When I started to crochet seriously in 2003, very few crochet books were in print, and I ended up cobbling together most of the knowledge I needed from knitting books and out of print crochet books from the 70s and 80s, some of which I still cherish.
It's amazing how many crochet books have been published since that time! I've been reviewing books at my website, CrochetInsider.com for years, and now have an enormous collection. Seems like I can look up just about anything I need to know in one or the other of them.
Today we also have video tutorials that are valuable, especially for learning anything that requires a specific sequence of moves with your hook. More elaborate concepts, however, like adjusting gauge or shaping, are not so easily shown in a short video. That's why I encourage all crocheters who are interested in building their skills to have a collection of reference books in their library.
Here are some of the books that I find very thorough and useful. Every crochet household should have one or two of these references, and no two provide the same information. If there are others I've not included that you really love, please let us know in your comments!
200 Crochet Tips, Techniques & Secrets
St. Martin's Press
This is a hardcover book suitable for both beginners and intermediate crocheters. Big beautiful photos and diagrams illustrate all the concepts. In addition to essential basic information, it includes sections on how to read patterns and charts, shaping, designing, garment making and much more. A great book for the large overview of crochet techniques and possibilities, with plenty of detail as well.
Cecily Keim an Kim P. Werker
This soft cover book is equally as useful as the one discussed above by Jan Eaton, if slightly less visually appealing. On the other hand, at about twice the number of pages, there is even more information here, such as sections on Tunisian crochet, Broomstick, Hairpin Lace, and step by step illustrations of many stitches and motifs. An excellent guide from which you can learn to crochet, and move from beginner to the next level.
by Lily Chin
Lily is one expert whose advice you can always trust, and this book is filled with great advice. It's hardcover, small and portable. Again, the basics are covered, and the author then goes on to more obscure, but potentially project-saving techniques such as the Russian join, how to make a handy dispenser for difficult yarns (for example, ribbon yarn) how to pull out stitches from the middle of a finished piece. I heartily recommend this for anyone who wants to have a class with Lily right at their fingertips.
Another small portable book from an expert, Edie's book provides a tremendous amount of information organized around broad topics. Edie is a well-known teacher and author who truly understand the problems crocheters run into. This is a source to turn to whenever you have questions about a project or pattern.
If you're looking for crochet inspiration, nothing does the job like a good stitch dictionary, at least for me. There are several things to look for in these books 1) clear instructions on how to do each pattern 2) clear diagrams of the stitches 3) good photos 4) good organization. You're not likely to find all these qualities in all the dictionaries. Then there's the question of quantity -- do you want a huge selection to choose from? Some books give you that but skimp on photo quality, while other that provide the latter may have fewer stitches (it's a question of manufacturing cost and book price). Here are some of my favorites:
by Linda Schapper
Few other dictionaries compare in sheer number of stitches to this one-- there are 500! Chapters are organized around particular stitches, so there are sections on single and double crochet stitches, V-stitches, several on various types of shells, etc. The book is tech edited and has diagrams by one of the best in the business, Karen Manthey, making it very user friendly, clean and clear. My one quarrel with this book is the photography of the stitches, which is not crisp, and sometimes shows too little of the stitch pattern to really see how it looks as a fabric. Nevertheless I refer to this book often for ideas and variations on patterns, and always find something interesting.
by Sasha Kagan
Sixth & Spring Books
Just like the title says, this is a book to get your fingers itching for the hook. It's part dictionary, part pattern book, and there are sections on motifs and flowers as well. Kagan is a renowned knitter with a particular flair for color work, which is obvious here too. What I love about this book is that swatches are stunning, beautifully photographed, and, in many cases, given an entire page. Rather than show all the stitches in the same yarn, you'll find thick, thin, fuzzy, smooth and all the variations in between. It's a large, hardcover book and I'm glad of that too, as several of my paper back reference books have fallen apart.
One of the newest additions to the literature, this hardcover book is authored by a great designer and technician, and nicely presented by Wylie, with a few quibbles. There are 300 stitch patterns, well organized by technique, including patterns for colorwork, Tunisian crochet, motifs, and edgings. There are many unusual stitches you won't find elsewhere, and a particularly valuable, yet rarely seen, section on joining motifs in various ways. Instructions and diagrams are good. What I find lacking is the photography of the swatches, which lacks clarity and too often gives only a hazy idea of what the stitch actually looks like. As mentioned earlier, you can't have everything in a single book, and I would still give this my strong recommendation because of the great variety of new things to learn and do.
Creating Crochet Fabric, (Lark, 2010) is an in depth study of how to make your fabric match your project, from light gossamer shawls to flowing sweaters to sturdy warm hats. This book teaches you how to work with many different yarns and stitch patterns and get beautiful results, and is the fruit of several years of intense swatching and designing.
Custom Crocheted Sweaters (Lark 2012) is my most recent book which is all about getting sweaters to look great on you. It covers the many ways to put a sweater together, how to read schematics, how to measure yourself and your store-bought sweaters, and all the math you need to adjust patterns to fit you. If you want to get into garment making, it's the only book of its kind for crochet.
Hopefully some of these books are already part of your library, and if not, they are definitely worth checking out!
Thanks so much for reading and happy crocheting!
Dora Ohrenstein is an author, designer and writer whose most recent book is Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit. Her website Crochetinsider.com is a great source for articles, interviews and techniques, and where she teaches online crochet classes.