I had the opportunity to hit my local library during the holiday week. It appears that they’re either culling their knitbook collection, or many other people had the same idea at the same time. The shelves were picked over, and even the older, dowdier looking books were in short supply. More investigations are necessary.

In any case, I did find this one: Neighbors, Jane F. Reversible Two-Color Knitting. New York: Scribners, 1974.

Neighbors appears to be a disciple of Barbara Walker (the book mentions her in the acknowledgements). The Walker legacy is also evident in layout and subject matter, both of which are very familiar if you know the Walker stitch treasuries.

Layout is very Treasury-like, with large, clear black and white photos illustrating each stitch. There are 12 pages of color illustrations showing the projects that accompany the stitch pattern directions. With the exception of one chart associated with the most complex project in the book, all directions are in prose.

The reversible techniques covered include

  • Simple garter and knit/purl combos – lots of tweedy-looking seed stitch and ribbing variants);
  • slip stitch patterns – mostly linen stitch variants, and “chain patterns” -linen stitch or other tweedy textures overlaid by columns of slipped knits that end up looking like embroidered chain stitch
  • “Reversible geometrics” – slip stitch patterns that form regular (but different) designs on the front and back. One example of this is a vertical two-tone stripe that reverses to a horizontal two-tone stripe. This section also includes some mosaic-style slip stitch patterns.
  • Motifs – Also included under geometrics, these are simple motifs worked in true double knitting to produce a double-thick fabric that shows a stockinette surface on both sides of the work. By necessity, motifs done in this technique swap colors front and back, so a red motif on a white ground would reverse to a white motif on a red ground. The double knit hat I made was done this way. Neighbors also describes stuffing the area created between the two faces of double knit motifs. She calls it Trapunto Knitting, a nod to the venerable quilting technique of the same name and similar method.

Patterns are marked as “true reversible;” “unlike reversible;” “alternate reversible'” and “opposite reversible” depending on the appearance of their flip side. Some but not all of the patterns assigned to the ?latter types are photographed both front and back. These photos are very helpful in understanding what the differences are.

The book also includes several simple projects in reversible knitting. I have to admit I found them uninspiring, but they are well described and would be good learning pieces. The best of the lot are some mittens, a shadow rib pullover, and a very 1970s wall hanging of a labyrinth. The labyrinth (the only charted project in the book) would be exceptional updated as a motif on a sweater, pillow, or throw. The book ends with some solid discussions of project planning, motif mathematics and placement, specialized bind-offs for reversible patterns, and the basics of designing your own reversibles.

Reversible Two-Color Knitting is still in demand. I note that hardcover copies can command quite a premium, and have recently sold in the $80-90 US range. (One optimistic seller has a hardback edition priced at $150.) Paperback copies seem to go for $20-50 US.

Is it worth the premium price? It’s hard to say. Much of the material is available elsewhere. For example, many but not all of the stitches Neighbors shows are covered in the four Walker treasuries. They’re not called out by type of the pattern created on the reverse side, but they’re there. The recently issued Fourth Treasury includes a previously published piece on vertical reversing to horizontal striping. There have also been other books on slip stitch and mosaic knitting of late that plow this ground, too. It’s harder though to find a book that discusses double sided double knitting. There are a couple (most notably Beverly Royce’s Notes on Double Knitting), but they’re also not exactly easy to find.

I don’t own this book, but I think I’d like to add it to my collection. I’ll probably keep an opportunistic eye out for it at local general merchandise used book stores (the appearance of the thing is frumpy enough to languish on the shelves in shops unfamiliar with knitting content). I wouldn’t pay a premium for it though, because while very useful it doesn’t cover enough ground untouched by books I already have to justify a big investment.

One response

  1. Beverly Howard | Reply

    Hi Kim. I was so pleased to find your review of this book. I checked out a copy from my LYS’s lending library. I found it difficult to understand because of the unique terminology and lack of charts but I haven’t studies it in depth. I’m really unclear on when she moves from mosaics to double knitting. It feels like there is some valuable info hidden in there but I am too much of a beginner to appreciate it. The last chapter on designing reversible patterns and the sections on converting the patterns from dpn to spn and circular knitting seem to be especially valuable but over my head. It seems like this would be a great book for someone to update with modern terminology, color pictures, charts and maybe even more colors.

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