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Knitting from the Top: Book Review

Updated on September 14, 2014

Knitting from the Top

I'm a knitting pattern designer, occasional knitting teacher, and have been knitting for more years than I care to admit. I have a list of knitting books I find myself constantly referring to (as well as books I read once and never opened again - we all have those, don't we?) So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and settle in.

Knitting from the Top at Amazon

Book Details

Knitting from the Top

Barbara Walker

Original Edition, Scribner's, 1972

Current Edition published in 1996 by Schoolhouse Press

About Barbara Walker

Barbara Walker was a housewife and scholar. Every autumn, she would pick one topic to study and research. One year, she chose knitting.

Ms Walker did an exhaustive study into knitting stitch patterns, resulting in 4 fat books of stitch patterns that are still classics and in almost every knitting designer's library. She wrote several other knitting books, the best known is Knitting from the Top.

After several years of intense work on knitting, Ms Walker moved on to other research topics. Though she never wrote another book, the legacy she left is tremendous, making her one of the most important knitters of the 20th century.

Original Cover, Knitting from the Top
Original Cover, Knitting from the Top


Some knitting books appear very dated, with patterns that are so tied to their era that the book becomes useless over time. Not so with this book.

If you can find an edition of Knitting from the Top with the original full color illustrations, you'll be exposed to some of the most excessive early 1970s era designs ever. Think pink and purple, mosaic stitch pantsuits. Orange and green acrylic sweaters on goofy looking guys with sideburns. The original cover shows two of the milder patterns. (image courtesy of

But don't stop here, because the text of this book is timeless.

Thankfully, the color photographs are all in their own section, so you don't have to look at them. Ms Walker covers all the details of making *anything* from the top down, from the standard yoke sweaters and socks to hats and yes, pants (though you could use her system for some great footless tights). She carefully and simply explains the construction methods, allowing the reader to become the designer by adding any stitch or color patterns to each style.

Ms Walker also details specific construction methods. Since double increases are rarely called for in other knitting, she has a complete section on different double increases, plus a photograph of what each looks like, so the knitter can choose. She writes about measuring, and trying on the garments for best fit.

In summary, this is an excellent book, despite the color pictures. [And some editions have none of those photos, or reprinted them in black and white.] I highly recommend Knitting from the Top for any knitter who would like to try simple designing.

What do you think?

Is Knitting fron the Top out dated and useless?

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Another Original Photo

This is another original photo from the book. Though the colors are eye-hurting, if you analyze the design, you'll see this is a set-in sleeve V neck , with waist shaping, knitted in one piece, from the neck down. Wow!
This is another original photo from the book. Though the colors are eye-hurting, if you analyze the design, you'll see this is a set-in sleeve V neck , with waist shaping, knitted in one piece, from the neck down. Wow!

Other Books about Top Down Knitting

Since Barbara Walker wrote Knitting from the Top, other knitting authors have written about top-down knitting. Here's a selection of their books.

Have you read this book? Knit anything from it? Talk about your experience here.

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    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 6 years ago from Maryland

      I've just started teaching myself how to knit from online tutorials. I have some troubleshooting to work out, but I'm getting the knit and purl stitches down pretty well. Nice lens, I look forward to reading more of your reviews. :)

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 6 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      I don't knit, but I like your lens and will look forward to the additions you make.