Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting
My LYS owner texted me one day to let me know there was a book in that I had to have. What a clever lady! She knew that was the quickest way to get me to come into the shop. So I showed up to be handed Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting (Dover, ISBN-13: 978-0486472188), and I have to say that the yarn shop owner was right. Oh. my. goodness. This is now one of the essential volumes in my knitting library.
This was a book I had heard about and longed for, but copies were few and far between (and expensive). Originally published in 1988, it was updated (everything but the patterns, it seems) in 2009. I bought it as soon as it hit the shelves and have never regretted the purchase for a second. I occasionally let a friend (or my mom) borrow a book, but this one stays on my shelf. If someone wants it, they have to get their own copy. Mine lives at my house.
There is not a single pattern in this book that I can foresee making, but the few patterns are not the point of this book. To me, they are more like displayed applications of technique. This is a book of history, theory, and technique tutorials. If you've ever wanted to create fair isle patterns that are uniquely your own, this is the must-have book. If you've ever wondered about knitting history, this is the book. And if you've ever wondered about steeking, carrying yarn in colorwork, or combining colors in a pattern, this is the book.
I like knitting and crochet books that I can read. In other words, I love pattern books that tell you what to do to create a garment you like, but I like the meat and potatoes books that really explain the hows and whys of creating said garment. This is a how and why book. Here's an example outside of knitting: I've been making lip balm. I can find lots of recipes online and in books for lip balms with different waxes, butters, oils, and scents. But after my third batch, what I really needed was the recipe that tells you what proportions you need to create a lip balm, such as x% wax, y% solid fats, and z% brittle fats. That's it. As long as I have the how and why, I can create my own what. That's what this book is to fair isle knitting. It's the proportion and color and technique answer to most fair isle questions.
If you're someone who likes to get creative with colorwork, there are pages and pages and PAGES of fair isle motifs, listed by number of rows and types of pattern. The only thing I had to add myself was the number of stitches in a repeat. By spending a car ride jotting down the number of stitches in a repeat next to each pattern, I basically created a little index of peeries and motifs I could throw into my projects at whim. (Example: I'm making a hat with 96 stitches, and I want a ten row pattern, so I find a 10 row motif with a pattern repeat that evenly divides 96.)