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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

The Scourge of Skyward Knitting Needles: It Continues

Even Charles Addams had no difficulty figuring out how to depict knitting

It’s baaaaack! That most wonderful time of the year where we determine once and for all whether or not skilled illustrators are capable of rendering knitting needles correctly on a picture book page. A weird obsession, I’ll grant, but an oddly rewarding one.

If you’ve seen my previous posts (here and here) then you’ll know that the rules are simple. If an artist features a knitting character, they gain points if the knitting needles are pointed down, they lose points if they are pointed up, and they neither gain or lose points if the knitting needles if there are extenuating circumstances. We’ll be examining 2019 releases today.

Before we begin, a quick Q&A:

Q: Does everyone point the ends of their knitting needles down when they knit?

A: Yes.

Q: Really? Are you sure? Because I know someone in Argentina who knits with the ends up . . .

A: If the book is set in Argentina we’ll make an exception.

Q: I heard that in the 1920s/30s the needles would be pointed up . . .

A: Tell you what. I’ll allow it . . . if the book is set in the 1920s and 30s.

Q: But isn’t it easier to show that a character is knitting if the ends are pointed up?

A: Yep. Don’t care.

Q: I knit that way.

A: You do?

Q: I do. And now you’re vilifying it.

A: I totally am.

Q: Well, that makes me feel bad.

A: Sorry about that. You must admit that it is a tad uncommon. A simple Google search of the term “knitting” shows that right away.

Q: I’ve been doing it this way for 55 years.

A: Huh. Well, let me put it this way. I purchase all the knitting books for my library. And not a single one of them teaches knitting the way that you’ll see featured in some of the following illustrations. So if you knit that way, I tip my hat to you. But if you are illustrating a picture book, I expect just a rudimentary bit of research to see how the majority of the 21st century public knits.

Q: It’s their choice, though.

A: Totally. I’m just weird about this.

And there we go! Now! Let’s dole out some points . . . .

Very nice. We’re off to a fine start. Good needle placement and inclusion fo balls of yarn.

Final Score: 1

Hmmm. Cute art. I like how the hedgehog and badger are rendered. Demidova is a Russian illustrator so I looked up Russian knitting. Unfortunately, it does not appear that Russians knit any differently than Americans, in this respect. The ends of those knitting needles are pointed high to the sky!

Final Score: 0

Ahhh… that’s more like it. The meticulousness of your average knitting beaver. Needles pointed downward, and a variety of different colored yarns to account for the stripes. Nicely done.

Final Score: 1

Hmm. Interesting. Well, it’s a little hard to see in the small image here, but if you had the book in hand you’d see that not only is the polar bear knitting realistically, but you can actually make out the cast on stitches on the needles.

Final Score: 1

Aw. So the book took some interesting liberties with the exact nature in which one dyes wool and yarn, but for the most part, it has been very good about what the process would be to knit a sweater from scratch. Plus any book that shows someone poring over the knitting instructions appears to care about the material at hand.

Final Score: 1

You know . . . the longer I stare at this image from the cover of this book, the more I think the author isn’t depicting knitting at all but crocheting. Would you agree? Those needles appear to be hooked. I think putting this image into knitting terms would be unfair to it.

Final Score: N/A

Boy, here’s another one getting it right! Dare I say it’s been a banner year?

Final Score: 1

Oh, doggone it. The kicker here is that I seriously believe that Why? by Rex and Keane is one of the smartest and cleverest picture books of the year. Unfortunately, when we actually get to see our super villain in his favorite element, he seems not to have figured out how to hold his needles. A dent in an otherwise perfect book.

Final Score: 0

Any 2019 titles I’ve missed?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Take a peek at A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard. Kar-Ben Publishing. I think you’ll be pleased with the directions of the knitting needles and by the book itself.

  2. Love that book!!

  3. I zoomed in on my picture from Pigeon Math, and it those are crochet needs, which I think they I are, then why is the pigeon using two needles? That’s not how I crochet!

  4. Chris Gustafson says:

    So maybe I am not the only one who worries about the cover of When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds which shows a gun covered with crochet when the text clearly describes a character as a knitter?

  5. Robin Smith says:

    I think you need to give the badger and porcupine a pass in “The Friendship Yarn”. Yes, the needles are pointed up, but they are also holding the needles at the wrong end. Obviously they aren’t actually knitting at that moment of illustration – they are pausing to examine their work.
    And the villain of a story is naturally going to do things his own way. So, yes, that gets a pass also. lol

    • Ooo. I love this interpretation. Okay, point detraction rescinded for the furry woodland creatures then. But the villain apparently loved knitting before his conversion to villainy, so no pass for him this time.

  6. BROOKE SHIRTS says:

    I think much of the upwards-needle phenomenon is simply due to illustrators confusing knitting with crochet. (Or possibly double-pointed knitting-in-the-round, but if that’s the case there had better be 4-5 needles involved.) People didn’t use upwards-pointing needles in knitting in the 20s, 30s, Argentina, or in any other time or place because the craft is impossible when the needles are held that way! For further evidence, I highly recommend Barbara Levine’s charming book “People Knitting: A Century of Photographs,” where you can see a picture of friggin’ Sojourner Truth with her knitting. And yes, she holds her needles in the correct way.

  7. Barb Gogan says:

    I look forward to this every time. <3

  8. I can’t tell you how much I love your knitting needle posts. Thanks!!

  9. I love this series, but I am continually flummoxed by the wording of “the ends pointing down,” when you don’t mean the POINTY ends are pointing down.

    • Ah, I see what you mean. I always think of the “front” being the point part, since it’s the part you’re working with primarily. And on a lot of needles both ends are pointy. How to distinguish?