Tag Archives: Stitch Dictionaries

Review: Two Japanese Knitting Stitch Books

Review: Two Japanese Knitting Stitch Books post image

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Title:Japanese Knitting Stitches from Tokyo’s Kazekobo Studio: A Dictionary of 200 Stitch Patterns by Yoko Hatta

Author:Yoko Hatta, (Translated by Cassandra Harada>

Published by: Tuttle Publishing, 2019

Pages: 128

Type: Stitch Dictionary

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Title:Keiko Okamoto’s Japanese Knitting Stitches: A Stitch Dictionary with 150 Amazing Patterns

Author: Keiko Okamoto (Translated by Gayle Roehm)

Published by: Tuttle Publishing, 2019

Pages:144

Type: Stitch Dictionary

Both books do have basic Table of Contents, but they’re basically just laying out the techniques. It doesn’t seem strictly necessary to spell them out for you.

KS: Japanese Knitting Stitches

The In-Depth Look:

This is a two-fold review, if only because both books arrived at the same time from the same publisher and have so many similarities.

Both books are stitch dictionaries. Both are originally published in Japan (in 2012, I believe), and recently translated into English and published here. (Tuttle Publishing has a great “Books to Span the East and West” program.)

Yoko Hatta’s “Japanese Knitting Stitches” is primarily stitch patterns–200 of them, according to the cover. They’re beautifully photographed and well illustrated via really excellent graphs. The stitches make up about 3/4 of the book, with the back section explaining each symbol with a description of the what exactly you’re supposed to do with each symbol/stitch as you read the graph. There are a handful of project patterns at the back, but the only illustrations of them (so far as I can see) are tiny thumbnail-sized photos in the Table of Contents.

The other book, Keiko Okamoto’s “Japanese Knitting Stitches” is similar in that it is filled with stitch patterns–but they’re different. Rather than just being basic cable, lace or knit/purl patterns, these are a little more enthusiastic in their color and texture–stranded color and bobbles, and open-work. There are more elaborate projects included–only seven of them, but more intricately detailed and photographed. (That Nordic Coat is to die for!)

Both books are fantastic stitch dictionaries. Like all Japanese knitting books, they rely heavily on graphs–don’t expect elaborate written instructions–but how necessary is that, really?

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This review copy was kindly donated by Tuttle Publishing. Thank you!

My Gush: So many possibilities to play with!

Review: Alterknit Stitch Dictionary

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First, the facts:

Title: Alterknit Stitch Dictionary: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs

Author: Andrea Rangel

Published by: Interweave Press, 2017

Pages: 164

Type: Stitch Dictionary

Chapters:

KS: Alterknit Stitch Dictionary

The In-Depth Look:

Like most knitters, I enjoy stitch dictionaries. For me, at least, it’s because they’re full of potential–so many possibilities for things to make! In this one, author Andrea Rangel (and her husband Sean) devoted the last year to colorwork patterns.

She writes in the introduction, “Instead of sticking to tradition, we wondered what would happen if we didn’t bother with the rules or with tradition. Could we introduce stitch motifs that knitters haven’t ever seen before? Could we inspire other knitters and designers to think about colorwork in a more expansive way? A big part of what made this work is that while Sean can knit, he doesn’t do it much, so he doesn’t think like a knitter. The motifs he created (all 200 of them!) aren’t all what you’ll usually find in a stitch dictionary or on a sweater because they come from his artistic background and imagination.”

Isn’t that an intriguing start? Two hundred stranded colorwork motifs that have never been seen before!

After some preliminary instruction (how to hold the yarn, what to do about floats, how to steek, some general colorwork tips), you get to the swatches. Colorwork charts and knitted swatches of every design. They are all unique, though some do resemble stitch patterns I’ve seen elsewhere (not exactly surprising considering how many stitch patterns exist in the knitting world. I don’t know that I’ll ever actually knit the sheep-filled “Counting Sheep” motif, but it’s adorable.

Along with the swatches, there are five complete patterns at the end to give a little more inspiration by showing some of the stitch patterns in action. A beanie hat, a cowl, a pair of mittens, a yoke pullover, and a cardigan (which I think is my favorite).

This last week, I’ve found myself opening this book to a new page and just leaving it open on my desk, rather than just randomly flipping through the different stitch motifs. Like I said, some are similar to things we’ve seen before (how much can one really do with a series of diagonal lines), but a lot of them are quite unique. And even the “familiar” ones have a new angle, something a little different to catch the eye or amuse the fingers.

I’ve been hearing buzz about this book for a while now, and am really happy to see it living up to the hype.

Also, courtesy of Interweave Press, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can WIN YOUR OWN COPY. Just leave a comment on this post to be eligible (U.S. addresses only, please).

You can get your own copy at your local bookshop or by clicking here and getting it from Amazon.

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This review copy was kindly donated by Interweave Press. Thank you!

My Gush: Yes, it’s a Stitch Dictionary, but that doesn’t mean it’s not new.

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Review: Big Book of Knit Stitches

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First, the facts:

Title: The Big Book of Knit Stitches: Cables, Lace, Ribs, Textures and a Whole Lot More

Author: The Editors of Martingale

Published by: Martingale Press, 2016

Pages: 192

Type: Knit Stitches

Chapters:

Introduction
Cables, Crosses & Twists
Lace & Openwork
Knit and Purl Textures
Ribs & Ribbing
Bobbles, Knots, Slip Stitches and More

KS: Big Book of Knit Stitches

The In-Depth Look:

I love a good stitch dictionary, though they’re often hard to review because, well, they’re basically dictionaries–useful resources, to be sure, but not generally chock full of imagination and creativity.

What dictionaries (stitch and otherwise) do provide, though, are the tools you need to feed your creativity. You can’t build a house without lumber or bricks, and so you can’t knit anything without needles, yarn, and some kind of a stitch pattern.

This particular stitch dictionary has 360 patterns, all nicely photographed, ranging from basic garter and stockinette stitches (yes, they’re in there) to assorted cables, lace, bobbles, and textures.

The only glaring omission I see is that none of them have charts–just written, line-by-line instructions, which seems like an oversight. Not everybody loves them, but for some of us, working from charts is definitely the easiest way to knit on patterns with any complexity at all.

But still … 360 stitches with nice photographs to make browsing a pleasure. They’re not the most complicated stitches I’ve seen, but there certainly are a generous number of them.

You can get your copy at Amazon or at your favorite bookstore.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

This review copy was kindly donated by Martingale. Thank you!

My Gush: I love a good stitch dictionary.

Review: Cable Left Cable Right

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First, the facts:

Title: Cable Left Cable Right: Twists and turns to take your knitting in a whole new direction

Author: Judith Durant

Published by: Storey Publishing

Pages: 216

Type: Cable stitch patterns

Chapters:

1. Cable Basics
2. Simple Cables
3. Angles and Curves
4. Braids and Pretzels
5. Fillers, Ribbings, and Allover Patterns
6. Dressing Up Your Cables
7. Design Considerations

KS: Cable Left Cable Right

The In-Depth Look:

How can you not love a good stitch dictionary, especially one devoted to cables?

I love knitting cables. I find twisting and manipulating my stitches while I knit makes a project more interesting and fun to do, but I also love the intricate designs that makes. Watching a cable snake in and out, twist around, duck behind other strands in a braid … love that, in the same way I love detailed knot-work.

It’s simple enough to just follow a pattern, of course–to let someone else do the work of putting cables together for a sweater or an afghan project, but knowledge is power. (This seems to be a theme for Judith Durant’s books of late.)

If you know how a cable is “put together” and know how to pair them or match them, how to line them up so that different cables work well together, or support each other, it makes playing with them that much more fun.

To that end, the book gives you basic cable instructions, and then basic patterns for simple cables, rules on tweaking them, and how to do sharp angles or gentle curves. You learn about braids and pretzels, as well as filler stitches … and then how to dress them up with texture or beads. Finally, she addresses how to put all these lovely cables together in a design that will be balanced and will work.

And meanwhile, you have all these lovely, color-coordinated pictures to browse through. (Let’s face it, that’s half the fun of stitch dictionaries, isn’t it?) Not that this is strictly a stitch dictionary–because while it gives you the stitch patterns, it also gives you the tools you need to play with them.

All 94 of the cables have charted instructions, not line-by-line written ones, but this shouldn’t deter you. In fact, for cables, I think charts are much easier to follow than written instructions. In this case, all the chart graphics are explained in the first chapter, so that you always have a reference to look at if you’ve forgotten a particular symbol, but otherwise, the cables are all displayed and explained via easy-to-read charts.

Knowledge is power, after all. Like Judith says in the introduction, “Knit and cable on.”

You can find this book at your local bookshop or you can buy it direct from Amazon!

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This review copy was kindly donated by . Thank you!

My Gush: Knowledge is power.

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Review: The Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook

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First, the facts:

Title: The Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook: An Essential Collection of 300 Designer Stitches & Techniques

Author: Melissa Leapman

Published by: Potter Craft, 2013

Pages: 288

Type: Stitch Dictionary

Chapters:

1. Textured Knit and Purl Patterns
2. Lace and Openwork Patterns
3. Cables and Crossed Stitch Patterns
4. Slip Stitch Patterns
5. Novelty Stitch Patterns

KS: The Knit Stitch

The In-Depth Look:

If you’ve been reading for a while, you already know I love stitch dictionaries. They are filled with pure inspiration, whether you’re looking for something for a specific project like a baby blanket or a cardigan, or if you’re just looking for something to do with that new yarn you bought. They are chock full of possibilities and directions you don’t expect to take, potential for something entirely new. They’re irresistible.

They’re also difficult to do really well. I mean, there are lots of them and, even assuming that they’re all error-free, how many does any one knitter really need?

Judging by my bookcase, the answer is “a lot,” incidentally. I’ve got at least two dozen stitch dictionaries … and now one more because Melissa Leapman’s is a good one. Not only is it full of 300 original stitches, she includes ideas on what to do with them, how to combine them.

Other than that … The photographs are clear and in color, the stitches are rationally organized and overall the collection is a good one. It’s hard to find new and original things to say about a good collection … so, really, maybe it’s best just to let the stitches speak for themselves.

This book can be found at Amazon.com or your local yarn shop.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

This review copy was kindly donated by Potter Craft. Thank you!

My Gush:

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Review: 150 Scandinavian Motifs

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First, the facts:

Title: 150 Scandinavian Motifs

Author: Mary Jane Mucklestone

Published by: Interweave Press, 2013

Pages: 159

Type: Stitch Patterns

Chapters:

1. Essential Skills
2. Motif Directory

KS: 150 Scandinavian Motifs

The In-Depth Look:

The thing about stitch dictionaries is that, well, they’re usually boring. Useful, definitely. They are marvelous resources of stitch inspiration that can be turned into all sorts of sweaters and bags and afghans and hats and shawls and everything.

But they’re usually boring.

Usually.

And then came Mary Jane Mucklestone who figured out a way to make them not only useful, valuable, resources, but inspiring all by themselves.

First, she covers the knitting essentials from casting on to how to hold yarn for two-color knitting. She talks about how to use the motifs–how you might turn them on their side, or knit in deliberate variations. How to take a stitch and apply it to an actual garment and make it work. All useful, handy, thoughtful stuff that gets left out of most stitch dictionaries.

But then? The motifs themselves. 150 of them, all styled on traditional Scandinavian patterns, which happen to be personal favorites of mine. (The first non-garter-stitch-square project I ever knit was an Icelandic Lopi sweater with color stranding and circular needles and DPNs for the sleeves … When I tell you I like the Scandinavian thing, I’m really not lying.)

Anyway, so you’ve got 150 designs. All-over patterns, small designs, large motifs, reindeer, snowflakes, the works. Except, unlike the usual collection of stitches, she goes the extra mile. She shows you options.

Every stitch is shown in a simple black-and-white chart. Next to that is a color graph that matches the live, full-color knitted sample in the accompanying photograph. But then next to that is the exact same chart with a completely different color scheme, just to make you THINK about how different it could look. And then, for some of the larger, all-over patterns, she throws in mix-and-match variations for things that you could choose to change … or not. And then the whole thing is capped off with four patterns, just to get your fingers itching to dive in and play.

Seriously, of all the wonderful stitch dictionaries I’ve seen (and own), this (and her equally wonderful 200 Fair Isle Motifs) is a work of knitterly genius. It’s useful. It’s playful. It makes you think, and more importantly, it inspires … and then it gives you the tools to actually DO something.

Yep, genius.

You can find your copy at Amazon.com or at your local yarn or bookshop. Trust me. This is one you’ll want to look at.

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This review copy was kindly donated by Interweave Press. Thank you!

My Gush: The best kind of stitch directory.

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Review: Nicky Epstein’s Knitting in Circles

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First, the facts:

Title: Knitting in Circles: 100 Circular Patterns for Sweaters, Bags, Hats, Afghans, and More

Author: Nicky Epstein

Published by: Potter Craft, 2012

Pages: 224

Type: Stitch patterns, as well as full-fledged patterns for things to make

Chapters:

Introduction
Notes on Texture and Gauge
Designing with Circles
Project Gallery
Round 1: Basic Circle Shaping
Round 2: Texture & Techniques
Round 3: Lace & Points
Round 4: Colorwork
Round 5: Eclectic

KS: Knitting in Circles

The In-Depth Look:

It’s almost hard to know what to say about another collection of stitches and techniques from Nicky Epstein. I have seven of them on my bookcase, I think. (Eight? I’ve lost count.) It’s easy to see why, too, because they’re wonderful–bringing our attention to a specific theme (squares, edges, flowers, circles, etc) and then doing as many possible things within that framework as possible.

She says in the introduction here that, “Over the years, I’ve used a variety of circle shapes in my designs and thought it was finally time to share their many unique and beautiful uses with knitters of all skill levels. In this book, I’ll teach you different ways to shape, create, and embellish knitted circles, using traditional methods as well as some I’ve come up with on my own.”

She says she’s created 100 circles as well as 20 full, original designs for this collection–all made of circles–big ones, lots of little ones sewn together, or several joined in clever ways.

It’s easy to forget … knitting so obviously lends itself to rectangles and squares … but circles are versatile. You might think “hat” and “pillow” and then stop, with a glancing thought at a circle skirt or wrap/shawl/poncho of some kind. But really, you can do all sorts of things with circles. Sweaters. Afghans. Bags. Almost anything.

The book starts with basic shapes–ways to knit a circle. Start in the center and increase in a spoke pattern? A spiral? How about knit across in garter stitch rows? Or shaped around a center point with short rows? Then you can add texture … stitch patterns like cables or lace. (It’s hard to flip through some of these without thinking of the perfect tam-o’shanter cap.) Of course, color is always nice, so next we can try stranded color, or intarsia blocks–anything to add a splash. And then, as a full-fledged swing at having fun, there’s the “eclectic” section filled with … well, everything.

Finally, we get the patterns for the 20 original designs–sweaters, wraps, afghans, bags. A nice variety, all using circles. Some I think are more successful than others. (Some look rather like they’re using circles because they can rather than because they should.) But they’re all fun, all creative, and many of them are lovely.

Really, the book is a pleasure to flip through, and with so many different circles to choose from, there are tons of inspiration here.

But, then, it’s Nicky Epstein. At this point, I expect nothing less.

You can get your copy at Amazon.com.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

This review copy was kindly donated by Potter Craft. Thank you!

My Gush: It’s Nicky Epstein. Of course it’s wonderful.

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Review: Pop Knitting

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First, the facts:

Title: Pop Knitting: Bold Motifs Using Color & Stitch

Author: Britt-Marie Christofferson

Published by: Interweave Press, 2012

Pages: 215

Type: Stitch patterns and ideas

Chapters:

1. Patterns
2. Techniques and Abbreviations

KS: Pop Knitting

The In-Depth Look:

When this book crossed my desk, I looked at the cover and thought, “Wow, this looks cheerful, but not really my style.” I fully expected that I would flip through it, tell you how pretty it was, and then move on.

But … instead, I was blown away.

This book isn’t just about color.

I mean, yes, it IS about color. It says it right on the cover. “Bold motifs using color and stitch.” Color is a main ingredient in many of the stitches and pictures in here. So is texture.

But, flipping through this, they’re not the main point.

The important word in that subtitle?

BOLD.

The author strides boldly through the world of knitting and comes back with something completely new. Using pieces of braided knitting as bright accents. Using ordinary buttonholes to completely reconfigure how a sweater drapes. Using welts and color to make knits look like hand-woven fabric. Working contrasting bind-offs into the center of stripes to make a horizontal chain. Tying pieces together with i-cord instead of using ordinary seams.

It’s like there’s nothing she’s afraid to do.

I’m amazed and awed.

She says in her intro, “I want to show how knitting has the potential for endless variety. I want to inspire you and every knitter to try new patterns, and I hope that my ideas will, in turn lead you to new ideas for your knitting.”

Well, job accomplished there.

Now, one thing you need to know? While I’m calling this a stitch dictionary, it’s not … quite. Some stitches and shown swatches are yes, definitely spelled out row by row so you can re-create them. But some of them–usually the pages that have multiple swatches displayed–just give you a general outline of how they were created, using a stitch that was already detailed. For example, the first detailed stitch is a four-row, two color garter stitch, fully explained. But the next page is full of samples of how you could use that to put geometric blocks or circles into a field of plain stockinette to create a special effect. But it doesn’t spell out exactly HOW.

To my mind, this makes this book one the author wants you to PLAY with. She’s just reminding you that you already have the tools.

Yep. Awesome.

Check out the book at Amazon!

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

This review copy was kindly donated by Interweave Press. Thank you!

My Gush: Bold and bright and inspiring!

Review: Noni Flowers

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First, the facts:

Title: Noni Flowers: 40 Exquisite Knitted Flowers, 6 Beautiful Projects

Author: Nora J. Bellows

Published by: Potter Craft, 2012

Pages: 176

Type: Knitted flowers

Chapters:

1. The Flowers
2. The Projects

KS: Noni Flowers

The In-Depth Look:

Well, it’s Spring, which means it’s time for flowers. (Lots of very early flowers if you had a non-winter like we did.) So it’s not exactly a surprise that a book of knitted flowers would cross my desk.

Except, this isn’t just any book of knitted flowers. These are masterpieces.

They aren’t just facsimiles of flowers–a cup of petals for a tulip, or a frill of them for a rose. No, these are practically scientific specimens, recreated as exactly, as perfectly, as beautifully as possible.

The author writes:

The task of the nineteenth-century farmer-scientist was to explore the details of our world. Flowers were dissected, labeled, their jewel-like structures marveled at. These days, we take the microscope and all the detail it reveals somewhat for granted, and yet, a study of details is something of a rare thing. We look at flowers from a distance. We enjoy a profusion, we like great numbers of them in vases, we settle for a distant celebration of their beauty. Here I bring forty select flowers close through the process of knitting them. I’ve sought to interpret a truth about each flower by using the architecture of actual flowers to suggest how the knitted versions must be formed. …This book has allowed me to take the knitted flower to a higher level of detail and realism than a single sheet pattern could possibly allow.”

This book is ridiculously lovely to look through. The patterns are astounding in their realism. 40 flowers to choose from, as well as 6 projects–bags, wraps, fingerless gloves, a pillow. They’re gorgeous.

I’m not a gardener. I’m lucky my houseplants don’t die, so I’m no expert on how accurate these knitted blooms are, but from what I can see, they’re remarkable.

The photography is a treat, too. Each flower is photographed with real, living greenery, so you can see the knitted blooms atop the real vine or stem or twig that the real thing grows on. It makes for gorgeous visuals. (They’d make fantastic prints to frame and hang on the wall, in fact. Or, maybe a calendar? The publisher should really consider that.)

It’s a gorgeous book, with meticulous, beautiful flowers to knit–as well as six projects to make if you’re not sure what to do with your flowers once you’ve knit them.

You should check this out. Even if only to admire the photographs (which, I’ll warn you, will probably inspire you to want to knit these yourself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You can check out the book at Amazon.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

This review copy was kindly donated by Potter Craft. Thank you!

My Gush: Gorgeous flowers, real enough to make you sneeze.