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Knitting Books

Periodically, someone will give me a knitting book, or I’ll win one in a yarn expo raffle, or I’ll buy one myself. I mean, I like knitting, I like books– what could go wrong, right?

It’s well-intentioned, and I do enjoy the books, but here’s the thing: I don’t usually keep them. That’s true of all my books, actually– it’s a rare find that makes it into the permanent library (and Dad, yes, all of Grandma’s books that you gave me are in the permanent library… of COURSE).

There is a shelf of approximately 5″ width dedicated to my knitting books. It’s always full, of course, but so are all my bookshelves. It’s the normal state of things.

When I get a new knitting book, I look through it fairly quickly. If it’s a non-pattern book, like something by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, then it goes into the shelves of regular books to be read and eventually passed along.

If it’s a pattern book, however, I look through how they wrote their instructions, what elements they included, and how they formatted their patterns.

Then, I look at the patterns and evaluate them:

  • Are the patterns sized for me? I have a 48″ bustline (that’s the circumference around the fullest part of the bust), and I’m short, so if the pattern can’t be resized to fit me and still look good, I’m not interested in it. There are few patterns that can’t be resized, but there are many patterns that won’t look good in a XXL.
  • Will the patterns look good on me, and will I wear it? High necks are out. So are things that are cut so far you can see too much of that 48″ bust. I don’t knit skirts (I also don’t wear skirts). Shawls, socks, v-neck sweaters and vests, hats, and toys– these are all good bets.
  • Are the patterns well-written? Is this a book I actually need? If the pattern isn’t written well, or if I can basically unvent that pattern myself (I can make a basic v-neck sweater on my own, thanks), then I might not need or want the book.
  • Is the pattern something I just need to make for someone else? There are a few, a precious few, patterns in books that I have to have because so-and-so will absolutely love having that thing.

You’ll notice “is it too hard for me to knit it?” is most emphatically not in the list of criteria. Damnit, if I don’t think I can knit it and I want it, I’ll keep the book and learn how to knit better so I can do it. If I’ve learned anything from knitting (and I have, much), it’s that there is absolutely nothing in knitting that you can’t learn how to do, if you’re willing to learn and try. You might find you don’t like it, but eventually, with time and patience, you can learn it.

But I digress. If the book has some cool stuff but isn’t really my thing, then I destash it to someone else by either giving it to a knitter, giving it to a new knitter, or posting it to Bookmooch (knitting books get snapped up right away). If it’s an ebook, I keep it, no questions– there are not enough knitting ebooks out there. At Stitches East, I came home with 4 books, and immediately gave 2 to Allison from Knit Princess, with whom I was sharing a booth and a hotel room. Share the love! Also, not having to carry 2 extra books was very appreciated. It left room in my suitcase for Knit Princess Volumes 1 and 2.

If the book is good and has stuff I think I’ll use, I put it on the shelf and review it again in 6 months. If I make something from a book, I usually keep the book after I’m done. As a result, the books in my knitting library are books on making socks, Big Girl Knits and More Big Girl Knits, books on making toys, The Knitters Almanac, Shawls and Scarves, 2 books on pattern design, 2 books on general sweater construction techniques, How to Knit in the Woods (because a: what knit-obsessed RVer wouldn’t, and b: Shannon is a Very Cool Person), and a couple of “style” oriented books that I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to keep or not. And, of course, the 4 volumes of Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting plus a couple more stitch dictionaries. But those don’t count. They’re stored on another shelf, because they’re not pattern books (and because the 4 treasuries alone fill the shelf!) That last sentence is right up there with saying “sock yarn doesn’t count as stash,” by the way. I know it’s a lie. You know it’s a lie. It does nothing to reduce the amount of stash/books, and yet, there it is. There are some things, like the Walker treasuries, that any knitter calling herself somewhat professional needs to have in her arsenal. I have a dictionary in my bookshelf, too, because I’m a writer and I take myself seriously (just not… too. seriously. C’mon.)

Anyway. As a result of reviewing my library and my own growth as a knitter, I have a copy of Crazy Toes and Heels available. This is a spiral-bound book containing one very long, heavily-explained, massively-photographed recipe for knitting toe-up socks. It’s good for someone starting to knit socks, but only if you have a lot of patience with lengthy instructions and flipping back and forth. If you’re a blog reader and are thinking of dipping your toe into knitting your own socks, and you’d like a book that shows you how to do so (at length… with photos on every step), leave a comment or contact me on Ravelry so we can talk.

Oh, and if you’re looking to give me a knitting book for Christmas, here is a tip: I love to make toys. I would love knitting and crochet books for making stuffed toys. I can never get enough, and since I don’t have a lot of clay around, making my own patterns for knitted toys (that look like something real instead of wobbly blobs) is very challenging (I can explain that, but the short version is this: sculpt first in clay, using slab techniques, then peel the pieces off, lay them flat, and figure out the shapes). I have World of Knitted Toys, Beautiful Bears, Crobots, and Creepy Crochet Cute. 4 toy-making books doesn’t seem like nearly enough, does it? Particularly for someone with 12 nieces and nephews, and who has an impressive array of stuffed animals on her sofa as well. I also have the awesome power of the Internet, which is great, but I wouldn’t mind an Alan Dart book. There are a bajillion amigurumi books out there, and I would love some of them, because amigurumi is awesome, cool, easy, and fun.

Also, this has turned into a very long rambly post about knitting books. Sorry. Someone on Ravelry asked and I realized my answer was pretty long and should be a blog post.

PS: I’m doing something to replace the lost sweater. Someone on Ravelry has a half-finished one she wants to trade for a skein of sock yarn, so we’re going to trade. I know I can finish one, but I don’t have the heart to cast on and knit another one myself. She has listed “not having to knit another repeat of this stitch ever again” as her motivation for getting rid of the sweater. Emotionally, we have extremely compatible needs when it comes to this sweater. Also, hers is bright red. I was planning on knitting my replacement sweater in red yarn. It’s a match made in yarn.

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