Thursday, March 16, 2017

7 Reasons This Book is the Most Useful Knitting Tool You Don't Have

*This post may contain affiliate links.*

When you want to learn a new knitting technique, where do you go? YouTube? Google? Pinterest?

I do that too. But before I do, I check a book.

Yep. An actual paper, hardcover book. One book in particular: The Complete Book of Needlecraft.*

I’ve had it since I was a kid, when my grandmother gave me her extra copy. Back when the internet was slow or nonexistent, it was my best and only resource when I wanted to learn something new. But even now that I have a world of information at my fingertips, it’s still my go-to. Here’s why it belongs on every yarn crafter’s bookshelf:

Clear Explanations

Needlecraft doesn’t just teach how to do specific stitches; it give clear background explanations as well. There’s a two-page spread about gauge, for instance, that really shows why it’s so important to know your gauge so that your final project fits the way you want. It tells about the background of knitting Fair Isle or cables to give you more of a grounding in how they work.

Detailed Illustrations

The illustrations of each step are clear and easy-to-follow, much clearer than a lot of photos in online tutorials. (Including my own.) Even on the pages with stitch patterns have illustrations on the page to demonstrate how those stitch patterns are done.

Easy-to-Follow Patterns

Needlecraft doesn’t have many patterns in the sense of here’s-how-to-make-this-lace-scarf. It has stitch patterns for lace, cables, Fair Isle, and more, for you to use as you will, if you want to make a scarf or a hat or blanket, or even just a swatch to practice. I learned Fair Isle by knitting a swatch from a pattern in the book; same with lace. In high school I designed my first sweater – an Aran cable hooded cardigan using a combination of the patterns from the book – which was cute, but really heavy and uncomfortable. (I don’t have it anymore.)

I knit this lace scarf/shawl using one of the lace patterns in Needlecraft.

Flexible Designs

Along with the last point, there are few specific patterns in this book – you won’t see many patterns that call for specific needle sizes or yarn weights. Instead, it tells you how to make pieces in the right shapes to sew together to make a sweater. It gives measurements rather than stitch counts. This is fun in some ways, and gives a lot of flexibility to adapt them to your needs.

Timeless Style or Retro Chic

Needlecraft is from the early ‘80s. The fashions are definitely retro, but I’ve been seeing some of those styles come back into fashion recently – apparently it’s old enough to start being cool again. Other timeless designs, like Fair Isle or Aran cables (think fisherman sweaters), never went out of style.

Craft Variety

As its name implies, Needlecraft is a fairly complete collection of instructions for a variety of fiber arts. There are knitting and crocheting chapters, obviously, but there are also sections on sewing and embroidery. It’s really handy to have instructions on all of your crafts in one place, and if you decide to branch out and try something different, you have a number of options.


I know that when I look through Needlecraft I’m going to get clear directions every time. I don’t have that confidence when I’m looking for tutorials online – there are so many resources available, but I have to sift through them to find the most useful. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to quickly look something up without having to worry about the quality of the source.

The Downsides

I still refer to Needlecraft regularly when I need a refresher on a skill or want to learn something new. But I’ll fully admit it has flaws.
  • It doesn’t have many patterns that can be followed detail-by-detail.
  • It’s big and clunky, so you can’t easily take it with you for reference.
  • No videos. It can be really helpful to see someone doing a skill so you can practice along and see if you’re doing it right or wrong.

I’m so glad that I can look up whatever I want online, and no book can really compete with that. But I think they can complement each other. A lot of patterns available online are written with the expectation that you know certain skills; I like to use the book to learn and practice those skills before jumping into a new pattern. The Complete Book of Needlecraft is a valuable resource that I’m glad to have on my shelf.

What's your favorite knitting book or website? Tell me about it in the comments!

*Kirkwood, Janet, et. al. The Complete Book of Needlecraft. New York: Exeter Books, 1983.

No comments:

Post a Comment