Book Review: Ann Budd’s books for knitting off the paper

It’s been a while since I’ve done a knitting-book review post … not that there haven’t been excellent (and some not-so-excellent) knitting books published recently. We have seen an upsurge in knitting publications. No, it’s just that I’ve not had the time to sit and write the review.

So here is a review of a new book (and the companion older books in the series), all of which I highly recommend for those who want to try designing their own knits.

Ann Budd, book editor and former senior editor at Interweave Press, has created a collection of books that will help you create your own hand-knits … in any gauge … in any yarn … in any size (well, almost any size!).

The Knitter’s Handy Book series — all by Ann Budd and published by Interweave Press

Her first book, The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns (2002), took a novel approach to pattern books. Rather than having explicit patterns for this item or that, Budd created tables that show how many stitches to cast on for mittens, gloves, hats, tams, scarves, socks, vests and basic sweaters. She explains how to make a gauge swatch in your desired yarn, stitch pattern and needles. With this swatch and Budd’s tables, you know how many stitches to cast on, how many inches to work, and how many stitches to bind off. The sizes in this book range from children (2-4 years) up to an adult 54-inch chest. Within the chapters (divided by type of item), Budd gives suggestions for changing and making the hand-knits your own through the quick tips and “personal touches” found at the end of each chapter.

Budd published the second book in 2004. The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns took the basic sweater from the original book and expanded to the many different types of sweaters possible — drop shoulder, modified drop shoulder, set-in sleeve, saddle-shoulder, raglan and seamless yokes giving details on pullovers and cardigan versions. Again, these are for basic, unadorned sweaters for children (2-4 years) through adult (54-inch chest). The whole “design process” is included in the tables — how many to cast on, how long to make the back, how many to bind-off for armholes, how to shape the shoulders, neck, etc. In this volume, Budd did add some basic full-blown patterns — a chunky drop-shoulder turtleneck for kids, a floating cables pullover for adults, and other designs complete each chapter. The point Budd is making with this book is that designing your own really isn’t that hard … rather, it’s basic math and knitting know-how.

Budd took a hiatus from her “Knitter’s Handy Book” series to write and edit many other titles for Interweave Press. But, finally, in 2012, a new book arrived: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters. Although the layout and graphic-style of the book is a bit updated, this book is very similar to the Book of Sweater Patterns. In this newer volume, Budd explains how to knit all the top-down variations: seamless yoke, raglan, set-in sleeve and saddle shoulder. Yes, all of these are knit from the top-down to the hem, so you can make them as long or short as YOU want … with cap sleeves, short sleeves, or roll-em-back-over-the-hand sleeves. She gives tips on how best to work the increases and the shaping. This book also includes projects — some Budd’s own designs and some by guest designers (including Pam Allen, Jared Floor and Veronik Avery).

All three books are hard-cover with an internal spiral so the books lie flat. The tables are easy to read and even easier to mix-and-match in case you’re making a size 12 chest with a size 18 waist! Budd also gives estimates for necessary yardage (similar to the “yarn requirements” booklet we sell at DHY).

These books will definitely take your knitting to the next level … helping you to knit off the paper pattern of a designer and create your own one-of-a-kind hand-knits. As a side note, I once did a blog post about the knitting books I would grab in an emergency/natural disaster. The Budd books are on that “short list”! Which of your knitting books would you save?

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