The Principles of Knitting is not for the faint hearted, and certainly wouldn’t be every knitter’s cup of tea.
If you’re the sort of knitter who is happy to follow patterns and has no desire to improvise or design patterns of your own, this book is probably not for you.
If you want to understand how your knitting works beyond following pattern instructions and/or want to design your own, this book will probably provide an invaluable reference.
New Edition, New Content
What I’m reviewing here is the revised edition, first published in 2012. The original dates back to 1988.
The original Principles of Knitting had been quite successful but had been out of print for a long time.
Interestingly, in order to reprint the book, author Junre Hemmons Hiatt had to retype the entire thing into a word processor. In the process, she improved much of the text and added new material besides.
Unlike many knitting books nowadays, “The Principles of Knitting” does not feature glossy full colour photographs or illustrations. Instead, it’s published in black white and red. There are few images some black and white photographs and three colour illustrations.
While some might prefer a more colourful and more illustrated experience, I think it’s actually okay. There’s plenty of highly illustrated knitting guides out there if that’s what you’re looking for. The strength of this book is the in depth theory behind the techniques it offers, and the text, occasionally supported by very clear illustrations, serves that purpose very well.
June Hemmons Hiatt, intended the book to give the knitter “confidence in [her] skills that will liberate [her] from dependence on instructors and patterns so [she] can create a garment that is exactly what [she wishes] it to be”.
Therefore, ‘The Principles of Knitting’ is first and foremost a reference book. Although the author does suggest to read it cover to cover, I’m not sure that’s a realistic option for most of us. I actually tried, but the book has over 700 pages and there is only so much knitting theory one can take in before it all starts to become one big blur.
In my opinion, the book is much more useful as a reference book. I have the Kindle edition, and when on my tablet I can easily do a search for what I’m looking for and mark parts that are of particular use for whatever I’m working on at the time.
Given that the book is essentially a reference book, it does have one very important flaw.
June Hemmons Hiatt invented terms of her own for the techniques she describes in her book. On the surface, her reasonings are sound. The terms she uses are descriptive of the actual technique and make a lot of sense. In addition, it is true that most techniques are known by different names anyway, which are often determined by geographical location.
However, this can make it very difficult to find certain techniques in the book. It would have been far better if she had also included the commonly used names of techniques too.
To buy or not to buy
At over $30 for the hard cover version and $19.99 for the kindle edition, “The Principles of Knitting” is not exactly cheap. Whether it’s worth it, depends on the sort of knitter you are.
I own the kindle version and to me it’s an invaluable reference, as I want to understand my knitting and am now dabbling in designing my own patterns as well.
If you prefer to follow patterns and have no interest in knowing how things are constructed the way they are, you probably won’t ever look at this book.
The Principles of Knitting can be bought on Amazon: