Knitting Book Reviews

Nicky Epstein Knitting Block by Block
by Nicky Epstein

This is Nicky Epstein doing what I love Nicky Epstein doing best–giving me lots of new toys to play with.

Well, a knitter’s toys, that is–lots of stitches, glorious stitches–followed by ideas of what to do with them. Just what I need to get my creative juices flowing.

Like her “Edge” books, or any of her other books of knitting detail (like her knitted flowers, knitted embellishments, not to mention the crocheted flowers and edge books, this book is provides a bunch of really lovely, discreet elements for you to play with.

In this case, they are knitted squares. Some are simple, some are ornate. Some are textured, some are colorful. Some have pictures, some have ruffles.

It’s a cornucopia.

I admit, some of these squares seem like a bit of a reach. What’s the point of sewing a zipper on a knitted square? And a number of these are based on a plain stockinette square that has i-cord appliqued on to make a picture or 3D image. That’s fine, even if I wish that those squares were KNITTED that way instead of requiring extra sewing later on. Because, well, some knitters hate sewing.

But, there are PLENTY of blocks here that owe their gorgeousness to the actual knitting process. And most of them are gorgeous. And it never hurts to be reminded that sometimes it’s the extra details that get added later are what lifts our knitting from “pretty” to “Wow.”

There are some full-blown patterns in here, as well–sweaters, hats, scarves–all made from an assortment of blocks. Like in her other collections, I think these are not only lovely to look at, but a hint at what is possible to create when you start with nothing more than a knitted square.

This is the genius of this book. A knitted square is the foundation of all knitting. The first thing off most of our needles was a simple square. It might have been garter stitch, it might have been stockinette. It might have been intended to be a scarf, but chances are, the first thing you knitted was some variation on a rectangle. There’s something comforting about knitting squares. There’s no shaping involved, nothing it has to “fit,” and it brings us back to the beginning. Except, in Nicky Epstein’s hands, that simple square is anything but simple.

In addition to the gallery of projects, I particularly like the “Mix-and-Match Blocks” pages at the end–a thumbnail of each block in the book with instructions to copy and cut the squares to make your own designs. Clever and helpful (even if not all knitters have access to color copy machines).

Reviewed by Deb Boyken

Deb has been knitting since 1987 and has accumulated quite a collection of knitting books over the years. Her website, Knitting Scholar, can be found at

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