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A Treasury of Knitting Patterns

A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns
A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns
A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns

Author: Barbara G. Walker

Currently published by: Schoolhouse Press

There are many books containing knitting stitch patterns, but the Treasury series by Barbara G. Walker is the most authoritative and comprehensive. If you are a designer these volumes are a must have. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a designer get your hands on one of these books and simply insert a stitch pattern into a basic sock pattern recipe or cast on and knit a number of repeats until you have the length of a scarf, or repeats of an edging until there is enough to edge a pillowcase – voila – you are a designer!

Design inspiration can come from anywhere – colors, nature, architecture, other crafts such quilts, etc.

But my best design inspiration comes from swatching and understanding how various stitch patterns work. Of all the stitch pattern books that I own (I have quite a few), I find that after hours of flipping through all of them the one I come back to more often than not is A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (originally published in 1968, reprinted in 1998 and currently published by Schoolhouse Press).

This book is not as pretty (not in color) as more recent books and contains no charts (unfortunately) but it does have more than 550 of the most commonly used stitch patterns broken down into categories:

Simple Knit-Purl Combinations, Ribbings, Color-Change Patterns, Slip-Stitch Patterns, Twist Stitch Patterns, Fancy Texture Patterns, Yarn-over Stitch Patterns, Eyelet Patterns, Lace, Cables, and Cable Stitch Patterns. It also has a lot of charming commentary by Ms. Walker sometimes giving the history or alternate names for a particular stitch pattern, often suggesting optimal uses for a particular pattern, and properties of a pattern such as ‘looks good on the wrong side too’ or ‘this pattern has a lot of lateral stretch’. For example, of Lace Rib, page 48, she states, “Either side of this delicate ribbing may be used as the right side, though they are different in appearance.This pattern makes a lovely finish on lace-stitch blouses or dresses”.

If you enjoy lace stitch patterns then you must also have in your library A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns (1970, reprint 1985, Schoolhouse Press Edition 1998). This book has 700 more Knit-Purl Combinations, Slip-Stitch Patterns, Slip-Stitch Color Patterns, Mosaic Patterns, Fancy Color Patterns, Fancy Texture Patterns, Twist-Stitch Patterns, Cables, Cable-Stitch Patterns, Yarn-Over Patterns, Eyelets, and last but certainly not least: Lace, Lace Panels and Insertions, Borders and Edgings. I believe (but cannot find substantiation) that this book is a compilation of The Craft of Lace Knitting (1971), The Craft of Cable-stitch Knitting (1971), and The Craft of Multi-color Knitting (1973).

It’s fun just to read Ms.Walker’s introductions in the beginning of these two books. In the first book the introduction gives some knitting history, discusses swatching, and encourages the knitter not to “just knit something. Knit something beautiful.” In the Second Treasury she further explains why these pattern collections are a great resource for even beginning knitters, gives details about how to adapt the stitch patterns to circular knitting, and provides a short discussion on continental style knitting. There are also (generally) very clear written instructions on performing various maneuvers such as P2 tog-b (purl two together through the back loop) or LT (left twist).

Between these two books there are enough stitch patterns to keep you busy for many years - but wait – there’s more!

Charted Knitting Designs, A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns (copyright 1972, reprint 1986 and 1998). In this collection Barbara Walker included 350 charted stitch patterns that she personally created (plus a few created by others) together with [at that time] new techniques for working the patterns that she also developed. Did you know that Barbara Walker is known as the inventor of ssk (slip slip knit) which most today use in place of skp (slip knit pass)? This book also introduced a system of charting stitch patterns and gives a very clear explanation of how to read the charts. It is a bit confusing to utilize the charts because they are not as pretty as the charts we use today and it is necessary to flip back to the beginning pages to find the symbol key.

A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns (1973, republished in 2001 by Schoolhouse Press). This book of nearly 200 charted patterns includes those from Sampler Knitting (1973). Ms. Walker gives us her knitting autobiography as the introduction of this book. Then the book is broken down into chapters. In the first she discusses and exhibits basic shapes created in garter stitch; next are examples of mosaic, lace and cable sampler projects. Finally she presents 82 ‘new’ stitch patterns in ‘knit, purl and texture’, ‘cables and traveling’, ‘lace’ and ‘uncharted miscellany’. The charts in this book are much improved over those in Third Treasury and particularly the cable charts are very useful as well as easy to use.

Other knitting books written by Barbara G. Walker include: Learn-to-Knit Afghan Book (1974); Mosaic Knitting (1976), (revised 2006); and Knitting From the Top (1972).

Barbara G. Walker later discontinued knitting and went on to write well-known books about feminism and mysticism. For a complete list of books written by Barbara G. Walker see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_G._Walker.

Together with Elizabeth Zimmerman, Barbara G. Walker is the most well known and influential knitting author. There are 8,340 matches if you search “Barbara Walker” in the Ravelry Forums. In 2009, she was an honored guest at Sock Summit. The story goes that when Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (YarnHarlot) phoned and asked this most famous knitter to attend she said “but no one will know who I am”!

-Reviewed by Robyn Diliberto

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