The best Knitting books for beginners & advanced knitters

A detailed review of the best knitting books 2020 with my personal recommendations

I love a good knitting book. Beautiful pictures, some fascinating charts, and a little background story about how the various designs were created. Something I can read while snuggled up on my couch sipping a hot chocolate.

Do you know what I hate? Book reviews from someone who clearly never read or owns the books and just pulled the info from Amazon. The internet is, sadly, full of them. So, I decided to present you with my personal favorite knitting books. The ones that inspire me, and the ones I feel could truly help you on your personal knitting journey.

reading my favorite knitting books with a cup of coffee

I own a lot more knitting books than I mention in this article. But for various reasons, I don’t like them or can’t recommend them. It’s not easy to press such a complex hobby like knitting into a book. Bad formating, weird charts, endless typos, small pictures – the list of things that can (and sadly often does) go wrong is very long.

On top of that, I didn’t want to recommend any books that only make sense for a short while. If you want to know how to do the purl stitch the right way, go read my guide and watch the video. And you probably don’t need to buy one either if you want to learn everything about the stockinette stitch. For me, a knitting book is all about getting inspired or having a reliable reference for important techniques & designs.

So, let’s dive right into it!

Note: I earn a small comission for purchases made through links in this article

1. The Principles of Knitting – June Hemmons Hiatt

the principles of knitting book by june hemmons hiatt on a coffee table

If there is one book every knitter should own then it’s “The Principles of Knitting” by June Hemmons Hiatt. It’s a huge tome of roughly 700 pages (!!) with every knitting technique imaginable and then some. No matter your question, it will provide you with an answer to solve your problem. I do recommend getting the second edition (2012) as it has been updated thoroughly from when it was first published in 1988.

That being said, it’s not an easy book. While there are quite some illustrations and pictures, not every single step is explained visually. It requires you to do your own thinking. Experienced knitters will probably have no problem but I wouldn’t recommend it for learning how to knit (but hey, that’s why I have a free knitting school here on my blog).

reviewing different knitting books. Open is "The Principles of knitting" with a stack of other books next to it

There are also no patterns inside. Instead, it will show you how to approach your own designs. If there was one thing I had to criticize about the book then it was its terminology which is not always in line with what most people these days call the various stitches. Still, hands down the best knitting techniques book on the market.

-> Buy “The Principles of Knitting” on Amazon

2. The Knitter’s Book of Yarn – Clara Parkes

the knitter's book of yarn by clara parkes with some coffee and hanks of yarn

The second knitting book I can recommend from the bottom of my heart is Clara Parkes’ “The Knitter’s Book of Yarn“. It’s not your average pattern or technique almanac. Instead, it puts the focus on different types of yarns and their uses. What might sound boring, is in fact anything but that. Plus, there are over 40 patterns inside as well.

Why do I like it? Making the right yarn choice for a project is such an important aspect when it comes to bringing your hobby to the next level. And that’s where a lot of beginners and intermediate knitters fail. They either pick the cheapest yarn available or the one that had the most beautiful speckles (just in case, here’s a list of indie dyers with100+ entries) – but that’s not how you should approach the designing process.

reviewing the knitter's book of yarn by clara parkes - especially the knitting patterns

Knit cables with mohair yarn, and you will see nothing. Knit them with superwash merino and they will pop. Knit stockinette stitch with a yarn with a very high ply, and it will almost look like a different pattern because the left leg of the V is so twisted, etc. And this book will really teach you how you should pick your yarn and find patterns to match.

-> Buy “The Knitter’s Book of Yarn” on Amazon

3. Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible – Hitomi Shida

The Japanese knitting stitch bible by hitomi shida - a knitting book with more than 200 stitch patterns
Note: I have the German edition; the book was translated in quite a lot of languages

There are so many books with stitches on the market it’s hard to name the one best knitting book in that department. Still, I believe that Hitomi Shida’s “Japanese Knitting Stitch Bibledeserves the top spot. Why? Because it is different and it offers you with a challenge.

See, I personally don’t need to buy a book to read about the Star Stitch or the ZigZag Rib. While this is all nice and cute for your first months of knitting, I just feel I don’t need to spend 20, 30, or 40 USD to see the difference between a broken rib stitch and a waffle stitch – besides there are a thousand other e-books and blogs with that kind of information available for free.

reviewing the japanese knitting stitch bible by hitomi shida

Hitomi Shida, on the other hand, presents you with 260 intricate stitch patterns that can truly inspire you. A lot of them are complicated, fair enough. And there are charts all over the place (make sure to read my tutorial on reading knitting charts the right way in case you have issues in that department). There are also a lot of fancy techniques involved.

But I guarantee you, this book will get you dreaming about new designs and patterns the second you pick it up.

Buy the “Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible” on Amazon

4. Knitter’s Almanac and Knitting without tears – Elizabeth Zimmerman

knitting without tears by elizabeth zimmerman - one of the best books for beginners

Knitting is an ancient craft. But in terms of comprehensive knitting books, there’s not a very long history, as it was mostly passed down orally from mother to daughter (or father to son, depending on the country) and through schools. Elizabeth Zimmerman was one of the very first to bring universal knitting techniques, principles, and stitches to a broader audience.

And even up until today, her books withstood the test of time. I mean, they harken back to a different era. It was certainly more about doilies, baby, and winter wear back then, and handknitting with roving or speckled yarns weren’t a thing. Still, both the “Knitter’s Almanac” and “Knitting Without Tears” are a great addition to your library.

reviewing knitting withtout tears by elizabeth zimmermann

When you read Elizabeth Zimmerman, it feels like you are visiting a distant (and maybe a bit eccentric) relative and you sit down and talk about knitting. The charts and instructions are hand-drawn from way before the age of computers. On the negative side, the patterns (like a lot of other vintage patterns as well) are not as accessible. But then again, EZ is all about getting creative yourself and teaching you to design your own stuff and navigating around common problems. So, I don’t even think this is a major flaw.

5. A treasury of Knitting Patterns – Barbara G. Walker

a treasury of knitting patterns by barbara g walker with knitting needles and a cup of coffee

Another time-proven knitting book is “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns” by Barbara G. Walker. She actually published three more books in that series but the first is probably the best. It was first published in 1968 and certainly won’t win the award for best new knitting book. At the same time, you will find well over 1.000 timeless knitting stitch patterns in these books.

reviewing a treasury of knitting patterns book

I do have to say that they are perhaps not the most accessible. The shorthand instructions take quite some time to get used to. So, maybe nothing for absolute beginners. But it is a nice reference book for experienced knitters who are looking for an interesting design to add to their next pattern.

-> Buy “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns” on Amazon

6. Bäuerliches Stricken – Lisl Fanderl

bäuerliches stricken by lisl fanderl - a knitting book series with traditional bavarian sock designs

If you’d ask me what my personal favorite knitting books of all time are, then I’d have to answer “Bäuerliches Stricken” by Lisl Fanderl. Sadly, there is no English translation available for these Bavarian classics.

What Lisl Fanderln did was quite unique: She toured around the alpine regions of Germany and Austria and compiled a book full of these traditional designs (mostly in bavarian twisted stitches). If you are a sock knitter, then this will be an invaluable treasure trove of knitting stitch patterns and designs.

There are similar books by Maria Erlbacher for purely Austrian designs and there exists an English translation with 174 stitch designs. Probably the better option if you don’t speak German. Though Lisl Fanderl’s books are basically just charts and pictures – so possibly still accessible to advanced knitters who want to get in contact with centuries of traditional designs.

Buy “Twisted-Stitch Knitting” by Maria Erlbacher on Amazon

7. Vogue Knitting – The ultimate Knitting book

Vogue Knitting - the Ultimate Knitting book by the editors of Vogue

I am personally not the biggest fan of Vogue knitting. I feel a lot of their designs are weirdly dated and not at all fashionable. Still, I do have to admit that their “Vogue® Knitting The Ultimate Knitting Book” – especially in the revised and updated version is probably the best knitting book for advanced beginners who like to look beyond knits and purls.

review of the vogue knitting book with the pages explaining decreases

Unlike a lot of other books on this list, it’s very easy to understand and the explanations are supported with clear schematics and swatches. I love the fact that there are sections for lefthanders as well. Knitting stitches, finishing techniques, yarns, pattern reading, and even embroidery or beading are explained in a contemporary and very concise way.

Don’t expect any patterns though. There are only recipes for a basic sweater, sock, and mittens included. Still, a very well-rounded book that has been revised over and over again to perfection.

Buy “Vogue® Knitting The Ultimate Knitting Book” on Amazon

8. The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns – Ann Budd

the knitter's handy sweater book of patterns by ann budd on a table

I am a firm believer in learning how to write your own patterns. Knitting is a hobby that allows you to express your own creativity. Whether it’s the yarn you choose or the stitch pattern you pick – the final garment is something unique. A lot of knitters these days just replicate the designs of someone else – same size, same yarn. I personally feel this is quite a pity.

reviewing the knitter's handy sweater book of patterns by ann budd with a page on child sizing

And if you like to design your own pattern as well, then Ann Budd’s books will be invaluable to you. She wrote three, but “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns” is probably where you should start. Her “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns” is just as amazing.

It’s basically a book full of basic knitting patterns and very detailed sizing information so you can adjust them (no matter your size or the yarn you use) to fit perfectly. The idea: You can then use these elaborate recipes and embellish them with any knitting stitch pattern you like.

Buy “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns” on Amazon

9. 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A knitter’s directory – By Mary Jane Mucklestone

200 fair isle motifs knitting book by mary jane mucklestone with a project next to it

Knitting Fair Isle is a bit like coloring books for children. You start with graph paper and then just fill the little box with the motifs you like best. I personally don’t believe stranded knitting necessarily needs a fixed pattern. So, why do I recommend “200 Fair Isle Motifs” by Mary Jane Mucklestone anyway? Well, believe it’s an excellent basis for providing the spark for your inspiration.

review of 200 fair isle motifs knitting book by mary jane mucklestone with a page full of beautiful patterns

Experienced colorwork knitters probably won’t a lot of new insights but if you want to expand your horizon, it’s a goldmine. There are so many basic motifs to choose from and the overall technique is explained quite well on top of that. It’s, in my opinion, the best of the Fair Isle books on the market.

Buy “200 Fair Isle Motifs – a knitter’s directory” on Amazon

10. A Blank spiral notebook

My own knitting journal written in a blank spiral notebook

Seriously? Well, yes. Actually, I believe writing your own knitting journal is one of the smartest and most important things you could ever do. As you proceed along your knitting journey, you will often revisit old patterns. Maybe {insert name of a loved one} wants another pair of socks because they loved them so much and the old ones are kind of threadbare by now.

Well, if you noted down the yarn, the measurements and the stitches you cast on, knitting another pair will be a breeze. No need to start the guesswork over again. Also, sometimes you are altering existing patterns, but the outcome is not to your satisfaction. If you can retrace your steps, you also have the basis to adjust the pattern so it turns out perfect the next time.

There are tons of so-called “knitting journals” on Amazon, but really, a blank spiral notebook is all you need. Or maybe something with graph paper, so you can plot charts (if that’s what you want to do). I don’t think you need templates. The only person who will ever read this book will (quite possibly) be you, so do whatever suits you and your style best.

-> Here’s a selection of spiral Notebooks on Amazon

Other knitting books you should consider

Throughout the years, I also bought a couple of books that I feel deserve an honorary mention. These are probably books better suited for advanced knitters like me, who’ve seen it all and only want some further inspiration and no technique manuals.

1. Arctic Lace – Donna Durchunas

Artic lace knitting book by donna druchunas - featuring the traditions of the First nations

A while ago I started on the journey to design a shawl pattern for some exquisite Quivit yarn ( before you ask, its not ready yet). And I had this idea to incorporate traditional designs of the First Nations into my pattern and that’s how I stumbled across the book “Arctic Lace” by Donna Druchunas.

I don’t believe it’s the best knitting book ever created. It certainly has quite a couple of flaws. BUT I truly love how it offers you a glimpse into a whole new knitting tradition: How the rare Quivit yarn is harvested and which patterns are traditionally knit with it.

-> Buy “Arctic Lace” here

2. Knitted Lace of Estonia

This is another regional book and a lovely addition for makers who love lace. It’s a really good book for advanced knitters but you do have to have quite some experience with knitting shawls. Other than that there’s a wealth of patterns and design ideas that I’m sure you will love.

There’s also quite a lot of fascinating history about the Estonian lace tradition. Even if you don’t want to knit the pattern I still find it quite interesting to read about that.

-> Buy “Knitted Lace of Estonia” here

Anyways, that is my list of the best knitting books for beginners and advanced knitters. Feel free to comment with your favorites!

The 10 best knitting books - 2020 review

2 thoughts on “The best Knitting books for beginners & advanced knitters”

  1. this is a very good bibliography…
    and…
    i have all but 2 of the books!
    and i’m ordering one of them right away (i dont do sweaters).
    thank you so much for this…
    best regards,
    daisy 🙂

    Reply

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