Q for You: What are your favorite knitting pattern books?

Best knitting pattern books

This Q for You comes from rachelalise in the comments, who is looking for recommendations on the best knitting pattern books:

I have an (unrelated) question for you and your most wise readers as I work out my Christmas list: do you have any favorite pattern *books* that a knitter should own? I realize that I almost exclusively knit from online patterns purchased one-off, and I’d love to build a collection of books that I can return to that contain patterns. (I have a good set of what I guess I’d term “technique books,” and all the most wonderful EZ books, but nothing else that is exclusively dedicated to patterns.)

I’m rather in the same boat and share her curiosity. For me, in my admittedly narrow experience, there aren’t a lot of books that have enough good patterns in them to warrant the cover price. So I have only invested in a few. Here are the ones I’m happiest to have bought, in no particular order:

1. “The Knitter’s Book of Wool” by Clara Parkes. Not “exclusively dedicated to patterns” — it’s about half education and half patterns, but both halves are well worth owning. (I believe the same is true of her “Knitter’s Book of Yarn,” but I loaned it to someone and never got it back, so can’t say for sure.)

2. “More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts” by Joelle Hoverson is the book that made me a knitter, and it is just wall to wall with excellent patterns.

3. Pom Pom Quarterly is like a really good pattern book that happens to be sold in installments.

4. Pioneer by Martin Storey. They may be classified and sold as periodicals, but the one-off editions of Rowan are actually slender, beautifully produced, paperback books. This volume (which I originally raved about here) contains more patterns I want to knit than any other bound object on my shelf.

5. “Knitting by Design” by Emma Robertson. Just published a few weeks ago, and I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with it. It’s very young and bright and funky, not designed or photographed like any other knitting book out there, but contains several wildly adaptable patterns. E.g., a knitted tank sweater happens to be white and dip-dyed, but you could make that tank a million different things by changing the yarn/color, dyeing it or not, etc. Same with the colorblock mittens, the adorable vest, etc.

6–8. “Knit One Knit All,” “Knitter’s Almanac” and “Knitting Without Tears” by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It takes a little imagination to see how some of EZ’s garments and accessories can look modern, but they can. I did a riff on this in Street styling Elizabeth Zimmermann (a year ago today! how weird), but just look at Abigail Chapin in her light grey Icelandic Overblouse (from Knit One Knit All), which is just like EZ’s original and looks perfectly current.

Those are the ones I’m most likely to knit from, although when it comes time to browse patterns, I do turn to my PDFs. I’ll also mention that one book I really want but don’t own yet is “Fair Isle Style” by Mary Jane Mucklestone. So let’s hear it, please: What are your favorite knitting pattern books?


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you join a new ball of yarn?

Street styling Elizabeth Zimmermann

From the moment I took up knitting, people began imploring me to read Elizabeth Zimmermann (the Julia Child of the knitting world). “You HAVE TO. You’ll LOVE her!” Not only for her trademark dry humor, but for her preference for simple-yet-brilliant construction techniques over complicated stitch patterns. Everyone was right, of course: I now read her books and patterns as if they were novels. Her infinite wisdom and wit are timeless, and given that she was more descriptive than prescriptive, so are most of her designs. So I hate to think that a single person might ever take a glance at the books and write them off as outmoded. To demonstrate just how relevant the shapes still are, I would like to direct your attention to some of the darlings of the street-style scene, whose looks are easily simulated with EZ’s help:

elisa nalin x elizabeth zimmermann

Stylist Elisa Nalin is known for her constant smile and her bright and kooky ensembles, such as this one captured by Vanessa Jackman. Who but Nalin would have reached for that boxy, blueberry-colored bowling shirt in the middle of Paris Fashion Week? And yet, she looks delightful. As will you in your own knitted version—

Nalin x Zimmermann
pattern: Open-Collared Pullover
book: “Knitter’s Almanac”
yarn: Rowan Wool Cotton in Marine

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natalie joos x elizabeth zimmermann

Blogger and casting agent Natalie Joos loves a sweater, especially where it’s least expected, such as over a red-carpet gown atop the Empire State Building. We’ve seen this outfit here once before, but let’s consider how easy it would be to recreate that covetable vintage DKNY funnel-neck. (Unfortunately, there’s no help I can offer when it comes to availing yourself of the amazing Peter Som dress.)

Joos x Zimmermann
pattern: Hurry-Up Last-Minute Sweater
book: “Knitter’s Almanac”
yarn: Purl Soho Super Soft Merino in Super Pink (held double for the full effect)

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ruby aldridge x elizabeth zimmermann

Model Ruby Aldridge (in another Vanessa Jackman catch) puts a young, punk twist on a traditional Icelandic sweater by pairing it with a biker jacket and skinny jeans. EZ may never have styled hers this way, but she did multiple versions of the seamless yoke sweater.

Aldridge x Zimmermann
pattern: Seamless Yoke Sweater
book: “Knitting Without Tears”
yarn: Un-Spun Icelandic in Spruce, Sage and Gold (imported and sold by EZ’s own company, Schoolhouse Press)

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So there you go. Which will you make first, and how will you be wearing it?