A Selection of Classic Knitting Books

PieceWork just released its twelfth-annual Historical Knitting issue, January/February 2018. Knitting books hold a special place both in our hearts and on our bookshelves. Here are a few of our favorite knitting books that were featured in the January/February 2008 issue, our second-annual Historical Knitting issue.

knitting books

Armenian Knitting
By Meg Swansen and Joyce Williams
Pittsville, Wisconsin: Schoolhouse Press, 2007. Hardbound, 80 pages, $24. ISBN 978-0-942018-27-1.

Distinctive handknitted sweaters were a hallmark of the collections of Parisian couturier Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973), starting with her first collection in 1927. In Armenian Knitting, Meg Swansen and Joyce Williams reveal the traditional “trapping” technique that characterized those sweaters, knitted by first one and then a series of Armenian women. Instructions for eleven projects—hats, sweaters, vests, and a jacket—follow directions for working “with two colors carried at all times. . . . [T]he carried color is supposed to peek through the surface of the fabric. . . .” The resulting garments with their delightful “isolated motifs” would make Schiaparelli proud.

ethnic knitting books

Ethnic Knitting Discovery: The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and The Andes
By Donna Druchunas
Fort Collins, Colorado: Nomad Press, 2007. Softbound, 176 pages, $21.95. ISBN 978-0-9668289-3-1.

Donna Druchunas’s thorough presentation of the basics—sweater shapes and proportions, measuring and gauge, supplies, charts, and casting on and binding off—prepares even less experienced knitters for completing the scarf, cap, headband, change purse, and eight sweaters inspired by traditional techniques and patterns from each of the four regions mentioned in the title. The projects are presented according to increasing complexity, and for working each one, the knitter can choose from a visual plan containing only schematics and minimal instructions, a detailed worksheet for recording measurements and stitch counts, or a project sheet offering step-by-step instructions. Clear and concise illustrations, black-and-white detail photographs, and technical notes further guide the knitter.

selbuvotter knitting books

Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition
By Terri Shea
Seattle, Washington: Spinningwheel, 2007. Softbound, 127 pages, $24.95. ISBN 978-0-9793126-0-1.

The knitted mitten tradition of Selbu, Norway, began with the development by Marit Guldseth Emstad (1841–1929) of the region’s distinctive white-and-black wool mittens decorated with the eight-pointed rose now known as the selburose. Terri Shea, who studied and knitted reproductions of examples from the collections of Annemor Sundbø, Setesdal, Norway, and the Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle, Washington, here shares her reproduction patterns for thirty-one mittens and gloves along with detailed step-by-step instructions, large charts, and photographs, including a photograph of the original mittens or gloves that accompanies each project.

—Alexandra Eastman

If you’re inspired by these great knitting books, make this free project from Weldon’s Practical Needlework, a Ribbed Scarf with Crocheted Edging!


Learn more about historical knitting in PieceWork!

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