As I mentioned a few days ago, I recently acquired the Mary Thomas Knitting Book for dirt cheap. I sped right through it, skipping only the chapter on frame knitting since-let's face it- I don't plan on ever using a frame to knit. So here's a bit of a summary on how I feel about this book. (No pictures in this post: sorry.)
This little book (245 pgs) wholly surprised me. Expecting an outdated book filled with charming antiquities and a brief explanation of English knitting, I was happily mistaken. Maybe we no longer call straights "knitting pins," and maybe our sets of 4 or 5 have been re-christened "DPNs," but there is good, helpful and new information in this book. By new, of course, I mean new to me, as the book was originally written in the '30s. The book is full of relevant knitting instruction: well rounded in both
English and Continental styles as well as a combination of the two.
The combined English/Continental method that has no doubt left me a changed knitter! Seriously. No longer will my stockinette stitch be uneven, due to my loose purling. I'm looking forward to employing this new technique in a new sweater design soon!
I feel like I should compare this book with Principles of Knitting, which arrived back in February and which I never actually finished reading. POK is huge- 700+ pages and I'll be honest and say that it is dry. Reading POK kinds of made me feel bad. Knitting is something I love! How can it bore me? And yet POK did indeed bore me. I read the chapters on gauge, fibers, and fabric construction, but all in all it is truly a book of technique best approached with needles in hand. Mary Tomas, too, goes into detailed step-by-step instructions but she entertains as well.
The little humorous illustrations help you along, and occasionally she goes off into the history of why this stitch came about or what it used to be called or a little fact about how to use it in "modern" knitting. (My favorite of these: "A modern use of moss knitting is for wigs.") It's just enough to keep you reading.
Indeed I learned many new things. Did you know, for instance that in Shetland knitting is called "macking?" And that the knit and purl stitch were once the white and black stitch, respectively? That Austrians call the picot hem the "hem with treasure teeth?"
I was also surprised by the "block pattern" method of designing garments, which employs brown paper and your ruler to define your outline and assist shaping. The last few chapters are especially interesting, with in-depth guides for how to design and knit different styles of gloves, stockings and socks using only your measurements.
Grafting, hems, double knitting, different necklines, pockets, seaming, woven knitting, colorwork and shawls! This book is a gem. Not kidding. And I got my copy for 93 cents plus shipping! This book is worth way more to me than the pattern books I see for $20 or more at the store. Pattern books are great, and they have beautiful color photography with attractive models and wonderful knitwear but this book really goes into the bare roots and teaches you to Figure It Out! I can see this book joining EZ's Knitting Without Tears and Maggie Righetti's Sweater Design in Plain English- the books that leave the shelf most often.
I leave you with a quote from pg 14, where she's discussing the history of knitting.- I can't resist sharing it.
"Even lovers went courting with their knitting, and it was a thing well understood in the dales that when a young couple married, if both were expert knitters, no matter what were their shortcomings in housewifery or husbandry, they would 'do all right and get on in the world.'"
P.S. I've got a few more books coming in the mail- I was very excited this morning to receive Knitting In The Old Way and I'll try to post my thoughts on that one next ^_^