Review: The Handknitters Handbook by Montse Stanley


In my ever present quest for knitting technique resources, I came across Montse Stanley’s book “The Hanknitter’s Handbook” at the Library. Published in 1986 by David & Charles Publishing (ISBN 0-7153-8805-3) the book is only dated by the cover and the three toned graphics.  Apparently, according to reviews online, it is a book that should be in every knitters library.

The book is huge, heavy and hardcover. It is not a pocket emergency technique book (have you noticed, though, how the little emergency ones are all the same?  The same 3 cast-ons and bind-offs – the handbook has over 20 Cast-ons alone!) The Handknitter’s Handbook is a tomb weighing in at 287 pages of pure knitting technique from beginner to advanced, common to obscure.  It is not much for a stitchionary, which is good because we can get separate books for that, it is pure technique.  The book is divided into four basic sections: super basics (equipment, hold, care for you and your garment), basics (how to get started and how to end a project, sections on basic patterning and necessary skills for taking a garment to the finish line), final touches (which is more like sewing for knitters: seaming, additions, fastenings etc) and finally pattern instructions (charts, design, basic construction).  There is even a little emergency help section and a comprehensive cross referenced index (with most important reference in bold type).

The Handknitters Handbook by Montse Stanley

The Handbook is filled with colour graphics and step by step instructions for each technique.  The techniques  are labeled by little letters in the corners E, U and S: E for essential: cannot knit without learning, U is for Useful: to achieve good general standards and S for special : for less common situations and or highest levels of craftsmanship.  This is great, because I am always on the lookout for obscure techniques.

The one singular fault I found with the book is that the advanced technique instructions and graphics do, unfortunately, ere on the side of cryptic at times (which is why the modern YouTube element of craft technique is so brilliant!).  Because they are drawn and can thus be interpreted in many ways, it is necessary to take time to sit and work through a technique a couple of times to make your end product look like the picture. However, I am not sure that any book has achieved flawless presentation of advanced techniques. Rating 4/5.

Despite this one challenge, The Handknitter’s Handbook more than meets my expectations as a knitting encyclopedia, and it is one book that I will soon be adding to my home library.


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