, by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Marion’s magic loop sock class has inspired many knitters to work socks from the toe up, rather than cuff-down, and our growing collection of toe-up sock books reflects this. If you’re looking to choose between these titles, Marion is a wonderful source, as I’m pretty sure she’s read and knit from nearly every one. As of now, there are still three spaces in Marion’s next magic loop sock class, by the way. Interested?

Anna Zilboorg.

About a month ago, on Valentine’s Day, the Hillsborough Yarn Shop hosted designer Anna Zilboorg for a special workshop on embellishing knitted garments with embroidery. As the class was much larger than our usual groups of four to six, we met at the public library to learn embroidery from Anna.

The workshop was inspired by an incredible embroidered sweater that Anna wore into the shop one day. Anne and everyone else who happened to witness this sweater requested a class from Anna, and happily, she agreed.

Anna’s sweater features a twisted stitch pattern from one of Barbara Walker’s stitch dictionaries, striking embroidery along the traveling stitches, and the most perfect handknit buttonhole I’ve seen. The directions for this buttonhole are in Anna Zilboorg’s Knitting for Anarchists, a fantastic resource.

It was a truly wonderful day, spent learning new techniques and admiring the talent of not only Anna Zilboorg herself, but also all of the knitters gathered to learn from her. I have no doubt that everyone left newly inspired, ready to embellish, experiment, and invent. Myself, I left inspired to pull a few favorite knitting resource books down from the shelf. Anna’s sweater construction has really stayed with me since the workshop, and design ideas are percolating…
Those of you who are sorry to have missed the workshop can still get in on the Zilboorg craze that has swept the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. We carry Anna Zilboorg’s books, Knitting for Anarchists and Magnificent Mittens & Socks, as well as the Jan/Feb issue of PieceWork, which features Anna’s pattern for embroidered socks. Additionally, Nancy will soon be leading a knit-along at the shop for those interested in designing a sweater using Anna Zilboorg’s method, a truly unique construction that wowed us all at the workshop. Check out the course description on the shop website if you’re interested.