It's a time-tested manual for the nervous newbie. It covers all the basics and then some, including:
- yarn types
- measuring and estimating quantities
- needles and notions
- English vs. Continental method
- cast-ons and bind-offs
- increases and decreases
- hemming and seaming
- advanced techniques, such as beading, pom-poms, i-cords, etc.
This edition is the perfect combo for different learning styles. There are plenty of charts, diagrams and words for learners who prefer to read. And there are two DVDs that cover all the material in video form. My only beef is that the demos are shown using the Continental style, where the working yarn is held in the left hand. (I haven't managed to get there yet – I'm still slogging away, throwing yarn in the old English style.)
The Knitter's Companion is a good all-around book for someone who's starting out. If you're a battle-scarred hero, I'd skip it. But the book would make a great gift for the new knitter on your Christmas list.
While I think this book-and-DVD set is a really good one, my sentimental favourite learning-to-knit site is knittinghelp.com.
It hosts a bunch of free technique videos, from simple cast-ons to increases to more advanced technical stitches. (I'm sure I watched the buttonhole and bobble ones about a million times.) Many of the videos come in Continental and English versions, just in case the "wrong" style gets you all turned around. And it's perfect when you're on the go – as long as you have Internet access, you can get help. No book schlepping required.