Franklin on Books: Vogue Knitting –The Ultimate Knitting Book
A knitter who visited my workroom a couple of years ago was surprised to find that although I live and work in middle of a forest of bookcases that towers well over my head, the shelves devoted to knitting are relatively few.
“I thought you’d have … well … I thought you’d have all of them,” she said, in a disappointed tone not uncommon among those who meet me in person.
It is difficult for a knitting book to stay in my collection for more than a year or two. City living doesn’t allow for it. If, during my annual culling, I look at a title and think, “I’m probably never going to use this again,” out it goes. Chicago’s famous annual used book sale at the Newberry Library has had a rather more robust fiber arts selection since I moved out here.
When the editors of Vogue Knitting magazine revealed what they describe as a “completely revised and updated” edition of Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book (Sixth & Spring Books), I honestly didn’t pay much attention because I have my own battle-scarred copy of the 2002 edition. In fact, it’s one of the first knitting books I bought after I became a serious knitter. I remember using it to learn how to “join to work in the round, being careful not to twist.” (It worked, the second time.)
Now, if the 2002 edition was “ultimate,” meaning (if you ask Mr. Webster) “the best or most extreme example of its kind,” how can you do better than that? Is it possible to be more ultimate than the ultimate?
The new edition is both larger (by an inch) and longer (by seventy pages) than the old edition. That much is clear if you look at them side by side. The sheer heft of this thing is impressive. Don’t drop it on your toe. (I did.) It’s handsome, of course—Sixth & Spring (who, full disclosure, turned out my own I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book a couple years ago) do handsome books.
But as Mother reminded me as I stared forlornly into the mirror on the eve of my first school dance, “Honey, it’s what’s inside that counts.”
So, what’s inside?
I was pleased to see that after revising and expanding, the best of the old edition remains intact. One of the strengths of the book was its razor-sharp illustrations of techniques both fundamental (like the humble knitted cast on) and arcane. The new additions are up to the previous high standard, and photographs (of which there are far more) are even better.
And fond as I am of my old friend from 2002, the added content of the 2018 edition is enough to knock its predecessor right off the shelf and into the “donate” pile.
Certain techniques that were unfashionable in 2002 (hello, mosaic) have been given more room to shine, and techniques that were virtually unknown (hello, brioche) have been introduced.
There are are superbly clear sections about shawl shapings (fourteen pages of them) and methods for sweater construction. The design section is amplified, retaining the excellent Vogue Knitting Design Worksheet but reorganizing the flow of the information to improve usability.
Design for accessories (hats, mittens, gloves, socks) gets its own section, including fundamentals of measuring and shaping.
I am delighted to see that the only part of the older edition that made me snore—a motley collection stitch patterns plonked down in the middle of all the technical sections—is gone. There are still stitch patterns, but now they’re adjacent to the techniques that use them. It makes more sense and is, frankly, a better use of page space.
Finally: if you’re a details geek (I am) what ultimately (ha) makes the book worth keeping around is what has always made the book worth keeping around: the concrete guides to stuff the kwik-n-eezee skool of knitting usually zips past.
So you’ll find page after page about necklines, collars, hems, trims, handsome methods for picking up stitches, various seams and where to use them, knitted buttonholes and how to make them suck less. Vogue Knitting magazine has traditionally been a showcase for patterns that get the little things right, and those decades of editorial expertise are on full display here. It’s the little things, of course, that can make the difference between a fine piece of handknitting and … the other kind of handknitting.
Hail and farewell, my beloved 2002 edition of Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book. You have given excellent service and earned your rest. Do I donate you to the library sale? Or do I put you in a flaming Viking ship and push you out into Lake Michigan?
Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book by the Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine (Sixth & Spring Publishing)
Thank you for the review and, of course, the humor! I will definitely look this edition up…am just exploring patterns for my first sweater.
Oooh, flaming Viking ship–what a great idea! Also, thanks for a useful comparison. I’ve been trying to avoid buying this book, but maybe I should.
I just ordered it a few days ago (from a certain online retailer who is having a 40% off all books sale) and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. While I would love to see the flaming Viking send off for your beloved and well used book, I’m guessing that donating it will be less likely to result in large fines that could reduce future book, yarn and tool purchases. Just a thought.
May I humbly suggest donating to a school, (middle school, high school) or public library. sometimes they have the funding to have the latest and greates sometimes not.
Thanks for this review. I had written this book off as another unnecessary book for my already overcrowded shelves as I too have an earlier edition. Maybe I will give it more consideration and decide to have it as part of the knitting library at my home.
I agree with your comment so much!! maybe I can use both as bookends? I’m so tempted to buy the new book based on this review …
It does sound much better. I was never imoressed by the old one since I already had some excellent books. I have an old one that handkes all those new aspects Vogue finally twckles — except for the shawls. If I weren’t banned from buying more knitting books I’d get this kne. But between my oldies but goodies amd the internet, I just get more yarn!
Also I’m mad at Vogue for buying out the fabulous Harminy stitchionary books (which also gave knitting instruction) (I got my set before its demise) with the purpsoe of remove them from the market and then publishing a far inferior and more expensive stitchionary. Althiguh now we have many other independent and intereeting ones to choose from, thankfully.
I just checked the date on my copy and it’s 1989! Maybe time for an updated copy!
Vogue Knitting: the ultimatest? the final curtain? conclusive? extreme? Knitting Book. I also like the idea of a Viking send-off, but favor donation.
Wow. I know I loved reading this article. But would like to find a copy as I cannot pay much. But so interested as in my 60’s now h
Just really getting into knitting.
I tried to purchase the book at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago, but they were sold out. I ordered it from Purl Soho. The book wasn’t reduced in price, but you were able to choose a free skein of linen. I am waiting for the book to arrive any day now.
I agree, Franklin. I had the 1989 edition of Vogue Knitting and had missed the 2002 edition entirely. When I was working on level 3 of the Master Hand Knitter program by TKGA, this edition came out. I borrowed a library copy and found the expansion and the new emphases extremely helpful. Yes, this is a book for detail geeks, and I guess I have become one.
Write a nice note on the fly leaf and donate to the Newberry. The 20-something Debbi2 refers to will be thrilled.
But I can’t donate my old one. It was the last thing my dad gave to me. I’ll have to really think about whether a better edition can really overcome sentimentality.
A flaming Viking ship, of course, as befits all great and wondrous entities. I borrowed the 2002 version so often from the library that one day, the librarian suggested it might be a worthy purchase. I took that as a hint that I should give it a break. So perhaps I’ll just break done and buy this version! Though I suspect I may have to forgo gummie bears for awhile while I save up…
I don’t have the 1989 edition, but I do have the 2002 edition.
I consider books as much a part of my personal biography as part of my personal library, so I’m keeping the 2002 edition next to the new expanded edition.
Now I’m off to eBay to get my own 1989 edition, because BOOKS
I think a YouTube video of your flaming Viking book funeral should be your next post. Where will you make it happen?
My VK is 1989 issue, and I never look in it any more. But you make this new one sound very enticing. I think I’m going to have to buy it. Thank you!
I have had 2 copies of the book as well as an abridged(very unsatisfactory) version because of the frequent moves in my life. This book helped me konquer my kitchener and just about anything i wanted to know about picking up stitches and seaming. I still refer to it occasionally. I look forward to purchasing the new edition.
Thank you Franklin for sharing your review. This is great for our readers looking to update their knitting resources. We’ve included your thoughts in our latest craft inspiration roundup https://craftylikegranny.com/take-time-to-do-what-makes-your-soul-happy/ Cheers Jodie 🙂
I agree with Franklin. Some knitting books lose their lustre. I usd the Vogue Ultimate like a reference book dipping in and out as needed. It will stay on my bookshelf.
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