Must-have books lately

Must-have books: The Vintage Shetland Project

There have been all kinds of books published, obviously, since my last little Books Lately post in October, but there are 3 that have come into my possession this spring (all of them hardcover) that simply must be noted—

I first mentioned Susan Crawford’s The Vintage Shetland Project back in 2015, when she had completed the garments and patterns and photography for this epic book and was beginning a crowdfunding campaign for the printing. Not long after, she was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer, and I think a lot of us held our breath both for her and for this incredible work-in-progress. Thankfully now she and the book have both come out the other side. This is a project — and thus a book — like nothing else. I don’t know how to summarize without doing it a disservice, but the elevator-pitch version is that Susan made it her life’s work to study garments and accessories in the Shetland Museum, to learn from them, and to recreate 27 of them in pattern form. The garments she chose are all from the first half of the 20th century (an epic era), knitted by for-hire knitters but who made these garments mostly for themselves or loved ones, from their own imaginations, employing techniques and details that wouldn’t be conducive to either commercial knitting or pattern writing. Think about it: To recreate them, Susan had to literally study every tiny stitch (of Fair Isle colorwork and lace), build charts from the fabric in front of her, and even create yarns in weights and types and colors to match the scale and fabric and palettes of these garments. And then to write usable, graded patterns for them — it’s mind-boggling. And then she photographed it all on the windswept isle of Vaila! But beyond all that, the book she has written melds fashion history and knitting history and the individual histories of these garments. It’s truly remarkable — and mammoth in scale — and I’m so happy it exists. Thank you for sending it to me, Susan; it’s a treasure. (The link above goes directly to Susan’s webshop, but note that she is in the UK. I’m not sure how widely available it is in US yarn stores or whatever. If you can’t find it at your LYS, Mason-Dixon is stocking it.)

Must-have books: Vogue Ultimate Knitting Book

When I was learning to knit six years ago, I picked up multiple encyclopedic how-to-knit books, but Vogue Knitting’s “Ultimate Knitting Book” was not among them. And those I did buy, I consulted in piecemeal fashion — looking up how each author suggested I pick up along a neckline or whatever. I’ve still never seen the original (1989) or previously updated (2002) editions of this book, but if I had had this edition — which is “completely revised and updated” — I would have sat down on my couch with it and read it from cover to cover, and saved myself lord knows how much trial-and-error anguish and googling and trauma. This books start at yarn — weights, fiber types, etc — walks through every conceivable how to from cast-ons to cables to colorwork, and heads straight into how to design for yourself. It’s only 350 pages (which seems slender compared to the other big knitting bible on my shelf) and packed full of illustrations and photos, and yet it manages to provide at least introductory level info on literally everything. I don’t know how they did that. But I might still sit down on my couch and read it cover to cover.

Must-have books: Japanese Stitches Unraveled

The world is full of stitch dictionaries, but the latest one from Wendy Bernard, “Japanese Stitches Unraveled,” has a couple of interesting things about it. First, it’s a compilation of stitch patterns she’s found in obscure Japanese stitch dictionaries and has named and re-charted to make them more accessible. But she’s also gone so far as to chart each of them up to four different ways, depending on whether there are distinctions to be made if you’re knitting bottom-up or top-down, flat or in-the-round. And she also offers guidance in the front of the book for how to go about incorporating them into your knitting projects. Each section of the book ends with a pattern, ranging from garments to home goods.


Of course, the book I’m most dying to get my hands on right now is Jen Hewett’s “Print, Pattern, Sew.” Jen and I are teaching together at Squam next week (and we’ll both have tables at the Art Fair) so I’m definitely coming home with that!


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9 thoughts on “Must-have books lately

  1. Jen’s book should be great. On her blog, for a year, she printed fabric and made her own wardrobe. Very inspiring.

  2. If interested in vintage knitting and Susan Crawford’s work there is an in depth interview with the author available on (YouTube) Fruity Knitting’s Episode 48. Link if interested (I have no stake in this – it’s a video podcast I watch and enjoy).

  3. I took a class for making your own fabric. Unless one has a huge area to make a huge mess it can be daunting. Also I strived for neat stamping and when some came out wonky I knew I was better off sewing pre made fabrics. But a fun learning experience all the same.

  4. Susan Crawford’s book is amazing! I got it as soon as it came out, and I keep thinking I should shelve it with my other books, but then I find myself reading through it again, so it’s staying on the table for now. The man who had his sweater in the POW camp – gives me chills! And the suffragette sweater…

  5. Thank you for these reviews, I am new to your blog so I went back and read your older posts. I love knitting and sewing books and I have several of your recommendations and I will be on the hunt to buy or borrow others you have reviewed. Thanks again!

  6. goingback to the basics, i would love to know the ”right” comprehensive how-to book for processing washed wool of all types (including double coats like Icelandic) into yarn/lopi or lopapeysa/fine/worsted/etc…

  7. Pingback: Must-have books lately – Twig & Loop

  8. Pingback: Weaving Within Reach: Or, what to do with your yarn leftovers | Fringe Association

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