Recommended Reading: The Principles of Knitting

The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt (revised edition).

The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt (revised edition).

If you were going to purchase a book on knitting, and only one book on the topic, I wholeheartedly recommend the revised edition of The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt (2012), published by Touchstone, New York. As the cover notes, the book is a comprehensive guide to knitting. I’m usually skeptical when I see books proclaiming that they are the complete guide or even a comprehensive guide on a topic, but this book does not disappoint.

Make no mistake: this is a hefty hardcover book at 712 pages in length. Although this may seem daunting, the book is written in a very accessible style and easy to follow for even the most novice of knitters. As well, the book has plenty of black and white line illustrations and photographs to accompany the text.

Table of contents.

Table of contents.

Of all my crafting books, this is the book I go to again and again. June Hemmons Hiatt covers virtually all topics a knitter’s heart can desire. Want to learn about cast on methods? Want to learn about colourwork? Want to learn about selecting yarn appropriate for your project? Go straight to the section. You do not need to read this book cover to cover to understand a topic she presents. I cannot emphasize enough what a useful guide this is. The table of contents above gives you a sneak peek into the array of topics covered.

Purling directions.

Purling directions.

I have to admit that I am one that is very leery of written directions when it comes to knitting (or most things, if I’m honest). I love visuals, especially video, to illustrate a technique. However, the written directions in this book are so clear that even I can follow them without an issue. They should be clear enough to beginners too. I only wish I had this book ten years ago when I was learning to knit – it would have saved me a lot of grief! On the subject of the purl stitch, she has several line illustrations and a thorough and clear discussion of how to purl in a variety of styles.

Knitting belt.

Knitting belt.

She has included some fascinating, less common areas of knitting knowledge too. One example is her overview of how to use a knitting belt. Until this book, I had heard of knitting belts in passing but I had no idea what they looked like or how they were used. This method is used rarely now, but it was common in 1800s Britain, which then evolved into ‘parlour style’ knitting. Such a contrast to today’s ‘do you knit English or Continental style?’. I love history, and the historical information about knitting is very interesting.

Alsace wool carpet, 1781.

Alsace wool carpet, 1781.

A favourite page of mine in the book (p.266 in case you want to know!) is a photograph of the Alsace wool carpet depicting Jacob’s Dream made in 1781. I love studying this image. The carpet was made using intarsia and a great deal of time and patience. Truly it is the work of a master of intarsia.

Handknitted carpet depicting Jacob's dream, Alsace, 1781 (wool).

Handknitted carpet depicting Jacob’s dream, Alsace, 1781 (wool).

The only drawback to the book is its lack of colour illustrations, but I can see how the costs would be prohibitive. Above is the same illustration of Jacob’s Dream from Alsace, but shown in colour to greater visual impact. I think the use of colour would have gone a long way to support the historical items in this book, as well as the colourwork sections.

However, I wouldn’t let the lack of colour in this book hold you back from picking up a copy of this classic reference work on knitting. At $45.00 a copy, I think it’s a bargain, but you can pick up a copy for less than the list price if you search – has this book listed for about $28.00. You won’t regret having this valuable reference on your shelf and I promise you will refer to it time and again.

x Rena


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