Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Principles of Knitting

Yes, THAT book. The original.
The Principles of Knitting, by June Hemmons Hyatt, published 1988.
I bought it in 1989, when I'd been knitting about a year, because I could see the value in such a thing. Plus I'd been using the copy out of my local library and really wanted it. I paid full price - $29.95. (That was the year I worked at Citibanc and lived on my own, and with no one to stop me, I spent 37% of my income on books. My mother did my taxes that year and about keeled over when she sorted my receipts.)

No one has blogged this book, that I've seen on the internet. Probably because it's been out of print so long and it's so hard to find. An updated and expanded second edition has been in the works for at least three years. I've planned to buy a copy for my mother-in-law as a Christmas gift every year, and every year, they push back the publication again. Amazon was taking pre-orders at the end of this summer, before news broke that they were pushing back the publication date AGAIN, to February 2012. We hope. So, in the mean time, here's what they're building on. It'll give you an idea why this book is kind of mythical.

It's laid out in double columns, with fairly small text, to cram in as much information as possible. There's two-color printing (black for text with a dark aqua as accent color), with black and white photos and hand-drawn diagrams as needed.

The table of contents:
For youse who can't read it off the picture (I understand; my eyes suck these days) as always, my comments in parenthesis:

Part One - Working the Stitches (continental vs. other types; stitch mount; decreases and increases)
1. Learning to Knit and Purl
2. The Stitches
3. Decreases and Increases
4. Decorative Increases and Decreases

Part Two - Constructing a Fabric
5. Circular and Flat Knitting
6. Casting On (about ten methods)
7. Casting Off (ditto)
8. Selvedges (why, how, different types, what they're good for)
9. Contouring the Fabric
10. Picking Up Stitches
11. Hems, Facings, and Folds (why, what they're good for, many methods)
12. Openings
13. Double Knit

Part Three - Decorative Techniques
14. Working with Color
15. Inlay (more data than you can imagine)
16. Decorative Needlework
17. Beads and Sequins (multiple methods)

Part Four - Working a Project
18. Materials and Tools
19. Starting and Carrying Out a Project
20. Finishing Techniques (brain melt)
21. Cleaning and Dressing a Knitted Garment
22. Fulled/Felted Knits

Part Five - Reading and Designing Patterns
23. Reading Written Garment and Stitch Patterns
24. Stitch Gauge (brain melt)
25. Calculations used in Pattern Making and Alterations (DUDE.)
26. Stitch and Color Pattern Charts (now very pedestrian; at the time, huge news)
27. Schematic Drawings and Garment Pattern Charts

Oh, and in case you're wondering how she crammed that much info into one book? Here's how:
That page count isn't including the glossary and index.

"Meticulous" is the word I'd use, if I could only have one to describe the book. When I first got it, 20-odd years ago, I thought the amount of detail was crazy and I'd never use it. Twenty years later? I've referred to all of it, at one time or another. Nowadays, there are other books that rival or surpass this one, on narrow topics - for instance, "The Knitter's Book of Yarn" by Clara Parks is, dare I say it, better and more comprehensive than the "Materials and Tools" section of Principles, where yarn and fiber types are covered. But as an all-in-one, with all layers of needed information in one place? Nothing's ever come close to this book, that I've ever seen, before or since.

If you took "The Knitter's Book of Yarn", "Knitting in the Old Way", "Knitting Lace", "Knitting Without Tears", a couple books on fit by Lily Chin and Wendy Bernard, and had all of those jumbled together by a master knitter who then explained everything with diagrams? That's about what "Principles of Knitting" is.

With luck, the second edition will be out in February. Or by next Christmas. Or the one after that. Until then, you can talk to your local librarian about Inter-Library Loan and have them lay hands on it for you. Unfortunately, you'll have to give that one back.


Anonymous said...

That sounds like one of those reference books I've just got to have. You must stop feeding my addictions to yarn and books!

Anna / @thissgoodlife said...

WHOA!!! That's all kinds of awesome! I need to get one of those... when it finally comes out! Will have to see if my library has it!

Roz said...

Man, and she was just at the Interweave event in CA talking up the book and why she was updating it.

Not that I was at the Interweave event, mind you -- just read some reliable reporting on it.

I really really really want that book.

Puck said...

Ah, the joy of being the Inter-Library Loan person at a library...I can't wait for that book to come out, might be useful for me to get a good look at it if my hand would let me actually knit.

I look forward to it!

Teri S. said...

I pre-ordered it as soon as I heard it was available. Hopefully 2/2012 will be the actual release date. After reading the TOC, I wonder if I should get a copy for my 10-year-old niece (who appropriated a pair of chopsticks to use as knitting needles). Your thoughts?

KnitTech said...

I pre-ordered mine a month ago, then got the bad news.

Roxie said...

The kind of book that can change your life!

Donna Lee said...

I have heard tell of that mystic book. It looks like one I'd like to own. So, now I'll haunt amazon and wait. and wait and probably wait some more.

Alicyn said...

i checked the book out of my library awhile ago, and i barely made a dent before i had maxed out my renewals!

Liz said...

Thanks. This is one I've been stalking; glad to know it's not just a myth...

Galad said...

On the wish list... Thanks for feeding my book habit!

SpinningMommy said...

I found this book in my library discard pile about a year ago, after checking it out multiple times. I got it for a buck. Couldn't believe my luck!

TrishInNC said...

I've got it pre-ordered. I also picked up Finishing School: A Master Class for Knitters by Deborah Newton because my finishing techniques are frankly horrid. I haven't had a chance to go through it in depth, but I'm pretty sure I'll dive into it over Thanksgiving; there's a technique I think I want to use.

Bells said...

I borrowed this from the library the year I got serious about knitting. Amazing. Then you mentioned it in a post way back when and said it was out of print. Am glad to know its coming out again. I'd love to have it.

Anonymous said...

By some crazy fluke I conned my mother into buying this for me when I too had just learned to knit--since I was in college I suspect she went halfsies with me.

I pretty much taught myself to knit using this book. It is awesome. Mine need to be rebound but I don't want to let it out of my sight for that long!

Amy Lane said...

*sigh* You have the best geek shit.

Amy Lane said...

z.omg... the spam word is butwaste-- I SHIT YOU NOT!!! LOLOLOLOL

SongBird said...

I have my mother's copy of that book and the new version on pre-order at Amazon and I LOVE it. It is, oddly enough, one of my most prized possessions. Every so often, I'll take it off the shelf just to open it up at random and look at the lovely information.

*happy sigh*


Anonymous said...

Just to let you know... I bought this book based on your comments and I am so glad. It is wonderful. I have just begun to scratch the surface and I can't wait to get deeper into it.

Thank you.