By Becky Benoit
I’m a craftaholic, I can admit it. I love any sort of fiber craft, from embroidery and cross stitch to quilting, crocheting and weaving. Anywhere I travel in Canada (and beyond), I’m always on the lookout for yarn stores, treasure troves of beautiful wools to add to my admittedly enormous stash.
But knitting has always been my Waterloo. I’ve never seemed to be able to get the knack of it. Unlike crocheting, which seemed so easy to master, my attempts at knitting have always ended in frustration. I drop stitches like they’re hot, yarn over without meaning to, and always end up with either too many stitches on my needle or too few, and strange holes and lumps in my knitted piece.
This year, I’ve decided, is the year I learn how to knit well. When I visit a yarn store, I’m tired of feeling like some kind of throwback to the 1970s because I crochet instead of knit. Virtually all of the beautiful patterns I see are for knitting, and I’m thoroughly tired of being left out of the loop, so to speak.
With this in mind, and with the advice and help of my sister, a knitting whiz if ever I’ve seen one, I’ve collected some books to help me on my knitting journey. I’ve also bought a few total duds, so I thought I’d share the results of my knitting trials with others out there who are interested in learning how to knit. Here are some books which I’ve found particularly useful:
While I’m a little put off by the title, this has been without a doubt the most useful how-to manual for me. Written by Megan Goodacre, a knitting expert and pattern designer, this book begins with the most basic steps in knitting – how to make a slip knot, how to cast on stitches and how to do a basic knit stitch – and then gradually expands on these skills. Subsequent chapters cover a really wide range of knitting skills, including blocking and finishing, knitting in the round, colour work such as intarsia and fair isle, cable knitting, lace knitting and more. Each chapter includes an easy pattern to help you develop your newly-learned skills, and the projects are fun and attractive, things you could actually use or wear. Each new skill is accompanied by colourful step-by-step photos, which are invaluable if you’re a visual learner like me.
My only complaint about this book is that it doesn’t have an online video component to accompany it. Several times I’ve had to look up You Tube videos that show how to complete a certain skill, such as using double-pointed needles, because the pictures and instructions weren’t entirely clear.
Overall, though, this is an excellent beginner book for learning how to knit, and a useful reference that you’ll turn to again and again as your knitting prowess grows.
As the title says, this is the book you turn to when things go wrong (and when you’re just learning to knit, things seem to go wrong an awful lot). This book really does cover virtually every problem you might encounter in your knitting, from dropped stitches to finished projects that are way too big or small. The authors explain the cause of common knitting problems (and some that aren’t so common) in clear, easy-to-understand language, tell you how to fix it and give you advice to prevent it from happening again. The included pictures aren’t full-colour, but they’re clear and easy to follow. In addition to solving problems, I found this book to be a really useful reference manual that answered a lot of questions I didn’t even know to ask, and the expanded edition includes some patterns for you to try your hand at as well. A must-have reference book for the new knitter!
I really wanted to read this book for the title alone, and it’s another good reference book to have on your shelves. Like The Idiot’s Guide, it covers the basics, explaining how to get started, fixing common mistakes, identifying yarn and more. What I liked about this book was the author’s witty commentary on the origins of knitting and how knitting has experienced a huge resurgence with young women. I also really enjoyed the patterns in this book – they’re up-to-date, projects that you can make and actually wear or give as gifts, and they’re a little more challenging than the more basic scarves, cowls and baby hats that you find in The Idiot’s Guide.
This is one of those reference books that really does seem to cover every aspect of the craft of knitting. It has a ton of information, so I wouldn’t recommend reading from cover to cover lest you become overwhelmed, but it’s an awesome book to have when you encounter a problem or a question. Plus it’s compact so you can easily take it with you when you’re knitting on the go.
Check these books out – you’ll be knitting up a storm (or a sweater, or an afghan) in no time. And when you’re searching for your yarn, my favourite online store for yarn and knitting accessories is Knit Picks, which stocks a huge library of books, knitting needles and tools and all sorts of wool at really reasonable prices. If you’re looking for an online yarn store within Canada, check out Ram Wools, which offers free shipping within Canada and carries lots of hard-to-find yarn, or Willow Yarns, which has a really broad selection of different kinds of yarns, needles and tools, and patterns, including some wonderful free ones. Also explore the website Ravelry, which contains a huge number of free patterns, and a wonderful search tool which allows you to search for patterns based on yarn weight, type of project, and dozens of other parameters.