I don't want to call this a list of the essential books every knitter should have because every knitter is different. Some of us knit more for babies, some of us only knit in winter, and some knitters just make lots and lots of socks.
However, these are the books I find myself referring to again and again, whether I want to knit a gift or if I just need a refresher on a technical issue.
Stitch 'N #####: The Knitter's Handbook by Debbie Stoller
Even if you're a seasoned knitter, sometimes you forget the little things, like how to seam two pieces together using a mattress stitch or how to do a cable cast-on.
Not only is Stitch 'N ##### a great reference book for technical stuff, but it also has a fantastic collection of patterns. There's a bag with David Bowie's face on it, a beautiful wrap sweater, beaded wristlets, blankets -- a pattern in there for every person you know, including yourself.
I'm equally in love with all the other Stitch 'N ##### books, but this is the one I use the most for reference.
Wacky Baby Knits by Alison Jenkins
While all the other knitters are gifting plain baby booties (boring!), you'll be giving monster feet and Elvis-hair hats. Trust me. You can't buy gifts like these in stores.
Besides being incredibly unique, the other thing I like about these patterns is that there are smaller projects for last-minute baby gifts -- like socks that look like ballet shoes -- and projects that take a little more time, like a baby biker jacket.
Several lucky babies have received gifts from me that came out of this book, and the parents' reaction is always the same: "Where on earth did you find this pattern?"
I was lucky enough to get a spot in Lily's Tips & Tricks class at Vogue Knitting Live in New York this past January. The class is based on this book, and meeting Lily in person made me love the book even more.
Lily has been knitting for a long time, and she's figured out a lot of ways around things we all hate -- weaving in ends, attaching buttons, casting on hundreds of stitches. And she's figured out solutions for things that happen to us all the time. Ever run out of yarn when doing a long-tail cast-on? Lily figured out a way to finish the cast on without undoing all the stitches!
I grab this book when I'm frustrated with dropped stitches, or when I'm being a little lazy and want to find out if Lily knows an easier way to do something.
Boutique Knits by Laura Irwin
Everything in this book is just plain pretty. This is the book I pull when I'm making a gift for a female friend.
There are small projects like gloves and hats -- perfect if you ran out of time before a friend's birthday or special occasion. There are also more time-consuming projects like sweaters and bags that work if you plan ahead and have more time.
I also like the variety of techniques in the patterns, from cables to lacework. Sometimes I'm just in the mood to work with certain types of yarn or techniques, and these patterns cover nearly all of them.
I've also found that the patterns can span my friends' taste, since I can easily change the type of yarn to give the finished object a completely different look. And I know the finished projects look great, because I've made a lot of them for myself!
Are you a beginner knitter who wants to see the basics demonstrated in person before you build your library? Check out Stefanie Japel's Knit Lab class to learn basic stitches and tools that will help you knit anything you'd like.