6 Stitch Dictionaries to Kickstart your Creativity

Knitters are a particular and opinionated bunch. Even with the wealth of patterns published throughout history, and hundreds of new ones being published daily, somehow it’s still possible for a knitter to spend hours searching for just the right pattern and still not find exactly what they are looking for. This wanting feeling led me to pursue my own career in design. If you recognize this feeling in yourself, consider getting a stitch dictionary or two!

Stitch dictionaries are a great investment for the knitter who wants to try their hand at designing. A good design rarely springs forth, fully formed, from nothing. Every designer on earth could use a little well of inspiration to draw from. A good stitch dictionary will inspire you for years to come. Though they’re often called dictionaries, I like to use these books more like a thesaurus or encyclopedia. Sure you could use them to look up a stitch and just plug it into your design, exactly as it is written on the page. But with the information provided, you can riff on the existing design and come up with something completely new! Pouring over multiple volumes to find complimentary stitches is one of my favorite parts of the design process.

The following are some of my favorite stitch references. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are the books I reach for most often. Some are traditional stitch dictionaries, filled with a wide array of stitches organized by category like knit/purl, lace, cable, etc. Others are more specialized and focus on construction techniques for a single type of stitch. In the process of curating a bookshelf full of knitting knowledge, there is sure to be some overlap. I look at this as a positive. Depending on how information is displayed, it can influence your thinking in different ways.

Tell us about your favorite stitch dictionaries or stitch resources in the comments section below.

A Treasury of Knitting Patterns and A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker

This series is a classic for a reason. In my opinion, the first and second volumes are must haves for every knitter. They cover a wide variety of stitch types and the clear, black and white photography make it easy to sketch designs digitally. 

Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns by Sterling Publishing

When I first began to think about designing knitting patterns, before I had many knitting friends, or had ever heard of Barbara Walker, this was the book I bought. After flipping through every stitch dictionary on the shelves of my local bookstore, I determined this to be the most comprehensive. It’s still one of my most referenced sources.

Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible by Hitomi Shida

The intricate, feminine combinations of lace and twisted stitches in this book is far from what you will find in my personal wardrobe, but I admire the style so much I just had to have this in my collection. It’s different from almost any other book in my collection. All of the stitches are charted using standard Japanese symbols. Unlike the US, Japan has a standardized system for writing patterns, and directions are typically centered around charts. So a nice bonus of owning this book is being introduced to this method of pattern reading.

Sequence Knitting by Cecelia Campochiaro

If you are the kind of knitter who is always looking for a good, meditative project, this is the book for you. And if you’re the kind of person who came to knitting through a love of math, then this book is especially for you! Even if math isn’t your strong suit, the large photos, charts, and Cecelia’s clear directions expertly illustrate this unique approach to fabric making. She methodically shows how every stitch will look, front and back, in one and two colors. What I love about this book is that it shows how simple changes can affect the look of a finished fabric, even if the stitch repeat is the same.

Cable Knitting Source Book by Norah Gaughan

I had originally put this book on hold at my public library so I could see it before deciding if I wanted to add it to my collection. Reader, I didn’t even check it out. I put it in the return bin on my way out and went straight to the store to buy my own copy. This book shows examples of many classic cable layouts, but the real value comes from Norah’s explanations of what’s happening in each design.

I never thought I could design cables before I read this book. I had convinced myself I just didn’t have the mind for it. Reading through Norah’s explanations, suddenly this opaque practice opened up to me completely. I could see the shapes and the logic behind them. If you are interested in designing anything with cables, this is an absolute must have.

Extreme Double Knitting and Double or Nothing by Alasdair Post-Quinn

Alasdair is the foremost expert on double knitting. He’s written two books on the subject and has an incredible body of design work centered around the technique. I was introduced to Alasdair when he was a guest at a knitting night I attended. He taught the group how to cast on and work the basic double knit stitch. I was immediately impressed with Alasdair’s devotion to documenting this technique and sharing his knowledge. If you’re dipping your toe into double knitting for the first time, start with Extreme Double knitting. If you already know you love double knitting and want to start branching out to more intricate projects (think double knit entrelac, cables, and even lace!), get Double or Nothing. Don’t forget to take a look at the bibliographies too. There’s a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to be found in the source texts.

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1 Comment
  • Alyson Chu

    August 22, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    I haven’t gotten this particular book yet, but it is on my wish list: Crochet Every Way Stitch Dictionary by Dora Ohrenstein. It’s got stitch patterns, along with the stitches shown as increase, decreases and internal shaping.

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