Are Knitting Books Now Obsolete?

As a writer and lifelong bookworm, I love finding a new knitting book, newly published and on display in the bookstore. But lately, I’m finding myself less and less enthusiastic about newly published collections of knitting patterns, even if they are beautifully designed hardbacks with full color illustrations and photos. Nice to look at, but…?

As some of you know, I often have the special treat of reviewing brand new books digitally, well before they hit the market. In reviewing new knitting books, I’m seeing a trend that makes my eyes glaze over. Many – if not all – of these new knitting books assume I’ve never picked up a pair of knitting needles in my life. These books offer voluminous tips on how to get started, what tools I need, how to choose yarn, and even how to make the most basic of stitches. Lord knows I’ve covered that territory umpteen times before. 

So when I eagerly pick up a new knitting book, I inevitably skip large chunks of introductory material and skip straight to the new patterns. The patterns are usually fine; but do I want to buy an entire book just for a few patterns?

In the meantime, a plethora of interesting and innovative patterns are now available on multiple platforms for just a few bucks a piece. Why buy a book of info you don’t need, when you can buy only what you want for much less? 

And as for instructions on how to knit, it’s all about video these days. I rarely figure out a new stitch from two-dimensional illustrations on paper. But show me a quick video, and I’ve got it under my belt in no time.

I’m going to make a pronouncement (because it’s my blog and I can): Knitting instruction books are obsolete. If you want to learn how to knit, do a search and find a video. If you want a pattern, check out Ravelry, Etsy, or who knows what other platforms are out there in cyberspace. 

I love books, but time and innovation move forward. 

Happy Knitting! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Legal Disclosures: I provide links to products (including books I have written), and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (which means I may get a very small fee if you click through the link and buy something).

How Do You Knit Socks?

When I knitted my first socks two years ago, the entire process of making socks was a mystery. What’s a gusset? What’s a heel turn or a heel flap, and are those two different things? What’s this Kitchener stitch everyone talks about with reverence and awe but can never seem to remember?

My first pair of socks found me, as I signed up for a subscription service that sent a sock kit as the new subscriber freebie. I had pondered trying to knit a pair of socks for some time, but even as an experienced knitter, I couldn’t figure out how in the world the process worked. But I gamely got myself an outrageously small set of circular needles and dove in.

This first pattern I tackled featured an “afterthought” heel. You make the body of the sock and go back and knit the heel afterwards. This process includes putting in a lifeline and the terrifying act of pulling the lifeline out on this project you’ve toiled over for a week, trying to get the thing back on your toothpick sized needles. I survived the experience, presented my husband with the cozy wool socks he had asked for years ago, but pondered whether I would have the nerve to knit another pair.

A month later, I gathered myself and tried another sock pattern. This time, mercifully, there were no afterthought heels or any other high wire acts involving life lines. As I got to the heel flap (whatever that was), I slavishly followed the instructions through a mystifying process of slip stitches, picked up stitches around a tiny rectangle, and a series of decreases that somehow looked like an increasingly larger triangle. But finally, I successfully rounded the corner of the heel and ended up with a piece of knitting that actually looked like the embryo of a sock. I even mastered the Kitchener stitch and sewed up the toe neat and pretty.

Was this steep learning curve worth the effort? Oh yes. Hand-knitted socks are a luxury on par with hot chocolate made with real cream and topped with high-end marshmallows. On a cold day, nothing compares.

I admit I have not tried any more afterthought heels. Life seems too short to deal with lifelines when you don’t have to. But who knows what the future holds? Live dangerously once in a while. I do like the color contrasts you get when you make the heel a different color, so I might give it another go one of these days.

Want to learn to make socks?

  • This is my go to resource for sock knitting – a classic, in my opinion: Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. It includes everything you need to know about knitting socks. Invaluable is an extensive stitch dictionary for adding pizzaz to your socks. You can make them as plain or fancy as you want.
  • Want to try a new method? A new book with a new and innovative method is coming out soon, Knit 2 Socks in 1 by Safiyyah Talley. I’ve gotten a pre-publication peek at this book. You basically make one long tube, then make a cuff, a toe, and afterthought heels later.

Will I try afterthought heels and the dreaded lifelines again? Maybe. The beauty of trying and succeeding something challenging is that you gain both mastery and a new sense of confidence in your work. Worth it? Oh yes.

Blessing to those trying new knitting techniques! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Legal Disclosures: I provide links to products (including books I have written), and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (which means I may get a very small fee if you click through the link and buy something).

New Knitting Books for Summer 2019

Greetings, Knitters! I hope you are having a wonderful summer (or winter, for friends Down Under) and getting in some good knitting time. 

Do you get patterns from knitting books? Personally, I get my patterns from a variety of sources – online patterns sold individually, magazines I pick up in the grocery store, and a handful of go-to and much used knitting books. I know online patterns bought digitally from Ravelry, Etsy, or other websites are all the rage, but believe or not, some good knitting pattern books are still being published (and you can keep them all in one place on your bookshelf).

Sycamore Cove Knitting reviews the new ones in advance of publication and gives you the scoop on what’s new and worthwhile. Here’s what new and just published in knitting books for June-July 2019:

Big Yarn, Beautiful Lace Knits by Barbara Benson. A very nice pattern book for the coming cool weather season. The concept of this book is lace knitting with larger sized needles and bulkier weights. The results? Quicker projects with more intricate, showier designs than you normally see with bulky yarns.

The Art of Circular Yokes by Kerry Bogert. This book of yoke sweater patterns give the advanced knitter plenty to sink her teeth into. The designs are lovely and intricate. Most of them are designed for small needles and fairly fine yarn. These are projects that will take a lot of skill, time, and concentration.

 One Stitch Baby Knits by Val Pierce. This is a nice collection of baby knit patterns. They are intended as “beginner” level patterns, but I would rate them as more “advanced beginner” or even “intermediate” level patterns. This is by a British knitting expert, and I appreciate that she took the trouble to translate some of the British knitting terms into American English. However, many of the yarns listed are those available in Britain; I only recognized one yarn readily available in the U.S.

 A Year of Creativity by Petra Hoeksema, Lidy Nooij, Miriam Catshoek, and Bregje Konings. This books is all about “craft dates” for knitters and other crafty people. The idea is to get friends together, share some snacks, have fun, and everybody makes a craft together. I quite like this idea, and it’s a beautiful book. Coming July 23.

And now time for the shameless plug:

The Prayer Shawl Chronicles by Cynthia Coe: Set in an Episcopal parish in Tennessee, hear the stories of women who knit and donate prayer shawls and the remarkable and remarkable connections with those who receive them. A fairly quick read of short stories, this book is great for taking along on vacation.

Enjoy your Summer Knitting! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles: Stories of Unlikely Connections & Unexpected Gifts. Available worldwide exclusively on Amazon and included in Kindle Unlimited. Paperback edition coming very soon.

Knitting in Public

Knitting in public cures a host of social awkwardness ills. If you’re waiting for a plane, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or just find yourself in a place with nothing much to do, knitting fills the gap. 

This morning, I found myself in one of these places, waiting as my son got his hair cut. I hadn’t had my morning quiet time yet, so I pulled out my small on-the-go knitting project out of my tote bag and got a few rows in while I waited. But looking around me as I waited, I noticed something different.

Usually, when I knit in public, at least a couple of people will come up to me and strike up a conversation.  “What are you making?” they usually ask. “I’d love to learn to knit,” they occasionally say. Or maybe they wistfully remember a mom or grandmother who used to knit.

But this morning, no one said a word. They all focused solely on their phones. I felt like I was the only one in the waiting area truly getting “me time.”

Hoping you’re getting some knitting “me time” today! Cindy

Just published! 

Coffehouse Knits: Knitting Patterns and Essays with Robust Flavor, edited by Kerry Bogert. Classic sweaters, cowls, shawls, socks, and even a nice pair of cozy mittens. This book has a nice collection of patterns plus several essays on knitting and community. The authors evoke a warm coffeehouse oozing with friendship and wooly knitting projects. This would be a nice gift book for the knitters in your life. On sale in hardback for about $18; Kindle for about $15

Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting by Ella Austin. Everything you could possibly need to know about colorwork knitting. Numerous techniques and projects included. The website on Amazon has a nice preview of the book. Available in paperback and Kindle and on sale for about $18 paperback and $14 Kindle.

It’s Color that Gives Knitwork Star Quality


It’s all in the color, I often tell people who admire my knitting. 

I’m a “process knitter,” I’ll admit. I like fairly simple, easy-to-remember patterns. I like to sit and let my mind go vacant as I concentrate on nothing but whether I need to knit or purl the next row. It’s my “me time.” It’s my meditative time.

But I get bored with simple stockinette or garter stitches for inches on end. Even as I zone out, I need a sense of change. I get a sense of accomplishment from finishing a section of one color and moving on to the next.

With the many self-striping and variegated yarns now available, it’s easy to give your otherwise plain, straightforward stockinette pops of color that make you look like a star. People who don’t knit will think you’re over-the-top talented if you display a knitwork with lots of intricate color. People will think you’re a genius if you add a few rows of yarn-overs to make a lacey pattern along with the colorwork knitting.

Colors give us a sense of accomplishment, give depth to our work – often without even changing skeins.

Several new books on colorwork in knitting have recently come out! Be sure to check them out:

Gradient Style: Color-Shifting Techniques & Knitting Patterns, edited by Kerry Bogert (Interweave): Specifically for knitters, this book helps crafters take advantage of the wide range of gradient colored yarn sets currently on the market. Some basics of using the color wheel are included in the introduction, followed by a good number of projects patterns using gradient colors: socks, sweaters, shawls, and mittens. The editor wisely advises knitters to go to the yarn shop and physically mix and match colors for new projects, rather than simply buying materials online. This book is great for anyone who wants to give their flat knitting some kick by using gradient color combinations. Currently on sale, in paperback and Kindle

Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting by Ella Austin. Despite the title, this book would best be used by advanced beginners or intermediate knitters. The photographs do an excellent job of showing exactly what is meant by each color work technique, but I think you would have to go to YouTube videos to be able to actually learn these techniques. If you are comfortable working with charts, this is the book for you. Just Published! Available in paperback and Kindle on March 19, 2019.

Love Color: Choosing Colors to Live Withby Anna Starmer: This gorgeous book by a color expert gives you lots of excellent ideas for choosing color schemes. I appreciated that the author urges readers to start with items of sentimental significance in creating color design choices. Many palettes are featured in the book, with tips on contrasting colors, working with textures, and use of lighting. The author does a great job of bolstering readers’ confidence in making bolder uses of color and incorporating colors that simply put them in a good mood. Available in hardback and Kindlefor less than $20.

Happy Colorwork Knitting! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is an avid knitter and author. Check out her books on her Amazon Author Page for more information.

Knitting With Color

For those of us who design our own craft projects, color is a primary design element. Color reflects our moods, our values, and sends a message to those for whom we craft.  Choosing just the right colors for our projects can make or break them.

In designing my latest prayer shawl, for instance, I choose yarn with colors that symbolized several communities and causes I hoped would remind the recipient of the support of several groups and causes near and dear to her: hot pink for breast cancer recovery, purple for the school where she worked, and orange for our home of Knoxville, Tennessee.  At first glance, the yarn I chose looked a bit too “loud and proud” for my personal tastes. But once I realized that all these colors of significance were reflected in this rich palette, I eagerly grabbed up three skeins and got to work on a prayer shawl packed with meaning. 

A couple of new books have just come out to help with choosing colors for crafting projects and home décor:

Love Color: Choosing Colors to Live With by Anna Starmer: This gorgeous book by a color expert gives you lots of excellent ideas for choosing color schemes. I appreciated that the author urges readers to start with items of sentimental significance in creating color design choices. Many palettes are featured in the book, with tips on contrasting colors, working with textures, and use of lighting. The author does a great job of bolstering readers’ confidence in making bolder uses of color and incorporating colors that simply put them in a good mood. 

Gradient Style: Color-Shifting Techniques & Knitting Patterns, edited by Kerry Bogert(Interweave): Specifically for knitters, this book helps crafters take advantage of the wide range of gradient colored yarn sets currently on the market. Some basics of using the color wheel are included in the introduction, followed by a good number of projects patterns using gradient colors: socks, sweaters, shawls, and mittens. The editor wisely advises knitters to go to the yarn shop and physically mix and match colors for new projects, rather than simply buying materials online. This book is great for anyone who wants to give their flat knitting some kick by using gradient color combinations. 

Happy Knitting, Cindy

Best New Knitting Books

Greetings, Fellow Knitters!  When I’m not knitting, I’m a writer and book reviewer. I’m always checking out new books, including new resources for knitting. Several new books have come out recently (or will soon). Check these out to expand your knitting skills or find a new project:

Knitting Ganseys, Revised and Updatedby Beth Brown-Reinsel.  This is an excellent book for expanding your knitting skills or for reference. I especially liked the history of this type of knit sweater, along with the detailed explanation of how exactly a sweater is properly constructed. I will likely use this book for ideas for making my own designs, and this use of the book is embraced by the author. I would have liked a separate set of the stitch designs featured. These sweaters are beautiful but a bit too complicated for my needs and interests. I will likely use some of the stitch patterns in my own designs, but not the entire sweater patterns.

Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps, and Stolesby Melissa Leapman. The big picture concept is fairly simple: combine triangular shawls to make larger garments. Many of us love to knit shawls but end up having too many of them to use. This concept helps with figuring out what to do with all these shawls. An unexpected surprise of this book was all the many, many stitch patterns on offer. I’m always looking for a fairly straightforward (and easy to remember) stitch to give my work a little kick, and this book has plenty. Honestly, the value of this book is more in the patterns than in the concept of combining various shapes of shawls to make bigger ones. Lots of ideas for making and designing your own shawls.

Crochet 101, by Deborah Burger.  Occasionally, we knitters need to chain stitch a neckline. Or maybe we have a midlife crisis and want to figure out exactly what else you could do with that crochet needle you keep around to weave in your loose ends. This book covers the basics. I wondered how I could learn to crochet from a book, so I put it to the test. I’m happy to report that I did indeed learn to make a swatch of single chain stitch. With more time, I think I could master the other basics of crochet with this book.

One Piece Knits: Essential Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges for Sweaters Knit Top Down, Side Over, and Back to Frontby Margaret Hubert. I just finished my first top-down, all-in-one-piece sweater, and I love the easy process of this method. I’ve got more of these sweaters in my future, using this book. Currently bargain priced at $6.70.