The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

First Review June 16, 2008

Filed under: Reviews — Cailyn @ 4:58 pm
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Since I’m nowhere near done with even the first Lupine Sock yet, let alone the pair and the write-up, it’s time to start a new feature! Book reviews. I love to go to the bookstore; it doesn’t even matter if I need a book, I just love the atmosphere. It’s especially great to browse through the craft books (and maybe buy a few of them.) But sometimes there’s a book that I really want to look at and the store doesn’t have it. I imagine this happens to a lot of crafters, because there are so many cool books and such a tiny section of the store devoted to our passion. (Really, why do programming and philosophy get more space than crafting? Those are far less important subjects.) We’re stuck buying the book online, where we can’t look at all the projects or read an excerpt (most of the time.)

I’ve amassed a decent collection of craft books and, while I’m not a professional reviewer or anything, I think I’ve got a decent grasp of what a crafter wants. As a public service to others of my ilk, I’ll be posting reviews of my craft book collection. (Let’s be honest, this is really just an excuse to buy more books. “Look, DH, I need this book to review on my blog! People have been asking for it!”) As this is my first review, I think I’ll choose my first knitting book that wasn’t Stitch & Bitch. I, of course, have chosen a book that already has quite a few reviews on Amazon. Go figure.

The Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns

At a Glance

The Good: Colorful, clear photos. A good sampling of knit/purl, lace, cables, and slip stitch patterns. Contains some very unique patterns. Uses both charts and written instructions.

The Bad: Charts and written instructions don’t always match. Charts can be hard to follow. No glossary of chart symbols. Index could be more useful.

The Review

I bought this book because it was the only stitch library at the bookstore and I really wanted to have one. I didn’t like it much right after I bought it, but it’s really grown on me. The pictures are bright and colorful. Each pattern is knit in a random color yarn (if there’s a theme to the colors, I haven’t figured it out yet.) Most of the photos are clear and it’s easy to see the stitch definition; there are, of course, a few photos that are a little hard to see but not many. It’s very fun to flip through, thinking of projects to make or laughing at some of the more outrageous patterns. Honestly, I keep it in my bathroom much of the time to look through and inspire me.

The Big Book has a wide variety of stitch patterns; it includes a little bit of everything. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that if you can only choose one book to buy, you don’t have to choose which pattern type you want (i.e. cables, lace) like the Harmony or Vogue guides. You get some of everything and the patterns range from easy to challenging. It also has some really interesting patterns (they categorize them as “creative stitches”) that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Unfortunately, because the book samples a variety of stitches, it can be hard or impossible to find something if you’re looking for a particular cable or lace pattern. The patterns are all named and there is an index in the front; the index is not a pure alphabetical index, though. It is divided into the same sections as the book. This isn’t a problem if you know the pattern you’re looking for is a pure cable, but who can remember whether that lace stitch is listed under lace or creative stitches? Not much of a complaint, but something worth mentioning.

I am a very visual knitter. I would rather work from a chart than from written instructions. Luckily, the Big Book has both. The charts can be crowded and hard to read on some patterns. The Book uses a horizontal line for purl stitches and a vertical line for knit stitches. For a pattern like Parallelograms, the chart looks like a magic eye. It’s very hard to decipher and would be easier if knit or purl stitches were a blank or shaded square instead. While there is a key for each chart, the key only shows the name of the stitch and not how to perform it. The written instructions have the steps for the special stitch though. Sometimes the written instructions and chart won’t match. I’ve heard that this book is actually a translation from an Italian book, so maybe some things slipped through the cracks. In cases where they don’t match, I usually go with the written instructions or I wing it. It can be highly annoying.


I’m not really sure what to say about this book, honestly. I think this is a good book if you’re looking to try out a bunch of stitches, looking for inspiration, or a gift (there’s bound to be something that pleases!) But it does have some problems that can be really frustrating. It’s also a good book if you’re like me and must be able to look through every pattern ever invented. I’ve seen better compilations, like the old Harmony Guides, but at least this one is still in print!

Next review: Favorite Socks