5 Excellent Knitting Books for Aspiring Designers

Level Up Your Design Skills

Hop on Ravelry or visit any well-stocked bookstore and it’s easy to find a whole slew of books that will teach you knitting pattern design. In this post, however, I’ll highlight books that deal with knitting more generally — but still offer a rich vein of knowledge for aspiring designers.

These choices allow you to build a solid foundation in knitting techniques, help you learn why/how you should choose techniques for various purposes, and inspire you to play and create.

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Workshop

Although this book was originally published in the 80s, it remains just as useful to knitters in the 21st century. Actually, you can’t go wrong with any book by Zimmerman, who is unquestionably one of the greats of all time. But this particular work includes the ever-popular Baby Surprise Jacket as well as Elizabeth’s Percentage System for designing sweaters, so if jumpers and cardigans are your thing, this is one to consider.

Barbara Walker’s A Treasury Of Knitting Patterns

Barbara Walker's Second Treasury
My well-loved copy.

Like Zimmerman, Walker is a household name among knitters. Any serious designer should consider investing in the full set of her Treasury books, of which there are five, if you include Mosaic Knitting. The patterns inside are depicted in black and white, but if you visit The Walker Treasury Project, you may be able to find (and contribute) clear color photos.

Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible

Full-color illustrations inside.

Hitomi Shida’s Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible is another rich treasury to keep on hand. But this one requires more skill in reading charts than some other pattern dictionaries do, because it contains no written, step-by-step instructions. The patterns are intricate, too, so you’ll likely use these to create pieces for knitters who are at least at the intermediate level.

Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Knitting

The 2004 version, which was revised and updated in 2011.

We could argue about whether knitting pattern designers need to know the history of knitting, but for those who are interested and do appreciate historical context, this book is a gem. You’ll also find plenty of techniques inside, as well as relatively challenging patterns, including a beaded purse and Sunshine Duo, a Fair Isle sweater sized for parent and child.

Vogue Knitting: Norah Gaughan: 40 Timeless Knits

In this compilation of 40 of Gaughan’s most popular patterns, you won’t find lessons on design as such; instead, you’ll teach yourself more about garment construction by working some truly stunning, innovative pieces. For instance, the iconic 02 Cabled Bolero, which was featured on the cover of Vogue Knitting back in 2007 (below), is made by joining pentagrams — hardly your average design choice.

A tricky knit, indeed.

Saving Money on Knitting Books

As you study knitting pattern design, you’re likely to build a treasure trove of books, and that can become expensive, fast. If you’re on a budget, I encourage you not to forget your local library. Most have at least a moderate collection of knit/crochet books, which often includes older books that are tough to find.

Library book sales are a fantastic resource for finding older knitting books and magazines, as well. The patterns might be slightly dated, but most publications have articles about design and techniques, and sometimes even mini stitch dictionaries.

You might also consider joining your local knitting group and setting up a book swap. Or, cruise estate and garage sales, or your local thrift shop. This can be hit-or-miss, but you’ll often find a whole collection of knitting books rather than just one or two.