Book Review: Classic Knits

At the moment I have no fewer than 5 projects on my needles, in various stages of completion, so my start-itis is already running rampant. The last thing I need is something else to knit. Well, then on Monday a new book arrived on my doorstep – the first knitting book for me to review for Random House Canada. I was all ready to be skeptical and standoffish. After all, I’ve got plenty of things to knit already, and heck – with a title like Classic Knits, surely there’ll be some bland pieces reminiscent of yoked sweaters of 30 years ago and dowdy cardigans and I can just pass it off and look elsewhere for more modern, hip patterns, right? Wrong.

(Classic Knits, by Erika Knight, published by Potter Craft, Jan 2007)

This book is already in circulation, and I’ve seen it mentioned around the knit-blogosphere once or twice. I’m pleased to say with 100% certainty that I will be knitting at least one project from this book – in fact, there are at least half a dozen patterns that I am ready to pounce on. Some of them might even help me bust my stash a little bit. I would easily recommend this book, either to new knitters looking for challenge, or to experienced knitters looking for comfortable and wearable projects.

Classic Knits lives up to its name. This is a selection of 15 patterns that are versatile, comfortable, and that you’d believe would come from a single wardrobe. The majority are sweater patterns, with a considerable range – there is a military jacket style cardigan with pockets, a simple Kidsilk Haze mohair cardi with snaps, a sleek silk shrug and two turtlenecks. Additionally, there are small items including a cable keyhole scarf, a pair of socks, and a pair of gloves. All of these patterns display simple but elegant construction. Also, there is a messenger bag pattern knit out of – wait for it – kitchen twine. I had to give that pattern a second glance, it’s too brilliant to be passed over.

If you’re the sort of knitter who has said farewell to plain-jane stockinette in favour of tangly gorgeous cables, intricate fair isle or fine gauge pieces, this book is not for you. However, this strikes me as an excellent book for the knitter who has learned the knit and purl stitches but wants to do more than “just” scarves and hats (Of note: there are no hat patterns in this book) and apply those skills to projects that have enough detail to keep the knitting interesting without frightening away the skittish. For example, while the vast majority of the knitting in this book involves either stockinette stitch or ribbing, there are small amounts of extra detail: The camisole-style tank top uses a small cable and eyelet accents to take the skill level up a notch; the military jacket cardigan is constructed simply but also requires the knitter to form buttonholes and pockets; there is a silk-blend jacket with garter-stitch-rimmed pocket that is accented with grosgrain ribbon along the collar and hem. These patterns would keep me moderately interested and comfortable at the same time.

This is not a ‘big girl’ knitter’s book – a bust size over 42 ins will not be accommodated, nor anyone looking for patterns with a lot of shaping. Most of the garments’ appeal comes from their classic style and practical comfort. There is a general mix of yarn weights – the camisole tank top uses fingering-weight cotton, on up to the super-chunky wraparound cardigan jacket. However, it shouldn’t go amiss that, of 15 projects, 4 use super-chunky yarn (knitted on 9mm-10mm needles). That’s a little too much on the chunky side for anyone who likes their knitted garments to retain a classic sense of style and a flexible drape – not all figures are flattered by super-chunky knits.

Also, despite the generally attractive layout and photography in the book, 2 of the sweaters are photographed (the wraparound jacket cardigan and the chunky ‘bardot sweater’) from angles that don’t actually give a clear picture of the overall fit of the item: The only shots of the wraparound jacket involve the model lying on a couch or crouched in a sitting position; The bardot sweater is slightly better, it shows the model in a sitting position, but neither one gives me a very clear impression of the length and overall fit. A shame, since these are 2 patterns I could see myself trying out – if I choose them I’ll have to go for it and see how it turns out.

Overall, I am led to conclude that this book is aimed at the advanced beginner crowd (the chunkier the knit, the faster the knit), along with one other detail: All of these patterns are written for two straight needles. There is no knitting in the round, either on circulars or DPNs, despite the presence of one sock pattern and one gloves pattern. I don’t know about you, but I’d choose knitting gloves in the round any day (and learn a new skill at the same time!) over sewing seams on a hand and 5 fingers. I’m not sure why this book doesn’t encourage readers to take the plunge with DPNs. It is clear that this is not an instructional book: it is a book of patterns only. Anyone looking for more detail on what “ktbl” or “c4b” are, for example, should be prepared to have a reference book (or an experienced knitter) close at hand.

I wish that I had more pictures to share from this book. I can say without a doubt, however, that I will be knitting at least one pattern from it in the near future, and will be sure to share more about the success of that process. Once I finish something first, of course. 😉


  1. Anonymous · ·

    Glenna, very nice review….looking forward to seeing what you liked in this book….I’m with you, classic=chunky yarns??? I think not.

  2. FINALLY a v-neck sweater that lets you show a bit of cleavage – I’ve been looking for one of those for ages.

  3. Anonymous · ·

    Some of the patterns sound very nice indeed, shall be looking out for them. So interesting what you say about the lack of circular knitting though -the book of accessories I’m knitting from at the moment does everything on two needles which I thought was really odd – especially as the intro explains all about the different needle types and knitting in the round. Not sure why this should be, I’m just glad I never knew knitting a sock flat was an option before I tried in the round or I probably would have thought it was too hard for beginners and ended up with a horrible seam.

  4. […] looking at Classic Knits a few months ago, I noted all of the chunky patterns included in that book, and I started […]

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