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Resources and Tools: Stitch Dictionaries

twisted stitch dictionariesArguably the most important resource for designing are stitch dictionaries. Ask any designer their favorite, though, and you’re sure to get a wide variety of answers. Shoot, even I don’t have an absolute all the time favorite – it all depends on what sort of design I’m working on.

Here’s an annotated list of what’s in my library. I’ll be adding links (some affiliate, some not) as soon as possible – some of these are out of print and not easy to find. (Note: I’ll do a separate post with stranded stitch dictionaries!)

I’ve tried to keep it to stitch dictionaries as opposed to pattern books that have a secondary small section of stitches, but I’ve included a few of those as well.

All opinions are my own — feel free to agree or disagree in the comments!  If I’ve missed a favorite of yours, please also comment.

And before I start…for help reading charts: Charts Made Simple (J.C. Briar). Highly recommended!

General and/or Specialty Stitch Dictionaries

Barbara Walker 1-4. 1 and 2 are essential, 3 and 4 are nice to have. You get a little bit of everything with these: texture, lace, cables, slip stitch patterns, etc.

Knitting Brioche (Nancy Marchant). This one does include patterns, but it does have a large selection of stitches too.


Omas Strickgeheimnisse (Erika Eichenseer et al). I hardly refer to this one.

Knitting Lace (Susanna E. Lewis). Ditto.

The Haapsalu Scarf (Siiri Reimann et al). Stitch patterns are shown as parts of complete shawls. Lovely oversized book. Not necessarily easy to get; check with your local yarn store or shops like Schoolhouse Press or Village Spinning and Weaving.

Heirloom Knitting (Sharon Miller). Great for vintage Shetland patterns.

I have other lace books and patterns (Niebling, Kinzel, Estonian lace, etc) that I actually use a lot, but they aren’t strictly stitch dictionaries.


I do recommend getting Clear & Simple Crochet Symbols and Clear & Simple Knitting Symbols before tackling the various stitch dictionaries. Also check out my Japanese knitting resource page here.

Japanese stitch patterns in the dictionaries I have range from textured to lace to cables and twisted stitches.  Many of the designs are very feminine and intricate. You can lose yourself in these dictionaries!

Some of the Japanese pattern books are also a good source for stitches.

I usually purchase these from YesAsia, but have included Amazon affiliate links below (if available) if you’d rather purchase via Amazon.

Knitting Patterns 260. Just got this one, so haven’t used it yet.

Knitting 150 Designs. Again, just got it, so no comments yet, except this has some colorwork and garment and accessory patterns as well.

500 Knitting Pattern World of Chie Kose.  This has some really lovely crochet edging patterns that I’ve used (which was the main reason I bought this one).  It also has a mix of knitting patterns to include colorwork.

Knitting Patterns 300. Variety of stitches.

Knitting Patterns 250. One of my favorites.

Knitting Patterns 100. This one is cables, and some of the swatches are just so pretty — great combinations of stitch patterns to study.

Cables, Aran Lace, and Twisted Stitches

Ooh, fun. Get ready to dig in!


Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans (Gladys Thompson). What it says. I don’t use this one often.

Aran Knitting (Alice Starmore). Basic selection of cables, but worth studying the patterns – she’s a master.

Aran Sweater Design (Janet Szabo). Not a lot of stitch patterns (though she has a nice discussion of closed ring cables and filler stitches), but she walks you through designing an Aran sweater.  Well worth having.

Cables Vol 1: The Basics (Janet Szabo). Nice selection of basic cables, and includes discussions of the components of the stitch patterns and what’s actually happening with the fabric etc. Unfortunately there’s not a Volume 2.

Annie Maloney

Annie’s awesome. So awesome she gets her own section. Honestly, these are my go-to dictionaries when I want cables. I’ve started a spreadsheet noting which patterns I’ve used and in what designs.  I often end up adapting these stitch patterns (inspired by Annie’s creativity!), swapping out filler stitches, changing regular cables to lace cables, etc.

I buy these as soon as they are published.  Annie used to sell hard copies, but the latter six are PDFs. I can’t even say what’s my favorite or most used, because I dig through them all. Buy them all – you won’t regret it! You can purchase Aran Lace from Amazon; that, and all the others, can also be purchased through Needle Arts Knitting.

Aran Lace. With Annie’s blessing, I developed a class around the topic of Aran Lace which I taught at Madrona and Taos, and turned into my Aran Lace Knitting DVD from Interweave.

Stitch Definition. Aran lace, but also cables and lace separately.

Lovely Stitches Vol 1: 29 Cables

Lovely Stitches Vol 2: 35 Lace Cables

Lovely Stitches Vol 3: 37 Cables

Cable Inventions Vol 1: 33 Composite Designs

Cable Inventions Vol 2: 35 Unique Designs

Cable Inventions Vol 1: 33 Textural Designs. These are cables and lace cables with additional bits of texture.

Twisted Stitches

Note that these charts are NOT read the same way as any other charts I’ve seen (including Japanese, Estonian, etc.)

Uberlieferte Strickmuster  Teils 1, 2 and 3 (Maria Erlbacher). I purchased these volumes via the Schloss Trautenfels site. Luckily, you can now get….

Twisted Stitch Knitting (Maria Erlbacher) from School House Press. Includes all three volumes in one book, with a nice intro (in English!) on how to read the charts etc.  I do use the smaller volumes more, just for being able to flip through and compare stitch patterns, but if I didn’t already have the individual volumes first I’d be more than happy with the School House Press edition.

Bauerliches Stricken 1, 2, and 3 (Lisl Fanderl). Not just twisted stitches; includes a bit of lace and texture as well. I don’t use this one as much.


Where I Work: Designing

I don’t have a single room that I use as a studio, but I do have a couple key areas!

knitting working space (1)The bulk of my work happens at my computer. It’s in what we call the dining room nook. At some point in time in our house’s existence (I think pretty early on, since all the walls are still lath and plaster) someone enclosed the side of the front porch that was adjacent to the dining room. It’s the perfect spot for my computer desk.  There’s plenty of natural light (tons of windows). We used to have a daybed in here, but have moved that into the spare/guest bedroom.

The desk was my maternal grandma’s.  I found the Eames Aluminum Management Chair on Craigslist (sheepskin is from Ikea).  I use a MacBook Retina Pro running Bootcamp and Windows 7, and have a large screen that’s hooked up to it.

I also have a garage sale table that I painted turquoise, and an Ikea RÅSKOG Cart, in the same area. I keep ink bottles in the drawer in the table.  Yarn for designing is in the cart.knitting working space (4)I also have a large cabinet with drawers that we found at a garage sale. This is against the wall in the dining room across from the dining nook. It contains all sorts of things — yarns for designing, swatches, color samples, knitting needles and other tools, and more.

knitting working space (2)

Finally, here’s where I do most of my knitting!  On the couch, in that corner. The big window behind the couch gives a view of our front yard. There’s also two side windows, not shown, on the other wall perpendicular to that wall.  It’s also a very bright sunny room.

knitting working space (3)

Not pictured: the Craigslist bookcase in which I store all my knitting books and a bit of personal yarn.


A Typical(?) Day in the Life of a Knitting Pattern Designer

As I was writing the post title I realize how impossible it would be to describe a day and say that was representative of every day.  And certainly, even if I could come up with a typical day for me, it doesn’t mean it’s typical for any other designer!

Since I also work as a locum tenens (filling in at clinics as needed) small animal veterinarian, part time to full time, my work schedule changes from week to week. Often I work half days at a local feline practice, and I’m usually home before 2p; sometimes I work a vaccine clinic on Wednesday nights, which consumes the time between 5:20 and 8 or 8:30p; other times I’ll do full days, which can mean I’m gone from home from about 7 or 8a to 6:30 or 7p. I also often work Saturdays. Designing fits in before, after and around those times.

If I’m don’t have a vet job that day, I usually work at the computer in the mornings, and (ideally) knit in the afternoons and/or evening. The occasional photo shoot is in the afternoon as well.

DeathtoStock_CreativeSpace1 11.45.06 AMComputer time includes tech editing, website maintenance, social media, pattern layout, creating or editing charts, creating schematics, design planning, submissions, accounting, pattern support, self education (I really need to improve my Photoshop skills!), etc. There is ALWAYS something that can be done: uploading patterns to other sites than Ravelry, planning tutorials or blog posts, and so on. I wrote a whole post here on learning to develop my own website — not necessarily a skill you’d think you’d need as a knitting pattern designer!

Usually, though not ideally, those tasks spill over into the afternoon.

Knitting is just that:  swatching or working on a pattern in progress. I’ll knit or swatch in the evening as well. If I’m on a deadline, I’ll try to do more knitting, but if I knit more than a certain length of time (several hours) I’ll get to a point where my hands (especially my left) start aching and I need to stop. We’ve all been there!

If I’m working a full day at a vet clinic, I’ll work on computer stuff at lunch, and hope to knit in the evening when I get home.  If it’s just a half day, I hope to catch up on computer stuff and knit once I’m home. I’ll do quick tasks before heading off to work (if I start something involved, I tend to lose track of time!).




Things You End Up Learning About as an Indie Designer: Websites

This is the first in series of things you end up finding out you need to learn about as an Indie Designer!  If you’re just starting out designing, read this post first.

I’ve gone through and tagged posts I think are of interest to indie designers (beginning and otherwise); click on the category Designer Tools to see more.



Even if you don’t want to blog, IMHO you do need a website.

If you’re reading this, you’re used to going to the Internet for information. So are most other folks, especially those who are your customers (assuming you’re selling patterns, um, ONLINE).

[continue reading…]


Buttons for Indie Designers and Yarnies

I just got a button machine!

In addition to making my own custom buttons (my logo, cute sayings, kitteh pictures) I’m able to make custom buttons for other indie designers and indie yarn companies.

Interested? check out the Buttons Page.

buttons pic