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I’m gonna level with you.

From the outside, it might seem like the life of a knitting professional is a cashmere-covered dream, all pretzels and beer and midnight hot tubbing with Clara Parkes at an exclusive resort in Aspen while Xandy Peters entertains on the ukulele.

But it’s not. Not all the time.

Sometimes, life gets dull when fifty percent of the air that you breathe is superwash merino. You see so much knitting that you begin to wonder if you’ve seen it all. Beautiful yarn? Seen it. Cool new pattern? Seen it. Novel technique? Seen it, tried it, didn’t like weaving in all those ends.

It doesn’t matter if, in truth, you’re being presented with a buffet of humdinger novelties. Everything looks the same from the bottom of a rut.

The best antidote is a radical shift in your point of view. This may require a kick in the pants.

Out of the Ordinary

I, myself, was recently kicked in the pants by Typographic Knitting: From Pixel to Pattern (Princeton Architectural Press).

The publisher’s name probably made you pause. Academic presses are not known for bringing out sock and shawl patterns.

So what is this?

The author, Rüdiger Schlömer, is a Swiss graphic designer and art director with a particular interest in type design. His book emerged from a series of collaborative art experiments in which electronic images—primarily images of type—were ultimately transformed into pieces of knitting. Schlömer found that the tactile, physical process of knitting had a profoundly positive effect on his digital work in typography. In his introduction, he writes:

People who knit letters or words experience a slowing down of the design process, a sensation familiar to stonemasons . . . Typeknitting is typographic meditation, a kind of digital detox—albeit one that doesn’t spurn digital technology but instead lends itself to it as a practical plane for reflection.

In other words, building letters with needles and yarn can help you to build better typefaces at your computer.

I realize it is unlikely that you, dear reader, are a professional type designer interested in making knitting a part of your creative process. That is about as niche as niche gets. So what’s the point of this book for the rest of us?

For me, it’s the author’s point of view. He’s a knitter, yes, quite a daring and accomplished one. But he doesn’t write from the usual perspective of a knitting book author.

Knitting authors usually assume they are speaking to other knitters. Schlömer is looking to draw type and graphic artists into the fold. They may know nothing about yarn (yet) and their common creative language is not the same as that of the knitting community.

This means he sometimes emphasizes some things that usually go unmentioned in standard knitting books:

“Knitting, as an activity, is inextricably linked to the body. Implicit factors, such as rhythm, the way you hold your hands, and how you sit will mold your individual style almost as strongly as your choice of color and materials. Your stitch texture is your ‘signature.’”

I’d certainly never thought about that.

And often, his descriptions of common techniques (including mosaic, intarsia, and stranded colorwork) are illuminating, or even funny, because they don’t sound much like those we’re used to.

A Case in Point: Mitered Squares

Consider Schlömer’s extended account of mitered squares.

It begins with a two-page spread of written instructions, supplemented by an annotated photograph. The photograph catalogues in painstaking detail every part of the anatomy of a square, right down to the tail left after binding off.

Then the square is presented again in two slick structural diagrams. One expresses the square graphically, row by row, but not like any chart I’ve ever seen. The other maps only the path of the rows as they wind from cast on to bind off.

This may sound offputtingly technical, but it’s not. The language (aside from occasional fifty-dollar word like “aleatoric”*) is spare, lucid, and concrete. If you’re the sort of knitter who likes to know not only how to work a technique, but why it works, this is fascinating. Things we take for granted, or never pay much attention to, are highlighted; and that can lead to happy epiphanies.

What’s more, the tone is wonderfully free of preconceptions. What’s the right side of the finished fabric? What’s the wrong side? What can you do with shadow knitting, mitered squares, intarsia? Can you mix these into the same piece? Sure. You can do whatever you want.

Many mainstream knitting books say that. But this book actually does it.

For example, I thought I’d experimented a fair amount with two-colored mitered squares. Enough to know their full potential. The “Modular” chapter, which uses them in ways I never dreamt of, showed me how wrong I was.

As Typographic Knitting is aimed in part at potential newcomers, there are lots of technical fundamentals, beginning with choosing yarn and needles. These are well done, though not necessarily always clear enough to help a lone beginner learn without other resources. But much to his credit, Schlömer repeatedly urges the reader to connect with the larger knitting community, both in person and online.

Type designers live to help people communicate with each other. To see how one of them has chosen to communicate the craft we love is a revelation.

*It means “random.” 

Typographic Knitting: From Pixel to Pattern by Rüdiger Schlömer (Princeton Architectural Press)

If you use Amazon, thanks for your purchase from the links in this post!

About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • I always ‘hate’ reading Franklin’s reviews because I end up buying another book even though I tell myself I don’t need another knitting book – but this one looks fascinating so I won’t break my streak.

    • Same here!

      • Yup!

  • I just ordered it as well. We are in lockdown until at least May 16 so I will have plenty of time to read and swatch…

    • Want. Thanks, Caro.

    • Now they’re saying January 2021. By then, I’ll have used up all 5,411 skeins of my stash, and will be found unraveling our throw rugs.

  • Fascinating!

  • Did this really happen? ‘[All pretzels and beer and midnight hot tubbing with Clara Parkes at an exclusive resort in Aspen while Xandy Peters entertains on the ukulele.” The book sounds very interesting, and I will probably order it, but I really need to know about the Aspen trip.

    • I was expecting Thea Colman to be there too, mixing cocktails…

  • Okay, I’m hooked. My college kid has been absurdly picky about fonts since kindergarten — I had to buy a special font package to make the Willets Point station sign for his model train layout, because he could tell the difference. Maybe now he’ll let me knit him something with words on it.

    • Know what’s worse? Naming your kid Helvetica, and very few customized things offer that as a fo t choice. Super rude.

      • I bet you’ve watched the Helvetica documentary more than once.

        • Sure have! Love it lots.

  • Wow! I’m going to have to order that, it sounds fascinating!!

  • Sounds perfect for a Weasley sweater!

  • Thank you for such clear and lucid writing.
    So interesting!

  • I immediately thought of Carla Meijsen’s, Magic Motifs, which I purchased in Amsterdam. Magic Motifs, based on a Latvian knitting technique, combines the geometric patterns of knitting with other systems, Morse Code and Braille, to create “coded” patterns.

    • Wow, that sounds fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  • Thanks for sharing this quirky, and needed, book with us. Week 5 of lockdown welcomes some outliers and Typeknitting hits it out of the park! Stay safe.

  • I agree about wanting to buy each and every book Franklin falls in love with! Unfortunately, I haven’t been paid for 6 weeks. So I will have to request the library to buy it instead.

    Then I get it before they sit it out as a new book! Great deal!

    • Ah,the perks of being a librarian! I miss those…also ordering the books _I_ really want to read. (Spent some time as a librarian in a small vocational school, so I had a fairly free hand, LOL).

  • Why yes, Franklin, I do know what “aleatoric” – from the Latin for dice, “alea” – means, from my days as a music student, not that we ever played any aleatoric music in my high school band. Wikipedia has a quick overview for those who hadn’t heard of it.

  • I am always excited when different parts of my life collide. Having spent years in advertising, typefaces are not new to me. Knitting them is. How exciting is that???

  • Dear Sir, You continue to be the breath of fresh air, the arbiter of hope, and one of the best damn authors/human beings on this planet.

    • I so agree! Ever since Dolores and the little ball of yarn and trips to Iceland and every other Franklin Habit word I can read, I feel I have a secret, brainy friend in my head at all times! Knit on! Knit on!!!

    • Hear, hear (and I would like to cartoonist to the list, ever time I see sheep I look to see if any of Kaffe’s are in the flock).

  • This books sounds fascinating. I read all my knitting books from cover to cover like a novel. I may not knit a thing from some but I always learn a lot. This not only seems a good read but fun to knit as well.

  • I love your articles Franklin, they never fail to capture my interest and of course you make me laugh too. This one is just as good and makes me want the book too! Thanks for sharing and making me smile x

  • As a knitter and a graphic designer, I can totally relate to the process of typography and the structure of design in stitch formation. I often graph patterns in a pixel fashion but also keeping in mind other stitching mediums like embroidery and cross-stitching. I love fonts and am always thinking of ways to incorporate in other creative endeavors off the screen. I am going to check this book out. Great review, Franklin!

  • Thank you! I just ordered the book. BTW, I’m a graphic designer and a font snob as well as a knitter. 🙂

  • Made me want to track down the mitten pattern with the poem knit into it. And I knew your weird word; I’ve been taking French classes and “aleatoire” is French for random.

  • I grumbled before clicking “another $50 book I’ll be sucked into buying.” But no, and I can get it on kindle even. Looks like a fun exploration, thanks.

  • This is fascinating in so many ways! Look forward to diving into it.
    Knitting letters was already on my mind for ‘spirit’ wear for my son’s high school. Their logo looks like the Green Bay Packers ‘G’, just gold on black instead. (Yes, it appears I’m going to knit with black yarn, wonder what the delivery prognosis is on Amazon for a floodlight?)
    I started as a journalism major in college. So long ago that layout involved an exacto knife (what a great tool!) and a light table . . .

    • Funny, Me too. Layout was my specialty and I am so glad now that I did not fall further down that rabbit hole.

  • Alea jacta est. Roman knitter’s comment as he buys yet another scroll about this newfangled knitting thing, after spending the rest of his salary, you see what I did there, on yarn.

  • What a fascinating looking book. This is the kind of knitting book that I love.

  • Oh wow! I confess this is the first review of Mr. Habit that I have read. I must remedy that immediately for I am drawn to the wonderful descriptions and intrigued by the possibilities that may be experienced in this book. As a process knitter this is a definite for my must read list.

  • This internet site is my aspiration, very excellent style and design and Perfect subject matter.

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