Sometimes useful things can be found in strange places. I don’t consider used book stores to be particularly strange places, but I’ve found all manner of things there overlooked at the end of the craft book shelves.

Case in point – those multicraft omnibus type books. You know the kind – Needlework 101 with a sagging binding, pix of frumpy looking or laughably outdated garments, and short chapters on everything from plain sewing to macrame, with side trips to knitting and crocheting. The Great Great?Godmother of all of these (though not the first book of this type) is the classic de Dillmont Encyclopedia of Needlework, aka The DMC Encyclopedia of Needlework. That book is still in print, and remains a very valuable resource in spite of the fact that it was first published in the 1890s.

There have been thousands of books of the same general type published since. Many can be found languishing in used book stores, upstaged by their far more popular sisters. But many of these books are more useful than their sad covers, dated projects, and scattershot presentation suggest. Today I’ll look at a couple of these.

First is?Stitch by Stitch:? A Home Library of Sewing, Knitting, Crochet and Needlecraft.? I believe this to be a hardback periodical or installment-bought crafts series, issued in at least 20 volumes by Torstar Books. The copyrights start in 1984 or 1985. I only have Volume I (shown), so I can’t speak to the rest of the series.

Volume I?is a standard exemplar of its type, but it’s better illustrated than many, with the knitting?and crochet?sections stuffed full of?photos showing how to hold the needles or hook, and how to form?the stitches. That’s the kicker in this particular book. It’s got the best illustrations I’ve seen of the pencil grip, throwing/flicking?with the fingertip?knitting style. Volume I just covers the absolute basics – crochet chain, single, double and triple crochet; plus knit, purl, cast on, cast off, and ribbing, arranging the subject matter into six lessons for each craft?that use simple scarves and other projects to teach (some are very dated). There are also sections on needlepoint and plain sewing. ?Now not everyone NEEDS an on-shelf resource showing an alternative way to knit, but I’ve used it to help teach people who were uncomfortable with both Continental/picking, and the more popular methods of holding the yarn for British/American/throwing. Plus there’s a bonus here. Among the patterns is a very nice lacy throw, shown as a baby blanket.

More useful is The Bantam Step by Step Book of Needlecraft by Judy Brittain; New York, Bantam, 1979 (left). This was also published in the UK as The Good Housekeeping Encylopaedia of Needlecraft, (possibly bearing the name of A. Carroll as editor) by Dorling Kindersley, Ltd, 1979. It’s been re-issued under a couple of different covers over the years. Along with a ’40s era Spool Cotton Company "Learn How Book" (right)given to me by my mother this is the book that taught me to knit.

Like Stitch by Stitch, this book covers several crafts and is copiously illustrated with color photos and (sadly dated) projects. It goes into much deeper detail than SbS.?? For example, the knitting section includes a small stitch dictionary, and covers all the basics, plus everything from designing one’s own pattern to gloves, socks, traditional lace shawls and edgings, bead knitting, and fixing mistakes. It describes both throwing and picking?styles, but?after a couple of cursory how to hold the needle?drawings?avoids showing finger placement again, probably to avoid committing to one method or the other.There’s a tremendous amount in there for only 90 pages of text and illustrations combined.

Although briefer, the crochet section is similarly nicely done. The book goes on to cover needlepoint and macrame (it was the ’70s); weaving, tatting, several styles of embroidery; pieced quilting; applique; and plain sewing. I find it a handy reference, even though I’ve got lots of more specialized and more complete books on my shelves.

I still have my mother’s?old green "Learn How Book."? That one is only 65 or so pages. It exists in many, many editions, varying mostly by the projects included at the end. Some editions also vary in the crafts detailed. Mine includes knitting, crochet and tatting, with side trips into embroidery for embellishment. The earlier ones were published by the Spool Cotton Company, which was bought by Clarks some time in the 1940s. Clarks in turn was gobbled up to become part of Coats & Clarks. The booklet continued to be published with updated projects and under the new owners’ names in turn. It’s useful but is now more of a sentimental curiousity than a living resource. I do however buy other editions of the thing when I stumble across them and the price is reasonable. I’ve got four or five now, ranging from the ’40s through the early ’60s.

Little to Do With Knitting – Firefly Series on DVD

How did we miss this one?? A very good friend gave us a Firefly?DVD set containing this entire very short lived SF series originally aired on Fox in 2002.


We must have blinked at entirely the wrong nanosecond the half-season this was on the tubus. What an inopportune blink that was. Interesting scenario and stories, strong characters, excellent writing (too witty to have survived on regular TV), and even good acting with compelling and believable chemistry among the cast members.

The only bad thing about the DVD is that there were only 14 episodes, including a two-part pilot. But all is not lost. Sniffing around the web I note that a movie derived from the series is in production right now, scheduled for release in September.

Why does this have little to do with knitting instead of absoutely nothing?? In one of the episodes a particularly lumpen and lurid hand-knit hat makes a cameo appearance. It’s such an incongruously memorable thing that knitting fans of the series have posted patterns for it.

One response

  1. […] method, inJudy Brittain’s Bantam Step by Step Book of Needlecraft. I’ve written about the Bantam book […]

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