Book Reviews From the Vault: Knitting for the First Time

Last year, I started knitting, and Knitting for the First Time by the Vanessa-Ann Collection was one of the first resources that I looked to for understanding the concept. How effective was it? Find out here!

Lately, I have been taking up knitting as part of a club that I facilitate at a public library. As a result, I have been immersing myself in that world with videos, help from my co-workers, and especially, books. One of those books that I read in order to understand more about knitting is the 2003 book Knitting for the First Time by the Vanessa-Ann Collection. It details not only the knitting basics, but it also provides some projects for beginners to do. While this book does a great job at telling readers about knitting, it falls short on showing them how it is done.

I’ll start off by listing the aspects that the book successfully accomplishes. The Vanessa-Ann Collection establishes the tone of the book by comparing the notion of learning how to knit with learning how to speak a new language. In other words, the book is essentially a language dictionary/travel guide. This makes a lot of sense because when people do anything outside of their comfort zone, it feels like they are dealing with a new language, and having a guide helps them to navigate around the “shock”. Another aspect that works is its first section, which talks about knitting basics. The Vanessa-Ann Collection pens this section with a sense that it clearly knows what it is talking about without condescending the audience. This effectively aids novices like me to understand the fundamentals. The book also contains plenty of photographs of various knitting related-items. Within these photos, it clearly labels what is what and the differences among them. For instance, when it talks about yarn textures, there are clear labels underneath each texture and descriptions left of the picture. This makes it easier for beginners to refer to the visual while reading the text. Having a language-metaphor to the book and a great first section is basically the equivalent to learning how to read a foreign language.

However, it does not live up to the expectations when showing readers how to knit, or for the metaphor’s sake, speaking that language. For example, no matter how many times I read how to actually knit, the pictures that show each step in the knitting process did not help me at all. I am a visual and a hands-on learner, so it should have aided me, yet it did not. Nonetheless, I am not blaming the Vanessa-Ann Collection for this. It is hard to show activities that require lots of movement only in photos. That is why I think it is better to learn how to knit through YouTube or from another person. In addition, I looked at the projects that are found in this book, and not only was I confused on how they were done, but I was also confused on what was needed. For instance, when it comes to knitting a dishcloth, it states that the yarn should be “100% mercerized cotton, 2 oz: red, 1 ball; red/black variegated, 1 ball” (p. 40). I kept asking myself, “Do they mean use two balls of yarn? If so, why not make them with the same color?”

It almost feels like the reader needs some experience knitting before really tackling the projects mentioned in the book. Overall, it talks the talk, but I had a hard time understanding its walk.

To summarize, Knitting for the First Time  is great for studying the tools and terminology needed for knitting, but when it comes to showing how to knit, it fails. The pictures were efficiently used for the tools, but not for the knitting techniques. Not only would I recommend this book for advanced beginners, but I would also recommend the newcomers to start learning through either YouTube, or another experienced knitter in order to save them from massive headaches. With any new language, one needs to learn how to communicate it, both in written form and orally. This book can help novices to read the knitting language, not on how to speak it.

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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