Pattern Stitch Love

February 10, 2012

I admit freely that I’m a pattern stitch junkie, and, from reading discussions on blogs and boards, I know that many of you share my addiction.  To me, mastering a beautiful stitch combination is one of life’s most simple, profound pleasures.

Today I will begin a series of blog posts in which I attempt to infect you with my mad love of pattern stitches.   But first, a bow to the goddess…

Knitter and Renaissance woman Barbara G. Walker!

No discussion of pattern stitches would be complete without invoking the sacred name of Barbara G. Walker. Without a doubt, Barbara is the guru of pattern stitches, having invented more than 1000 patterns herself and documented countless others.

Barbara was born in Philadelphia in 1930. She studied journalism at the University of Pennsylvania and became a reporter for the Washington Star. In the late 60s and early 70s, Barbara published four classic books on pattern stitches, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, A Second …, A Third…, and a Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns, plus books on mosaic knitting, top-down knitting, sampler knitting, and color knitting. All available today, thanks to Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Schoolhouse Press, which reprinted them in the early 2000’s.


Barbara’s treasuries of knitting patterns are easy to find in paperback.  

While most of us know her name from her knitting books, Barbara moved on to a much different sphere of interest in the 1970s. While working on a hotline for battered women and pregnant teens, she developed a keen interest in feminism and began writing scholarly feminist works, including The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, The Crone: Women of Age, Wisdom, and Power, Women’s Rituals: A Sourcebook, and Restoring the Goddess: Equal Rites for Modern Women.  In her popular book Feminist Fairy Tales, Barbara reinterpreted traditional legends.  Barbara even designed and painted her own Tarot and I Ching decks.

For her extraordinary accomplishments, Barbara was named “Humanist Heroine” by the American Humanist Association and received the “Women Making Herstory” award by New Jersey Now.

Did I mention that at some point in her incredible life she was a student and teacher of the Martha Graham technique of modern dance? Now that is a true Renaissance woman!

Of course, it’s Barbara the knitter than I am thinking about today, because it’s her books on pattern stitches that I turn to whenever I need design inspiration. I love to browse through my time-worn copies to find just the right combinations to make the idea in my mind come to life. By using different pattern stitches, I can create weight, shape, texture, drape, contrast, and other effects to execute my design concepts.

The Walker Treasury Project is an online collaborative effort in which knitters have posted hundreds of high-quality photos of swatches of Barbara’s patterns as a visual aid to other knitters.  The website is a great resource to supplement Barbara’s books.

And my own work would never be as interesting to look at or as exciting to design without these amazing resources.

Thank you, Barbara for having the vision and tenacity to put all those stitch patterns down in writing. Your work is absolutely essential to knitwear designers like me – and you are a true hero to all knitters everywhere!

Beginning next week, I will begin a series of posts about the stitches that I have fallen in love with. Each discussion will include pattern stitch instructions, some description and the story of my personal odyssey with it!  So stay tuned…..

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kandeda Trefil August 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I owe Barbara Walker SO much! All my life I have been searching for the information I have found in her book The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, and I have done exhaustive studies, beginning with what little Proto-Indo-European that was available in the 70′s, some knowledge of which I managed to get from the head of UCBerkeley’s linguistic department while I was teaching on the Navajo Nation (so it was a postal mail correspondence). I want to write her, and I wonder if anyone could help me access her. If she deals with the ‘net, I suspect my site (above) would help to make her feel interested. If you can’t help me, please pass on this message from me.



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