Book Review – The Knowledgeable Knitter

jacketA little while ago I was sent a great book to review on circular knitting by Margaret Radcliffe, which I really enjoyed and have found useful. I’ve now been asked to look at another book by her, The Knowledgeable Knitter.

I’ve got several basic instructional books, from a battered copy of Mary Thomas which belonged to my mother and possibly to her mother, to June Hemmons Hiatt’s massive and exhaustive Principles of Knitting. What, I wondered, might this new book have to offer that was different? Then I thought again – perhaps, with my somewhat mangled collection, I’m not actually the target audience. Maybe this is designed for relatively new knitters.

And then I opened it and began to work my way through it, and my assumptions were wrong. It will be brilliant for those people who have recently picked up the sticks and string, but it’s got something in there for every knitter. I’m convinced of it, in fact.

But don’t just believe me… time for a look inside.

page1

The comparisons of various approaches to particular situations, as here (looking at corded edges on the left and decreases at the very edge on the right), are particularly useful. It’s not often you get to see options spread out in this way. Come to think of it, short of knitting a shedload of samples, I don’t think I’ve seen it done so well before.

I’m currently working up a pattern for a big cowl knitted in two skeins of Colinette Prism, for instance, and I need a neat edge. I normally always use the very old method on everything – a garter-stitch edge (knitting the first and last stitches of every row). However, I wasn’t sure I wanted the nobbly edge which that produces, so I tried several of the options here. OK, I couldn’t find what I needed when I looked up ‘selvedge’, but I just looked up ‘edges’ instead. Then I went to my other books – and this is by far the clearest.

Let’s try another double page spread, this time part of the section on cast offs (aka bind offs, of course – this is an American book).

page 3

On the left are some suggestions for stretchy cast-offs, including my favourite, the yarn-over cast off (the detailed drawings are at the back of the book, in the appendix, and are very clear). On the right are some embellishments and a look at applied edgings. I have yet to come across an apparently ‘basic’ book that covers this. Hang on, I’m just checking… yup. There’s a bit in Montse Stanley’s brilliant Handknitter’s Handbook from 1986, but I have to say that those are very 70s – tassels, bobbles… The examples here are rather more relevant. And photographic.

Basic? Nah (there’s a section – a good section – on steeking, for instance, and plenty of info on design and adapting patterns).

Some of the best parts for me are those on design and adapting. Here’s a page on circular shaping in pattern stitches, in the section on shaping and fitting.

yokes

I know from my own experience that this often confuses even experienced knitters (well, it certainly confuses me sometimes). And the illustrations are wonderful – really clear. The photographs inspire you, and it is so good to see what an end result actually looks like when you are contemplating the technique illustrations at the back. Basic? No, I really don’t think so.

And what about some practical advice on amendments? How about ‘reshaping armholes’? Adjusting sleeve caps? Both recently relevant. And I was very pleased to see a small part on weaving in colours along seams, long a bugbear of mine. Margaret Radcliffe is very methodical, exactly as I was taught to be with Fair Isle – great (I was taught in threes: one along, one across one way, one across the other way; she goes every other stitch, one up and one down, repeated on both sides of the seam for four ends, or for French braiding).

OK, I’m not going to refer to the part about understanding knitting patterns very often – though, having said that, it might help me get over my blind spot about charted cable patterns – but there is a ton of stuff in here for me, and for most of us.

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17 thoughts on “Book Review – The Knowledgeable Knitter

  1. Sue

    What she said! This looks really useful across a range of topics and levels of experience. It’s really helpful to have your take on it, too. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Sandra

    Hello 😀 I am new to your blog. I stumbled upon it while searching for Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book. I have her first one so would love to complete the set. I have really enjoyed reading your reviews. I like your sense of humour and how you write. I also Margaret Radcliffe’s ‘Circular Knitting Workshop’ as well as her ‘Essential Guide to Colour Knitting Techniques’ (which I had forgotten about to be honest…I love buying knitting books and crochet books!) I love to challenge myself too which is one of the reasons why I like Margaret’s books. Thank you for your thoughts on each. I look forward to reading more

    Sandra
    South Kilkenny
    Ireland

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Hi Sandra and welcome to Woolwinding and hooray, another Mary Thomas fan!
      I just wish she wasn’t quite so mysterious, I’d love to know more about her… I inherited my copies of her books from my mother, but they were republished in the 1980s, I think. Have a try on abebooks – you never know. I think Mgt Radcliffe is a worthy successor, though – mind you the last time I tried to follow her instructions for something I ended up in the most godawful mess and WORDS were spoken. Hmmm. (My fault, not hers, I’m sure.)

      Reply
  3. Sandra

    Hi Kate thank you for the lovely welcome :D! With reference to ‘Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns’, I found my copy in an Oxfam bookshop in Dublin (Dublin is a great city for second hand bookshops and thrift shops as well!). You never know what you will find. I digress. I have yet to try anything from Margaret’s books but I love how colourful they are. Sadly knitting fau pax’s are nothing new with me. So far I have knit a pair of socks for my partner (perfect except they are so tiny they would fit a three year old and full mittens that resemble oven mitts! They are huuuuge! Not sure what went wrong there :/:/:/:$. However I do intend to knit something from all three. Look forward to seeing your masterpieces from Margaret Radcliffe’s books 😀

    Sandra
    South Kilkenny

    Reply
      1. kate Post author

        Ok, part 2, and hopefully I won’t hit the wrong key this time. I think we’ve all made mistakes, can think of many including my handspun ‘nipple hat’ which had a strange pointy bit and the big expanding jumper of doom… If you’re on Ravelry, there’s a thrilling topic on the ‘For Love if Ravelry’ board called Ugliest FO. It’s very consoling…

        Reply
        1. kate Post author

          And part 3, where I forgot about the amazing bookshop in Galway where I completely lost track of time and caused a diplomatic incident when I forgot a ‘not a first communion, honest’ party I didn’t want to go to anyway…

  4. Sandra

    Hi Kate thank you for the lovely welcome :D! With reference to ‘Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns’, I found my copy in an Oxfam bookshop in Dublin (Dublin is a great city for second hand bookshops and thrift shops as well!). You never know what you will find. I digress. I have yet to try anything from Margaret’s books but I love how colourful they are. Sadly knitting fau pax’s are nothing new with me. So far I have knit a pair of socks for my partner (perfect except they are so tiny they would fit a three year old and full mittens that resemble oven mitts! They are huuuuge! Not sure what went wrong there :/:/:/:$. However I do intend to knit something from all three. Look forward to seeing your masterpieces from Margaret Radcliffe’s books 😀

    Sandra

    Reply
  5. Sandra

    Oh dear! Yes I can identify with that. I hate parties anyways. I have lost touch with most our relations anyways so i ask myself what’s the point if we habe little in common. Sounds harsh i know but its embarrassing when you have little in common anyways. I have just realised i think I may have posted my comments twice!

    I believe I have a gem then. 😀 It wasn’t cheap by Oxfam’s standards. I paid €20 for it about 5 years ago. But hey it’s ok to treat ourselves now and again don’t you agree?

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      That sounds like a bargain! Definitely worth a treat…

      (I definitely didn’t intend to miss the do, except I suspect I did, subcosciously. Or I wouldn’t have turned up in jeans and an old t-shirt… Thank heavens for bookshops!)

      Reply

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