Having the internet at your finger tips every day is very convenient. You can search up just about anything and be amazed and distracted by the results. I don’t know about you, but I love good old-fashioned books. I don’t have a huge library or anything but all our bedrooms, the hallway, the kitchen and basement all have at least one bookshelf. I like to play librarian and weed out what we don’t need and acquire what I think would be helpful.
My stash of crafting books has had the least amount of change, I have curated what I think are the best knitting books (and sewing too, that’ll be a post for another day). I would love to teach you everything there is to know about knitting, but that would be a super crazy idea! No one person knows it all and it is evolving. I certainly don’t want you to go reading through a big reference book just to understand knitting. It won’t help you. Just like reading a dictionary isn’t the best way to understand a language.
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So why recommend a book at all with the super useful and easy internet?
A few reasons starting with the mundane:
1) The paper in books is just magical, the sound of going through the pages is fun and tactile, just like knitting.
2) The idea of looking something up in the index and finding exactly what you need, not having to click on pages upon pages of results in Google…
3) Finding exactly what you need without having to read about the author’s Mom and how she got to where she is today for Every. Single. Topic. (Sorry, not sorry. Hi MOM!)
4) The book is likely very well curated and edited by an editor and checked over by a publishing house, which means better content and it’s actually proofread.
5) The topics are in a very useful, understandable order – this is clutch. Some blogs, including this one go out of order based on what the author feels like writing or reader suggestions. I like order, so I like books.
6) Sometimes the power or Wi-Fi is down and you need something to do so you don’t go bonkers/eat everything in the pantry out of boredom. Wait, what?
7) There are more reasons, I just can’t think of them at the moment and 6 is enough for now
If you haven’t yet started on your knitting journey, this checklist is a great place to start. Start with the right tools! Click on the button to get started:
For your convenience, below each description is links to purchase each book. Please see the disclosure page for more information.
Best Reference Books:
Reader’s Digest – Knitter’s Handbook by Montse Stanley
I love this book because: It is an amazing reference book. It has over 300 pages of goodness. This would be a good first reference book for the beginner knitter with some caveats: don’t go too far into a topic, make sure you understand how the pictures work, I know that sounds funny… Every knitting book illustrator draws the tutorials in a little different way. This book also has a ton of images total, but each step is very abbreviated, meaning it usually shows you the last step with lots of arrows and colors to help you understand. Other sources have more illustrations for a step-by-step instruction if that’s what you need.
This is the book I will carry around in my knitting bag if I feel the need to look something up.
Cons: Not any really, it feels a little outdated simply because the sample knits are more vintage. I don’t know that that is a negative, but noticeable.
Recommended for Beginner and up.
See for yourself: a sample of an ‘abbreviated’ illustration. I think you could get whiplash if you don’t know where to start.
The Principles of Knitting: Methods and Techniques of Hand Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt
I love this book because: it has over 650 pages of information! This is not something that the beginner needs to start with but as you progress, it is very helpful. It is strictly for reading one section or one technique at a time. There are diagrams, photos, illustrations, charts etc. all over the book explaining almost anything you can think of, super in depth. There’s not much else to say other than it is very comprehensive.
Con: It’s overwhelming if you think you can just pick it up and read it. Please don’t! This book has very ‘abbreviated’ images, meaning it usually shows you the last step with lots of arrows and colors to help you understand. It just means you need to figure it out from beginning to end on your own. If they had every single step show, it would probably end up being three 650 page volumes! Other specialized books have more illustrations for a step-by-step instruction.
Recommended reader: Advanced Beginner and up.
See for yourself: Another case of potential whiplash.
Best Books about Knitting: Informational but not strictly reference
Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti
I love this book because: It is an easy book to read through with lots of information that isn’t found other places. It feels like your aunt or grandma giving you hints and tricks, holding your hand and helping as you go. Like a big hug as you’re reading…
Also, some really good stuff about how to fix mistakes and how blocking the garment will not solve all of your issues (something that people hope will happen, but sadly it doesn’t always work.)
I just get a warm fuzzy feeling from this book which doesn’t happen too often from a how-to crafting book. It has it’s flaws for sure, but I find it’s worth the read.
Cons: It covers the basics like the knit and purl stitch but I would love it to go a little deeper when talking about more advanced ideas. It is very selective, there are some hints for using techniques that cover some issues but doesn’t help in other more pressing or more frequent issues. I can understand why, if it wasn’t as selective it would be another 650 page reference book. *Plus I do not like how it says, “The only book any knitter will ever need”. NOT TRUE!! Oh, and the illustrations are not very zoomed in, I need to really look hard to see what’s going on.
Recommended for Beginner and up.
See for yourself:
Best Books with Projects:
Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
I love this book because: There are some basic gifts like pompoms and tassels that don’t necessarily require knitting knowledge. Past the first few projects someone who knows how to shape with increases and decreases would be able to knit the basic patterns. The last patterns include a simple sweater that requires seaming together the separate pieces. I prefer knitting sweaters without seaming but it’s a nice sweater anyway!
It has a large range of simple gifts based on how long it takes to knit them. The time periods are: ‘Less than two hour gifts’, ‘Two to four hour gifts’, ‘Four to six hour gifts’, ‘Six to eight hour gifts’, ‘More than eight hour gifts’. This of course is subjective since everyone knits at different speeds. It still helps you figure out how much time is needed.
They are useful knits, and it is a happy book that I enjoy looking through from time to time, hence the wrinkly top of the dust cover. Also included is the obligatory section about knitting basics, including choosing yarn, basic color theory, fiber, knitting tools, etc. A nice section at the back shows how to thoughtfully wrap knitted gifts, of course using more yarn. Super cool.
It also has my favorite basic hat pattern that I teach beginner knitters. Super easy and has options for personalizing it for countless combinations!
Cons: Not any that I can think of! I usually don’t like project only books, I want to pick and choose my projects individually instead of dedicate bookshelf space to patterns I might not want to use. But this one is nice, I’ll keep it.
Recommended for Beginner to Advanced Intermediate Knitters.
See for yourself
Toe-Up 2-at-a-time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes
I love this book because: it is a brilliant book that solves a common knitter dilemma. The dilemma is called ‘second sock syndrome’. It applies to anything that needs multiples like socks, mittens and gloves. Let’s say you do one sock and then lose motivation for the second one. Then you have just one sock. I have suffered from this in the past, it is not fun.
This book teaches a technique where you use one large circular needle to make two socks at the same time! By going toe-up and two at a time, you can use up almost every inch of yarn and not have to guess when to end. I use a skein of yarn and pull the end in the center for one sock, and the second sock’s yarn comes from the outside end. Plus, toe-up socks allow the sock to be tried on as you knit, the heel has a better chance of landing in the right spot.
Con: Not any that I can think of!
Recommended for Intermediate and up.
See for yourself:
Best Knitting Books – Patterns Plus Conversational
Any Book by Elizabeth Zimmermann – not an actual title, I just recommend ANYTHING written by her…
I love her writing because she is a pioneer in the modern knitting era. Her simplification of ideas and techniques was revolutionary. Most dedicated knitters know her name and have seen or made some of her timeless patterns. She wrote a popular newsletter sent out to knitters around the country starting in 1959. She designed patterns for magazines such as Vogue Knitting and McCall’s. They adjusted her designs and as she was not keen on that, she responded by starting a newsletter to explain her methods to simplify knitting patterns. This made knitting more accessible, her techniques and approach made knitting less scary for those who wanted to progress.
She is credited with coming up with a system of pattern writing that uses percentages and gauge to come up with completely custom garments for all sizes and body types. She also didn’t like how sweaters were constructed when using straight needles, so she wrote patterns for seamless knits on circular needles. Some of her books like ‘Knitting without Tears’, ‘Knitters Almanac’, and ‘Knitting Workshop’ are still relevant even though they were written in the early 1970s-1980s.
Recommended for all levels of knitters or anyone wanting to see genius at work.
See for yourself:
Any Book by Stephanie Pearl-McPHee – not an actual title, I just recommend ANYTHING written by her…
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is an avid knitter. And when I say avid, I really mean obsessed. She is never not knitting except of course when she needs her hands for other things like cooking or riding a bike. She has written several books about knitting, but more of a running commentary of the knitting community and quirks of us knitters. Knitting has its own vocabulary not only for patterns but also for common situations and frustrations. Take for example the ‘Second Sock Syndrome’ mentioned above. I personally have only read her ‘Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off: The Yarn Harlot’s Guide to the Land of Knitting’ and read her blog for a long time. I love how this book is written in little chunks and snippets. Not exactly a point A to point B novel. Easy to digest and lots of little Five Best type lists.
Recommended for all levels of knitters or anyone wanting to get a good laugh at a knitters expense.
See for yourself:
Best Color Theory Book for Fiber Art
Colorworks by Deb Menz
I love this book because: it is rare to find a book about color theory geared towards fiber art. The number of samples that the author created for this book is mind boggling. She walks through all the different typical terms for color theory but does it with examples from multiple types of fiber arts, like embroidery, quilting, knitting etc. It’s one thing to mix some paint and make a few color wheels, but to create full samples in multiple colorways and multiple crafts? WOW.
Con: It is a little overwhelming thinking about all the work that went into the book, I feel guilty looking at it. Totally worth more than the list price…
Recommended for all levels of fiber artists.
See for yourself: WOW, here are just two pages with all of that work.
Obviously there are A LOT of knitting books out there. These just happen to be the ones that have survived the longest on my knitting book shelf. In fact, if you go to amazon and search knitting books, you’ll get over 50,000 choices. That’s overwhelming! Try one of these to start and go from there!
For other resources I recommend, visit this page.
Let me know what topics you would like covered, taking any and all suggestions into consideration. I want this space to be somewhere you can get quality information and use your time wisely.