Looking for a Good Knitting Reference Book

I was in my LYS (Balls & Skeins in Sebastopol, CA) the other day; and, in addition to buying more Manos del Uruguay wool yarn, I was poking through their book stacks, looking for a good knitting reference book. There is a lot of good stuff on the internet, and I have been using that often; but, call me a old-fashion - I like books. There was one work there that I considered buying called, "Vogue Knitting," and it was recommended by the sales lady. Generally, I'm not going to part with $40.00 that quickly, so I'm asking you all for referrals to previous forum threads dealing with this topic or to your favorite knitting reference books.


Stephen in Santa Rosa, CA

WillyG's picture

Barbara Walker's Treasury Of Knitting Patterns and its three 'sequels' are must-haves. Each runs about thirty bucks, though I obtained the 2nd treasury at a used book store before I knew what a gem I had found. I've noticed a lot of the patterns reproduced in Vogue stitchionaries, but without the helpful introductions. She's known in part for her contribution to charted knitting patterns. And her mosaic knitting.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears is a good reference for basic knitting techniques and especially sweater recipes. I actually got a few copies of this one because it was on a clearance rack for 3 bucks a pop. Really, it's a crime. Most anything by EZ is helpful as a reference, since she tends to write in a way that gives you 'recipes' that puts the design into your hands. Another easily affordable--and therefore worthwhile IMHO--book is her Knitter's Almanac. She makes designing your own aran sweater accessible to the average knitter, as well as a lace shawl.

Back to Barbara Walker, her Knitting From The Top is a great collection of recipes for top-down constructed sweaters, vests, pants, you-name-it, and has some other bits such as the provisional cast-on (the initial reason I bought it, though it turned out to be something I go back to.)

Another 'recipe' style book with general knitting knowledge is Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Her sock recipe is, in my opinion, worth the better part of the price of the book, which I believe is listed around 13 dollars. I'm still reading this one. I got it with a coupon for more like 9 bucks.

I've also been told the ultimate Vogue Knitting is a must-have, but I came across the same mental block as you.

For specific techniques, Alice Starmore has a great book on Aran sweaters, and another book on Fair Isle knitting, that I hear is top-notch. These have beautiful stitch patterns and pictures, but they also have really good historical info.

If you're willing to consider DVDs, consider EZ's Knitting Glossary. I have not yet obtained any of Lucy Neatby's DVD's, but I hear that they are really worth your while--such as the knitting essentials.

I've already blown the risk of being long-winded, so I'll add two more thoughts. I daresay anything sold by Schoolhouse Press is worthwhile. Also, WonderMike has worked in two podcasts, both of which feature a lot of really great info and interviews and book suggestions: Y-Knit, which has something like 19 episodes, and The Fiber Beat, which is still being produced.

Sorry for so much info, but I hope it helps! That's my limited two cents!

Tom Hart's picture

Oh, it helps alright. Thanks so much for that Willy. I'm copying it and keeping it as a knitting library acquisition list. And thanks to Stephen for asking the question!

daleweaver's picture

Wow, thanks so much for taking the time to write all of that for us. Very helpful indeed. I've listened to all of Fiberbeat (except the last episode) and most of Yknit, and I will definitely look at Lucy Neatby's DVD's. Elizabeth Zimmerman seems to be given special status as a major historical guru, so I'll look into her Knitting without Tears. I will also look for Treasury and the sequels. We'll see what I can find at my favorite, local, pre-loved bookstore. Though I got my knitting hands back from decades ago, I feel like I have a strangle hold on the yarn when I'm knitting but have no idea how to change that. Hopefully, with some basic texts and maybe the DVD's, I'll find some pearls that will continue my knitting growth.


Tom Hart's picture

This is about having a "strangle hold" on the yarn while knitting. And maybe you're sick of hearing about PK (Portuguese knitting) but here it is again. With PK you DO NOT HOLD THE YARN AT ALL. Period. Not at all. Zip. Null set on the holdsville. It's completely revolutionary that way. Like using a pulley to lift a heavy load into the air or something. With PK one's neck holds the yarn. The hands do not hold the yarn. The neck holds the yarn. The hands hold the needles and only the needles. It is a complete and total reorientation of knitter and yarn. No strangleholds. Though if you're not careful, I suppose you could garrote yourself with the yarn. But you'd have to be very, very, very uncareful and knitting extremely fast to get to that point I'd think.

ronhuber's picture

Everything Willy said - plus Mary Thomas. I find "Knitting Without Tears" and Elizabeth Zimmrmann's dvd, "knitting Glossary" would help anyone advance in this craft and liberate you at the same time.

davidUK's picture

I swear by the Ultimate Knitting Bible by Sharon Brant. Really clear pictures and just the thing.

Knitting without tears is good - but the Knitting Bible is is the clearest and best I've come across and covers everything you could need

Happy reading!


Lots of good books out there, as mentioned above, but my favorite and constant reference book is Knitting Without Tears. I regard Elizabeth Zimmerman as one of the MAJOR patron saints of the knitting world.

Kerry's picture

I've had the Vogue Knitting for about 20 years and found it a great resource. I thought it an expensive purchase at the time but it is a wonderful reference book.

lanedown's picture

I like the Knitter's Companion by Vicki Square. It is a reference guide only but boy it comes in handy when trying to figure out a certain increase or anything else. Also, about your knitting hands, my neighbor/guru told me I need to have a good stiff drink while I knit. Cheers.

bobshome's picture

Wow - Willy thanks. Great information. I'm keeping it at hand as well.
Stephen - I bought The Ultimate Vogue Knitting book 8 months ago and I use it with every single project. My knitting techniques have improved with each project as well. Just looking up seaming for all the different applications, adjusting patterns, yarn weights, really everything. I love the book and it's by side all the time. Go for it! (just check that it's the most recent publication, perhaps on Amazon).