Is this my ultimate knitting book?

As a knitting designer, tech editor, writer, pattern writer, teacher and all round knitting nerd, I have an ever growing collection of reference books from the iconic The Principles Of Knitting by June Hemmon Hyatt and a 1960s Odhams Knitting Encylopaedia (a lucky charity shop find), to a well over a dozen stitch dictionaries. There are books on pattern writing and garment construction, books on fibres and yarn production, books on different styles of socks, on hat shaping, etc, etc.

I love learning about my craft and I use these books regularly: to find the best techniques; looking to see if an idea you have, already has an established technique; refreshing my memory about something; or just getting a new perspective or some inspiration,

So I was delighted to be asked if I wanted to review Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book – a perfect book for me to write about both here and on the UK Hand Knitting blog which I regularly write.

This is an impressive and comprehensive tome with more than 350 pages of information and 1,600 photographs and illustrations. I have pictured it here with me to give an idea of scale – warning, it weights a lot.


This is an update of Vogue Knitting’s original encyclopaedia published in 1989. Given the changes in knitting fashions, the developments in yarn, needles and techniques that we have seen in recent years, the company decided it was time for a full revision and have added 70 pages to the original.

I did occasionally find the US terminology can be a bit distracting – I always do – but it didn’t stop this being an incredibly useful resource for any knitter who wants to check a technique, understand more about yarn or see how a sock, sweater of shawl is constructed.

There are chapters explaining about  types of yarns and needles and caring for your knits, through basic techniques to more complex knitting types and details of how many knitted items are constructed and even a guide to basic designing.


All the techniques sections have clear, easy to understand pictures and illustrations. I did find one or two technical sections (especially in colourwork) that might have benefited from a bit more explanation but these are in the minority.


And I will never be stuck for a cast on or cast off ever again. There are instructions for dozens of each included. I do know a cast off that isn’t included but have only done about half the cast ons.

I will certainly find this book useful but I can’t describe it as my ultimate knitting resource because I am sure to find yet more reference books in the future. That said I plan to master all the cast ons that were new to be in the coming months.

However I think this is a book that has a wider audience than obsessive, professional knitting geeks like me. If you just want to have one knitting reference book to help you with new techniques, to inspire, challenge and support you with your yarn craft, this is an excellent choice. And you could join me in my cast on challenge.

Plus if you have had an idea for your own knitting design for a sweater, hat or socks there is a section to guide you through the basics of making this a reality step by step.

This is definitely a reference book for all types of keen knitter – as well as offering a mini bicep work out.


A book to unlock your creativity

Material World
I've just come across a new book that says a lot of what I’ve always said about craft skills – and my dressmaking, knitting, etc, pre-dates the latest DIY fashion trend by decades – they allow you to be individual. Having the skills to make your own piece of jewellery or customise a jacket doesn’t mean you have something that’s second best. Instead you have the latest look your way, garments that fit properly or the item you’ve only previously been able to imagine.

That is very much the theme of Material World: The Modern Craft Bible by Perri Lewis.

The book is much more about giving readers the basic skills and plenty of advice on how to use them, rather than a prescriptive set of rules. In other words helping people unleash their own creativity.

I work part-time for the London Jewellery School and am ever fascinated how a group of six people being taught the same techniques and using the same materials can up with very different looks or styles in the pieces they produce in a workshop.

Across a range of craft skills Perri offers advice on the right tools and has collected some fantastic tips. I particularly like the idea of buying high street jewellery from the sale rack as “parts” for your own creations, or cheap garments for the buttons or embellishments because that can cost less than buying something similar separately.

The crafts covered are embroidery and cross-stitch, decoupage, printing, embellishment, macrame, quilling, leatherwork, millinery, jewellery, patchwork and tailoring. 

Given my large collection of craft books and the amount of new skill information for me in Material World, I might have said that this is a great book for people looking to start or expand their crafting with lots to get them going. But there is another layer to the book which makes it attractive even to those with too many crafting years (and books) to count. It also features a series of interviews from designers, crafters and artists on everything from colour in embroidery to the much debated "what is craft? what is art?"conundrum.

The comments from designers and makers are a great addition to a manual like this. Whether it be Emma Bridgewater explaining that designing isn’t about sitting staring at a daunting blank piece of paper but rather collecting and channelling a set of thoughts and skills you already have, or milliner Philip Treacy telling you to break the rules and experiment.

Treacy also talks about the smile test – when someone tries on one of his hats and get a real sparkle in their eye, he knows he’s got it right. Something I certainly recognise from my knitwear  and jewellery successes whether for myself or others.

This is certainly a worth addition the the craft shelf/bookcase/room.

Material World is out this week  published by Virgin, £18.99

A vintage gem

Pic 005
Browsing in a charity bookshop while in Belfast last week I found one of the best Pic 007 knitting books I've come across. My interest was initially piqued by a number of patterns that could be updated to current trends: the ski sweater, the lace top with almost a pussy bow and the bed jacket which could become a pretty summer cardie.

Pic 004All good for a mere £2.50, I'd certainly pay more than
that for a knitting magazine with a couple of good Ravelry.

When I got home though I started taking a closer look at my find which is a copy of Odhams Knitting Encyclopaedia from 1968 (so almost the same age as me).

This is an incredible resource for any knitter. The first section is a 90-page "ABC of knitting" covering pretty much everything you may have a query about from the best approaches to blocking different types fo knitting - eg lace, fair isle, etc - the maths to work out the decreases for a beret, tables to work out sizing for basic cardigans and sweaters and using different yarns.

Pic 001 Throughout the ABC section there are also charts and instructions for classic lace designs and different types of colour knitting with some history of the techniques and  advice on how best to to work them.

Pic 006






Add to that some really useful basic glove and sock  patterns, classic jumper patterns for men, women and kids, and a stashbuster section called "from odd ounces", this is a book that, should you come across it, I'd recommend snapping it up.

And for me I now need to sit down with a notebook and work on translating weights, meterages, sizes and needles to have a go at some of these designs. Ski jumper here I come!










One women went to Knit Nation...

... and came home with many lovely things

Knit 003

Knit Nation at Imperial College in London was a great pleasure to attend.

Knit 002aAmong the best things were meeting people I'd only previously spoken to online and the compliments from complete strangers about a knitted cotton top I was wearing.

It was Never Fails to Please from Jane Waller and Susan Crawford's A Stitch in Time and even Susan who was signing her new book seemed to think it was a good job.  

I also met hat designer Woolly Wormhead and the lovely Ysolda Teague as well as having a good rummage around the fabulous range of yarns from mainly smaller suppliers.

But it wasn't just the big names - the place was full of happy and enthusiastic knitters who were keen to chat about yarn, projects, books etc with complete strangers, exchanging Ravelry names as they went.

Given I'm trying to close the doors on the stash cupboard I was trying to be restrained on the yarn buying side so only purchased a skein of black rainbow 4ply from Babylonglegs which will become a baby hoodie for the expected niece/nephew and some fab deep pink Knitwitches Seriously Gorgeous Laceweight silk/cashmere.

Baby longlegs Gorgeous pink

But then I won some Old Maiden Aunt turquoise 4ply along with some lovely rosewood needles, cable pins and seaming pins in the Medicins Sans Frontieres p/hop project's raffle.

Knit 004

If you don't know about p/hop;it is a charity fundraising scheme where knitters can download patterns or collect them from shows like Knit Nation and donate based on how they value the pattern. P/hop means pennies for hours of pleasure - and given the lovely patterns designers have donated to the scheme there is plenty to be had.

And if all that wasn't enough I also managed to attend an Advance Lace Knitting workshop with designer Anne Hanson which left me enthusiastic and confident and raring to go on more complex lace projects (family should be prepared for the scarf and shawl avalanche).

And then there were the lovely free books from my Knitting magazine subscription.

Knit 011

Great day out - well done to the organisers. I can't wait for next year.


Knitting Lace

I'm currently reading Susanna E Lewis' Knitting Lace: A Workshop with Patterns and Projects Knitting lace  
thanks to my wonderful SO tracking down the new edition.

I'd recommend this to any knitter with an interest in lace. Lewis deconstructs the patterns from a victorian lace sampler providing patterns for almost 100 designs. But to me more importantly she talks about the construction and design of lace patterns, invaluable if you want to chart your own ideas or use a lace design from one pattern in another garment.

I'm enjoying it so much I've already bought a graph paper book to chart ideas.

Noise to knit by - podcasts and audiobooks

On my hour-plus each way commute, along with my knitting I listen to my MP3 player . Sometimes music, sometimes audio books and quite a lot of radio podcasts.

The current commuting project is a lacy sweater called Chevron by Kim Hargreaves.

As you can see it is a tad fiddly. Yesterday I noticed that I made a lot of progress listening to a BBC debate on attitudes to religion and to a Michael Connolly thriller but made a vast number of mistakes during a science podcast discussing “quantum information theory”.

This got me to thinking about what I listen to when knitting and so a few (mainly UK-based podcasts).


The Electric Sheep- really enjoying this London-based podders take on knitting. Each episode features thoughts on a topic (a thought for the week) and reviews of yarns and patterns I really like the detail in her reviews and comments and usually find something useful.

From the US Knit Science - also has a lot of technical detail and thoughts on garment construction


Media Talk from the Guardian - humourous take on the week's media events from the Guardian Media team. I usually learn something interesting even if it is very broadcast focused.

The BBC's Media Show is a bit more serious but contains plenty of interest for those with an interest in UK media.

Science and Tech

The Guardian has two great offerings in this area Science Weekly and Tech Weekly - there are always high level interesting guests and plenty of science and tech news.

Occasionally the BBC broadcasts a series called More or Less which looks at stats and figures in an entertaining, nay funny, but intelligent way. Excellent for the ever-so slightly numerate but pedantic amongst us.

Arts and Literature

Two classics from the BBC, Start the Week and FrontRow - all that's best about intelligent broadcasting from Radio 4.


Last but not least the fabulous, wonderful, unsurpassed Film podcast - Kermode and Mayo's Film reviews. Such a cult it has spin-off facebook pages following stands or jokes from the show.

And thinking about all of these, I wonder if I might need a longer commute...