Book reviews: New knitting stitch guides and giveaway

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I have two new knitting stitch guides to review today: the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume Six: Edgings from Sixth & Spring Books and Knitting Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia by Sharon Turner.  I think it is fairly obvious that I’m a crochet stitch guide junkie.  (Evidence: my reviews of 20+ stitch guides here and of the new Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia here.)

I haven’t been knitting for that long, so I only have three knitting stitch guides in my collection: The Ultimate Sourcebook of Knitting and Crochet Stitches, The Knitter’s Bible: Stitch Library by Claire Crompton, and 400 Knitting Stitches: A Complete Dictionary of Essential Stitch Patterns.  I was very excited when my review copies of the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume Six: Edgings (courtesty of Sixth & Spring Books) and Knitting Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia (courtesy of Wiley) arrived.

Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 6: Edgings

As the name suggests, this book is entirely focused on edgings, borders, and trims.  The book starts out with a Foreword and then a short section called How to Use this Book.  This section (which is the one I would have overlooked if I was just reading the book, instead of reviewing it) explains that stitches in each chapter are arranged in order of difficulty and also indicates which yarn and needle (or hook) sizes were used for each chapter.

The stitches are organized into seven chapters: Ribs, Texture, Cables, Lace, Color, Unusual, and Crochet.  The book ends with Abbreviations, a key to the pattern abbreviation terms which includes a US/UK conversion chart for the crochet terminology; Yarn Overs, an illustrated guide to forming different types of yarn overs; and Glossary, which explains pattern essentials like “rep from *, end…” and “stockinette stitch.”  Like all Sixth and Spring books (at least, all the ones that I have seen), the book is beautifully presented with great colors and photography.

What I like about this book

  • Each stitch includes a large swatch which is clearly photographed.  Each chapter uses one color of yarn for all of the swatches (except, obviously, the Color chapter), so there is a uniform appearance which makes comparison between similar stitches easier.  The book’s color palette is in the purple family (my favorite).
  • Almost all of the swatches include rows of stockinette stitch.  This allows you to see how the edging impacts the knit fabric – does it lay flat, ruffle, pull together, fan out, etc.  While this makes for a bit of an uneven appearance to the book (because the swatches don’t look “neat” and squared), it is practically helpful when you are choosing the type of edging you’d like for your finished project.
  • When stitch symbols are used, the key appears on the same page as the pattern, so you don’t need to flip to the back of the book.
  • The book is well organized (by stitch type, and then by difficulty level through each chapter), so it would be easy to find a stitch you like later.
  • The book is really lovely to look at – I found myself itching to pick up the needles and get started with edgings.  In particular, the edgings in the Color, Cables, and Crochet chapters had me very excited.
  • The book is hardcover, which allows it to lay flat while you are knitting and reading.
  • The hardcover binding will make sure this book lasts through all of the abuse a good stitch guide will get.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing)

  • I guess I’ve been spoiled by the old school crochet stitch guides (e.g., the Harmony guides) which dominate my collection, so I’ve come to expect that a stitch guide will include some basic information for a newbie like illustrations of how to form basic stitches.  This book doesn’t have any of that, except for in the one page Yarn Overs section.  So you should already know the basics (including basic crochet stitches) to get the most out of this book.
  • The patterns with special stitches can be a bit confusing in how they are presented on the page.  The special stitches are explained at the beginning of each stitch pattern.  Then the stitch pattern begins.  When the stitch pattern is long, or when the swatch photograph is large, there is no vertical space between the description of the special stitches and the start of the pattern.  This is the type of thing which often confuses people who are relatively inexperienced at pattern reading.
  • It isn’t always clear from the description how the edging attaches to the rest of the piece.  On some stitches, you will be instructed that “Sts for st st were picked up after edging was knit.”  The “default option” is presumably to knit the edging after the pieces is finished, but that isn’t actually indicated.
  • Similarly, there are no instructions in the Color chapter about how to work these combinations.  It would be left up to the knitter to know how to make color changes.
  • There are many stitches which only use pattern abbreviation, without symbol charts.  (Note that all of the stitches in the Cable and Lace chapters include symbol charts.)

This book would be a wonderful addition to the library of any knitter who has already mastered the basics.  A beautiful edging can really transform a project.  While the book may seem limited because it only includes edgings, in reality the majority of these stitches could be used for a project as well.  The book is well organized and lovely to look through.  On the other hand, if you love symbol charts, you will wish there were more in the book.  If you are a relative newbie, you may want to hold off on buying this until you feel more comfortable with pattern reading (or be prepared to jump onto YouTube or Ravelry with questions).  I would give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars (and 5 stars if you are an experienced knitter who doesn’t mind the lack of charts).

Knitting Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia: 350 Stitch Patterns, Edgings, and More

I’m a big fan of Knitting VISUAL Quick Tips by Sharon Turner (reviewed here), and I have come to expect that Wiley’s VISUAL imprint will have great step-by-step photos.  As with the Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia (reviewed here),  Knitting Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia instead assumes the reader has the basics down.

The book is organized into ten chapters: Knit and Purl Patterns; Rib Patterns; Bobbles and Textured Stitches; Slipstitch Patterns; Twist-Stitch Patterns; Cable Patterns; Drop-stitch, Yarn Overs, Eyelet, and Lace; Borders and Edgings; Creative Stitches and Combinations; and Color Knitting (which is further subdivided into Stranded Color Patterns, Intarsia Patterns and Motifs, and Color-Slip Patterns).  The Appendix includes a key to pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols.  The stitch symbols key also includes a description of how to formulate the stitch (e.g., “K3tog on RS: Knit 3 stitches together as 1.”).

What I like about this book

  • The book is well organized, making it easy to find a stitch you liked later.
  • Each stitch is photographed in a vibrant swatch and includes both pattern abbreviations and a stitch symbol chart.
  • While the stitch guide includes some of the “old faithful” stitch patterns you would expect to find in a knitting stitch guide, there are also some new (to me) combinations.
  • Most of my other knitting stitch guides primarily use aran or off-white yarns, so this book is definitely more attractive to look at as there is a broader color palette for the swatches.
  • The Introduction.  That’s right, I said it.  You shouldn’t skip through this 3 page section, which outlines each chapter and explains the techniques used.  It also describes (briefly) how different yarn choices will impact the look of the stitch and provides some tips about calculating your yarn needs for a project.  In particular, if you don’t know your Intarsia from your elbow, read the explanation of the different color knitting techniques.
  • I worked up a swatch using a few random stitch patterns that caught my eye.  I didn’t have any problems following the patterns so I would imagine they are all clearly written.
  • I especially liked the stitches in the Stranded Color Patterns and Color-Slip Patterns subsections of the Color Knitting chapter, the Bobbles and Textured Stitches chapter, and the Drop-stitch and Yarn Over patterns.
  • The hardcover binding will make sure this book lasts through all of the abuse a good stitch guide will get.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing)

  • As I mentioned in my Stitchionary review (and in my Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia review), I am a bit disappointed when a stitch guide lacks illustrations or photos explaining some of the techniques for a newbie.  This deficit was, in my opinion, mostly redeemed by the explanations given in the Introduction.
  • Although the book is hardcover, it doesn’t easily lay flat while knitting and reading.
  • Maybe I’m just not that excited by Intarsia in general, but I didn’t see myself making anything in that section (a teapot with a flower?  a robot?).  If you are really into cutesy Intarsia, though, you will probably love these 17 stitch patterns.
  • If you are unfamiliar with stitch symbol charts, you may find it annoying to flip back to the glossary instead of having a key on each page.

This book is definitely a solid stitch guide to add to (or start) your stitch guide collection.  It is well organized, visually attractive, and includes stitch symbols and abbreviations for each stitch.  The book explores a range of stitch types and is built to last as a hardcover.  Beginners or inexperienced pattern readers might find it challenging since there are no illustrations or pictures to walk you through the basics.  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, with the caveat that a beginner will need to be adventurous or have another resource book in her/his library to use this book effectively.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of each book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

The Giveaway

I often host a giveaway for my review copy, but in this case, I love both books so much that I’m not willing to part with either one.  However, since I’ve whet your appetite for knitting books, I thought I would hold a giveaway of my 1989 edition of Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book.

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