Knitting in Plain English

( 7 )


The first edition of this indispensable classic gave knitters easy-to-follow (and fun-to-read) advice on producing the knits of their dreams. Drawing on decades of experience as a knitting instructor and designer, Maggie Righetti offered step-by-step directions on avoiding common mistakes and getting out of tricky spots.

Now, in this completely updated and revised version, Righetti gives readers what they've asked for: advice on making all different garments, working with new ...

See more details below
Paperback (Second Edition, Revised, Updated Edition)
$13.69 price
(Save 31%)$19.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (10) from $9.99   
  • New (7) from $12.39   
  • Used (3) from $9.99   
Sending request ...


The first edition of this indispensable classic gave knitters easy-to-follow (and fun-to-read) advice on producing the knits of their dreams. Drawing on decades of experience as a knitting instructor and designer, Maggie Righetti offered step-by-step directions on avoiding common mistakes and getting out of tricky spots.

Now, in this completely updated and revised version, Righetti gives readers what they've asked for: advice on making all different garments, working with new patterns and different kinds of yarn, and even an introduction to her own legendary history. Neither aggressively hip nor bafflingly encyclopedic, Knitting in Plain English offers basic principles that will make any project—-from a basic blanket to an intricate sweater—-rewarding.

Having Knitting in Plain English on the shelf is like having your own knitting teacher available to help at all times with any thorny problem.

Whether you have been handling knitting needles for years, or just thinking about picking them up, Knitting in Plain English should be your bible. Drawing on 20 years of experience, Righetti provides sound instructions for knitters at all levels of expertise. This is an invaluable sourcebook no knitter will outgrow. Illustrated.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A wonderfully down-to-earth, humorous, practical, and realistic book for the beginner and intermediate knitter...Recommended for all craft collections."

- Library Journal

"Clearly written and answers some of your most-asked questions."

- Family Circle

"An eminently practical compendium of knitting advice...written in an enjoyable conversational tone...A solid how-to."

- Booklist

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Perhaps more outspoken than plain, Righetti flavors her advice with starchy humor, especially when commenting on impractical details in designs (``the dumb baby sweater''; ``stupid bonnet'') or misleading pictures and sloppy instructions on patterns. Illustrated by graphic drawings and photos, the chapters here contain directions for a variety of knitting projects. There are notes on varying the basic knitting stitch, correcting slip-ups, conquering ``the bastard buttonhole'' and other problems that can plague the veteran crafter as well as the neophyte. Righetti is well known as a teacher of knitting, author of Universal Yarn Finder and contributor to craft magazines, including Knitters. She rounds out this text with a comprehensive glossary. (March)
Library Journal
Righetti, well known in the knitting world, has produced a wonderfully down-to-earth, humorous, practical, and realistic book for the beginner and intermediate knitter. From selecting a pattern and equipment to completing a project, the directions are clear and unintimidating while good line drawings add to the ``plain English'' explanations. The author's years of experience have provided her with new and refreshing tips and solutions to problems faced at any knitting level. Although concentrating on the basics, she has included chapters on advanced techniques. Recommended for craft collections of all sizes, particularly the smaller library in need of a useful how-to-knit volume. Sue Black, Charlotte Hobbs Lib., Lovell, Me.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312353537
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/17/2007
  • Edition description: Second Edition, Revised, Updated Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 130,377
  • Product dimensions: 9.24 (w) x 7.48 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Maggie Righetti, a certified knitting and crochet instructor, is the author of Crocheting in Plain English and Sweater Design in Plain English. She lives in Southern California.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

You Can Always Tell What's Wrong with the Garment by the Way the Model Is Posed or, Slender Five-Foot-Ten-Inch Models Look Good in Anything

It happens every June and it happens every January. It happens so regularly you can count on it.

Every June and January, starry-eyed and eager craftspeople invade their friendly local yarn supplier bearing fresh-off-the-press copies of the needlework periodicals that are blossoming with elegant and enchanting visions of projects to make, sweaters to create—and potential disasters.

Part of the knitting instructor's job is to help people understand the techniques necessary for them to complete the project they have chosen to make.

Simply by seeing hundreds of garments both in progress and completed means we knitting instructors become painfully aware of what knitted fabric will and will not do. And after fitting and adjusting hundreds of articles on hundreds of different kinds, sizes, and shapes of people, we have become absolutely certain of what shapes knitting will take and what shape the human body will not.

So every June and January (and often in between) I gather these starry-eyed and eager knitters around the worktable, and using their new periodicals as texts, I hold an impromptu class called "You Can Always Tell What Is Wrong with the Garment by the Way the Model Is Posed." It's a fun class with lots of giggles, ah-has, and exclamations such as, "So that's why it never looked right!"

Listen in and join the class. I'll assign you our homework before we begin: Pick up your newest periodical filled with knitting designs and look at the photos. That's all. Just look—and then think about them. Your homework is to look for yourself, think for yourself, and learn to recognize for yourself when something is not quite right.

With as many patrons around me as I can gather, the lesson starts. Pointing at the cover, I say:

Be aware—beware—of any garment whose model is not standing in a normal relaxed position.

A good-looking, well-designed, properly proportioned garment can easily stand scrutiny. It looks good straight on and on straight. The model could just stand there and you'd want to make the garment, sure in the knowledge of what the finished product would look like. A sweater worth making has nothing to hide.

But what if the model is posed in an exaggerated way so you can't see the neckline or the wrists or both shoulders? The picture above is a perfect example (see fig. 1.1). You can only see one shoulder. The neckline is covered up with a very attractive blouse. But you aren't making the blouse—you are making the sweater, and you haven't the foggiest idea how the neck is finished or where it is supposed to sit on the human body. One wrist is covered by a bracelet; the other is hidden in shadow.

The model is posed as if she were stretched out in front of a roaring fire, all cuddly and warm. Heaven help her, though, if she'd tried to get up and walk to a window to look out. Her sweater would probably drop to her knees, judging by the way the bottom of it is hidden in folds. You'd have no idea whether it was a case of a tiny model and a sweater too big for her, or if the waistline was intended to be the hemline.

You really need to know what you're making, what it's supposed to look like, and how it's intended to fit before you begin. If you don't know these things, how will you know if you are doing it right?

If you can't see the whole garment,

don't make it!

Next, we all agree, is a picture of a striking handbag (see fig. 1.2). The model is posed in a knit dress, of course, yet this large handsome shoulder bag is the focal point. If this is a knitting book whose instructions are trying to sell the yarn for a knit dress, why cover it up with a luscious handbag?

A veteran of misleading photos of knitting projects, whom my class calls Grandma, immediately spots the inconsistencies. "She carries that handbag because the shoulders don't fit. Just look at the picture—you can't see the left shoulder at all. It's turned away and out of the picture. The right shoulder is covered up with the strap of the bag. What's more, the bag covers her waistline. If the dress looked good, they wouldn't have to hide it. Now, if it had raglan sleeves and if the waist were brought in somehow, it'd be good-looking. But they can't fool an old lady like me with a huge handbag." She has learned to separate the fiction from the reality.

Younger, less experienced knitters quickly learn to detect the inconsistencies between the photograph and the finished product. One points out that the dress is vertically striped and that all the stripes are the same width from top to bottom. "So where did the width at the waist and bust go?"

A retired salesclerk responds with a laugh. "Well, honey, in the old days when I was selling dresses, if it was too big around the waist or in the bust, we'd just hold it together in the back while the customer was looking in the mirror. That's the old clothespin-in-the-back trick."

The knitters in the class know that they can't walk around with a clothespin in the back, and they won't make this "cannot work" project.

On the next page of the magazine is a study of a sweet young thing in marvelous golden tones (see fig. 1.3). Her hair is spun gold, the sweater tawny gold, and the chair golden brown. We can't tell where one begins and the other ends. It is all one golden glow.

The class oohs at the lovely illusion. It is a great mood photograph. But as far as information about the sweater pattern it is trying to sell, it is a big loss.

I ask the class, "Honestly now, can you visualize yourself in the sweater? Where will the neckline fit around your neck? Where do the shoulders rest? Does it have shoulders at all? Where and how does the garment end? If you make it, you may find out—to your dismay!"

The class ah-has. We flip to the next page.

You could order the jewelry from the next photo and know exactly what you would be getting (see fig. 1.4). The sweater, however, is another matter.

The class has caught on and learned

the lesson well. They ask me to forget

the jewelry and tell them about the sweater.

I begin. "It has a collar."

"What kind?" they ask.

"I can't tell, but it has sleeves."

"What kind?"

"I can't tell."

"How long are they?" they ask.

"I can't tell, but I don't think that they are long," I answer.

"How long is the sweater? Where does it end?"

"I can't tell, but I can tell you that if I try to tuck a sweater into a gathered skirt, I look like a barrel."

"Why don't they show the shoulders?"

"I don't know. I don't want to make the sweater, but I do want to know how I can order the jewelry."

Because we can't order the jewelry, we turn the page (see fig. 1.5).

"That's cute."

"Which one, the sweater or the hat?"


"How can you tell the sweater's 'cute'?"

"What is it made of?"

"I can't see. Get a magnifying glass."

"It's made of some sort of fuzzy stuff."

"I'd rather make the hat."

"Well, you've got to admit the hat is a real showstopper."

"Are there instructions for it?"

"Look on page seventy-eight."

"No hat instructions."

"How about the sweater?"

"It has instructions."

No one can tell anything about the sweater; there isn't even a graphic drawing. Granny says, "If the sweater was worth making they'd show it to us. It's called 'attraction by association.' Because the hat is pretty, you just naturally think the sweater is pretty, too."

We turn to yet another page, still looking for something to make (see fig. 1.6).

"A coat—I need a short car coat."

"I've always wanted a knitted car coat."

"Too bad they didn't put that one on a slender model—she looks dumpy."

"She is skinny. Look at her cheekbones and neck. It's the coat that's dumpy and huge."

We look at the instructions. They say "small, medium, and large." There is no indication of how small "small" is, nor how large "large" is. There are no drawings, charts, or measurements included in the instructions.

We don't know if it was merely that there was only a slender model available for a large coat when the picture was taken or if the garment was intended to be large and dumpy. Since we don't know what size to make, we can't make the car coat either.

Since this book was first published in 1986, manufacturers, magazine and pattern book publishers, and designers have changed their ways. Photos picture the finished garment in a truer light; schematics and drawings of the pieces of the article are usually shown; measurements of both the completed parts and the article are often given. What a change! If this chapter in the original edition made any difference, I'm pleased.

In the same way we go through the whole periodical, the students getting wiser all the time. Never again will they make a garment they cannot see clearly. Never a garment that has places covered up. They also learn to look at the article with a critical eye, to see that the item fits the human body as it exists and not be taken in by a pattern written strictly by the book. God was not consulted about the variety of human shoulders to be covered. It's not easy, but if you recognize the problem, it can be solved.

Try to picture yourself in the garment. Would your broad shoulders fit in those set-in sleeves, or do you need a raglan or drop sleeve for the sweater to fit well and look good?† In pictures, the problem of poorly fitting shoulders and sleeves can be solved by hiding at least one shoulder and "adjusting" the other. You can't do that when you are wearing the garment. If the shoulders fit, they would be shown. Those smart-looking pictures of men's sweaters frequently show the models with hands on hips and chest out in order to straighten the armhole wrinkles. Outstretched arms are often used to camouflage the saggy-baggy look.

The picture-book lesson concludes with the realization that the proper fit for the proper person can be achieved. Eyes have been opened; minds have been awakened; knitters have become aware. Even if you couldn't attend my class, you too can become aware.

Look at old, as well as new, knitting pattern books and magazines. Try to avoid the projects where the model is in an exaggerated pose. Look for a pattern that may be adapted to your special way of life, quite unlike the model in the phony setting. See for yourself the good and bad ways the design is shown and choose the project most suited for the personality of the wearer.

Look at current high-fashion magazines to spot classic good looks and high style. This is how many hand-knitters steer away from trendy projects. On the other hand, many fast and prodigious knitters make a whole wardrobe of "fads." It is best to "know thyself." Don't start something that will obviously be out of style by the time you finish it. Do indulge in smaller fun things if someone will wear them when you get them finished.

Don't get into a khaki-colored K1, P1 rut. Try a new bouquet of knit patterns. Know the person who will wear what you knit because it makes the knitting more fun if something you've made is liked and worn—and fun is what it's all about!

Look for knitting ideas, not just in knit shops, but in fashion stores and on the street. Observe strangers and friends. Try on garments to test their feel and see the way they are made. Ask other knitters what they are doing or have done, and if they would do it again. Most knitters are friendly people who will happily share their projects, their past glories, and sometimes even their disasters. Studying other people's knits is better than copying the adjusted photographed model.

Don't fault the magazine editors who select these photos. Though many seem to be experts, they are journalists and may or may not be knitters. Most probably they are not knitting instructors. They do not necessarily understand the limitations of either knitted fabric or the human body. They have to create magazines that will sell.

And don't fault the photographers, either. Photographers are artists. Rarely are they knitters. They simply do the best they can with what they are given to create an attractive picture.

Look for yourself. Think for yourself. Learn to recognize for yourself when something is not right, and trust the judgment of the knitting instructor at your helpful yarn supplier.

Copyright © 2007 by Maggie Righetti. All rights reserved.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Introduction-A Knitting Instructor Shares Her Experience xiii
Part I Before You Begin to Knit
Chapter 1 You Can Always Tell What's Wrong With the Garment by the Way the Model Is Posed, or Slender Five-Foot-Ten-Inch-Tall Models Can Look Good in Anything 3
Chapter 2 Gauge Can Get You 9
Chapter 3 Don't Get All Balled Up in Yarn 14
Chapter 4 Some Pointed Remarks About Knitting Needles 23
Chapter 5 Some Words About Patterns and Instructions 29
Chapter 6 On Types of Construction 34
Chapter 7 Markers Make Life Easier 37
Chapter 8 Your Knitting Bag 41
Chapter 9 Deliver Us from Disaster 49
Part II Details, Details, Details
Chapter 10 Casting on 55
Chapter 11 There Is Only One Stitch, But You Can Do It in a Lot of Ways 63
Chapter 12 Special Things to Do With That One Stitch 73
Chapter 13 Binding Off and Bringing It to an End 76
Chapter 14 More and Less of a Good Thing 83
Chapter 15 Some Firm Remarks About Sloppy Edges and Joining Judiciously 95
Chapter 16 Buttonholes Are Bastards! 100
Chapter 17 Hems Aren't Hopeless 106
Chapter 18 Picking Up New Stitches and Old Ones 109
Chapter 19 Shape It Up With Short Rows 114
Chapter 20 Duplicating and Grafting Are Not Cheating 118
Chapter 21 Make Sure Your Work Measures Up 122
Chapter 22 A Treasury of Textures 126
Chapter 23 Working With More Than One Color 144
Chapter 24 Don't Let Mistakes Ruin Your Fun 149
Part III After the Last Stitch Is Worked
Chapter 25 A Good Finishing Job Covers a Multitude of Errors 165
Chapter 26 Blocking Is Not a Cure-All 177
Chapter 27 Altering Is an Alternative 184
Chapter 28 Delightful Little Goodies 192
Part IV Learning Lessons
Chapter 29 Beginners' Learning Lessons 201
Chapter 30 Learning Lessons for Intermediates 206
Glossary of Knitting Terms, Phrases, and Abbreviations 229
Index 235
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 26, 2009

    Great for Beginner's AND Experienced Knitters

    I got this book out of my public library a couple of weeks before I started a beginning knit class. I had never even picked up knitting needles before. I read through most of it prior to class and really felt that I could understand what the instructor was doing because of this reading. Also, I referred back to this book numerous times when I was experiencing difficulties as a beginner. I ended up liking the book so much that I knew I had to have my own copy for daily reference.

    The book talks about knitting in general, yarns, needles, various styles, picking patterns and much more in addition to the standard stuff you need to know about various knitting stitches. It includes not only the standard American knitting methods but also European and Middle Eastern.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2011

    Knitting Made Easy

    A no-nonsense approach to knitting and most useful reference even for experienced knitters. Going back to basics was enlightening and highly helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2010

    Excellent Knitting Book

    This is a new edition of an older classic. Very helpful for any knitter, from the rankest beginner to the advanced knitter, this book is an excellent reference. Highest recommendation.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2003

    So helpful!

    I've been knitting for a few years, even took a short class but this book is the most help I have found for any problem. It contains clear instructions and is inspiring and understanding that mistakes happen and how to fix them. Helpful diagrams. Gives different options and approaches to problems. Thank goodness I found this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2000

    Great, Great, Great!

    This book is a must for all knitters or knitter wanna-be's. It explains everything you'll need to know - all in a clear, understandable manner. Helpful tips to get you out of a knitting bind and tips to prevent you from getting into a bind!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)