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Knitting in Plain English
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Knitting in Plain English

4.1 7
by Maggie Righetti

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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


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.

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.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Second Edition, Revised, Updated Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.24(w) x 7.48(h) x 0.77(d)

Read an Excerpt

Knitting in Plain English, Updated Edition

By Righetti, Maggie

St. Martin's Griffin

Copyright © 2007 Righetti, Maggie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312353537

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, Ihold 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?” “Both!” “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.


Excerpted from Knitting in Plain English, Updated Edition by Righetti, Maggie Copyright © 2007 by Righetti, Maggie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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.

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Knitting in Plain English 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
MaryEllenOR More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A no-nonsense approach to knitting and most useful reference even for experienced knitters. Going back to basics was enlightening and highly helpful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago