2 of 3: Knitting in the Old Way and Ethnic Knitting Discovery: What’s the difference?

The last post gave an introduction to this series and a quick overview of the original edition of Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ Knitting in the Old Way.

This post resumes the discussion with notes on the revised and expanded edition of the book.

Moving on: The revised edition of Knitting in the Old Way

In 2004 and 2005, Nomad Press published in hardcover and then in paperback the revised and expanded edition of Knitting in the Old Way (KITOW). (Nomad Press was begun by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and then handed off to me just as the hardcover KITOW was about to be released.) The new edition contains 312 pages.

The cover on the paperback, which is a lot more fun than the cover on the hardcover version, was designed after we knew the book would have widespread distribution (the hardcover version was designed before the shift). Here’s what it looks like:


(Note: The hardcover edition of KITOW has a few advantages, even though the snazzy cover design isn’t one of them. It’s got a smyth-sewn binding. This used to be standard for hardcover books, but because of the extra expense and bindery time it’s now being used mostly for Bibles and for other books that are expected to get a lot of wear over many years. Smyth-sewn books also lie quite flat (for books) when they’re open. Libraries love smyth-sewn bindings. And the paper-over-boards cover was also designed for maximum durability.)

So. The new edition has 312 pages and the original edition had 187 pages.

What happened? Bigger type? More white space?

Nope. Both editions have reasonably sized type and comfortable amounts of white space.

In the almost twenty years between editions, Priscilla discovered and figured out a lot of things that she wanted to incorporate. A lot of new garments were added, new techniques were included, and the previous material was clarified and presented in more detail.

I’ve made up a summary chart that shows the differences in the sweaters between the original and revised editions, with a few brief notes about where technique information was added. It’s not a very detailed chart, but it highlights where the major differences are. It’s a 51k PDF: Download KITOW-comparison.pdf.

In the new edition, assume that everything has been at least lightly rewritten. Priscilla did a whole lot of new drawings and charts. My daughter scanned Priscilla’s inkwork and cleaned the scans and, when any of us found something that needed to be adjusted, made minor revisions to the drawings electronically so Priscilla didn’t have to re-draw the whole item. I worked at bringing all the elements together in coherent page layouts (and did a few other things, like the expansion of the entrelac coverage).

The overall content and structure of the revised edition are similar to the way they were in the original edition, although the information has been broken down into different chunks, the presentation is different, and there’s more of
everything. The big changes between original and revised editions come in chapters 9 through 13,
although chapter 4 now includes a fuller presentation of knitting

So here are the contents of the expanded edition:

  • Introduction
  • 1 Origins – Slightly revised from original.
  • 2 Traditional Yarns – Slightly revised from original.
  • 3 Equipment – Different presentation of information that’s similar to what’s in the original.
  • 4 Knitting methods – Three basic concepts and three fundamental approaches, including Western, Eastern, and combined methods.
  • 5 Techniques – Slightly revised from original, with amplification and modification.
  • 6 Tools for Planning Sweaters – Sample plans and working with percentage/proportional systems, charts, diagrams, and stitch and construction symbols.
  • 7 An Evolution of Shapes – The 15 basic sweater shapes, with new information on shaping sleeves. (There is also a quick-reference guide to the basic shapes at the front of the new edition.)
  • 8 Style Alternatives – Cardigans, necklines, and collars.
  • 9 Color Stranding – The same countries and regions are covered as in the original edition, but instead of 24 sweater concepts and charts or chart combinations there are now 33.
  • 10 Intarsia – This is an entirely new section. It includes four intarsia techniques and 5 sweaters (one of those was repositioned from another part of the original edition, where working techniques were not specified, and four of the sweater concepts are new).
  • 11 Texture – Again, the same countries and regions are covered as in the original edition, but instead of 19 sweater concepts and charts or chart combinations there are now 27.
  • 12 Geometric Patterning – This covers the same countries and regions as in the original edition. The number of garment concepts has not increased (still 3 sweaters, plus a cap), but the information on entrelac has expanded from one diagram to a detailed set of instructions.
  • 13 Crochet-Enhanced Knits – This is another entirely new section. It includes information on Eastern and Western crochet, plus 1 complex new sweater that combines crochet with knitting (Korsnas-style, from a Swedish-speaking part of Finland).
  • Bibliography (extended), Abbreviations and Quotations, and Index

Technical enhancements aside (and not counting bonus charts not attached to a specific sweater concept), the original edition shows 47 sweater concepts and the revised edition presents 65.

(Personal note: One of those new designs . . . added at the last minute . . . has 20 charts associated with it. In looking through this book again, I’m amazed that Priscilla and my daughter and I survived its production and I am not surprised that it took us several years to put together the new edition. I see things that I would change about what we did, but if we’d done those things at the time the book would never have gotten published . . . which is also what everyone who worked on the original edition must have felt the first time around. We worked as long as we did even though we were standing on the shoulders of the previous edition. There’s a whole lot of material in any copy of this title.)

So that’s how the revised and expanded edition of KITOW is different from the original edition. Oh, and the book is now produced according to the standards of the Green Press Initiative, which wasn’t around in 1985 when the original edition was published.

The next post will look at Ethnic Knitting Discovery in the context of Knitting in the Old Way’s history.


4 thoughts on “2 of 3: Knitting in the Old Way and Ethnic Knitting Discovery: What’s the difference?”

  1. This overview is very interesting and very helpful! I didn’t previously realize that I had the revised edition of Knitting in the Old Way, nor did I understand what your contribution to it was. Now I have to go back and revise my blog posts about this book to include your name! Looking forward to reading more about Ethnic Knitting Discovery.

  2. Hi, Ruth:
    Don’t worry about including me. Yes, I did a bunch of work on the revised edition of Knitting in the Old Way–enough that Priscilla invited me onto its cover–but it’s still her life’s work that the book represents!

  3. I’m very interested in this book, but I’m not sure there are patterns in there, just ideas and graphs. I’m particularly interested in the boys pattern with the eagle on the back, the background is a soft yellow.

    • I’m guessing you mean the Cowichan sweater on pages 193-194 of the revised edition of Knitting in the Old Way, with the eagle–not necessarily for any particular age or gender. Both Knitting in the Old Way and the Ethnic Knitting series give introductory instructions for working out the sizing and gauges for garments. They teach techniques for devising your own custom garments. It’s a different way of thinking about knitting, and once you become comfortable with it you can work *without* patterns. The overall approach is in Knitting in the Old Way. The Ethnic Knitting series was put together as a hand-holding intermediate presentation, with charts to help with putting the pieces together. Depending on your preferences, you may like one approach or the other. You might request the book(s) from your library–through interlibrary loan if they’re not available locally–to see whether they suit you, and if so, which one. If you like the Ethnic Knitting series better, you can learn the techniques from that and then apply them to the material in Knitting in the Old Way. It’s very liberating to understand how to make these garments! And it isn’t hard.

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