Monthly Archives: October 2009

Book Review: The Big Book of Socks

When you’re a knitter, there is just a whole darned lot to love about fall. I love that I can break out all my hoarded socks and sweaters that have been waiting to come out again ever since May, I love that wool feels cozy in my hands again…and I love that there are new knitting books on the shelves coming my way for review. I’m pleased again to be keeping up with a bit of blog book reviews. The fine folks at Random House Canada are good enough to continue sending a few titles my way, and I thank them for it!

Today, I have a few review comments on The Big Book of Socks, by Kathleen Taylor:

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If you’re a knit-blogger, or a knitter who is a blog-reader or Ravelry user, chances are you are familiar with socks in some fashion. Socks are the little black dress of the knitting world – good for all knitting occasions. Either you’ve knitted them yourself, or you’ve at least been exposed to them enough that you’ve probably started to think about knitting your first pair. You probably don’t need me to tell you why socks are awesome to knit and to wear.

It’s also true that there is no shortage of sock knitting books out there in print, so it can be difficult to tell one apart from the other. It took me a bit of time to consider The Big Book of Socks for where it fits in, because at first glance it may seem a bit simplistic in light of other sock efforts – Ravelry and the blogosphere abound with sock patterns of intricate complexity, some that seem to push the boundaries of knitting. These things, however, are not what The Big Book of Socks is trying to accomplish.

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I think where this book fits in is for the knitter who has not tried sock knitting before, and needs a gentle and progressive introduction to it, or for the knitter who wants to knit socks as gifts for family members or friends, but needs some variety in basic options. There is a very brief introduction to the world of sock knitting in general, with some short notes paid to the differences between a few techniques, and then six different kinds of socks: Basic, Striped, Textured and Cabled, Lace, Colorwork, and ‘Just for Fun’. Essentially, this book takes you through a mini workshop whereby you gradually apply slightly more adventurous techniques to the whole sock concept. Most patterns are sized from wee child on up to male adult.

This starts out with, surprisingly, tube socks. It’s been a long darned time since I saw anyone recommend knitting tube socks (essentially, tubes with toes but no heels), but Kathleen Taylor makes the point that these can be ideal for small children whose feet grow quickly. I imagine they might also be a gentle step up for new sock knitters who are just getting used to the whole in-the-round thing first, and the heel second.

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Never fear, though, for this book does in fact progress to heel flaps and short row heels. (Generally the patterns are written for cuff-down knitting). As the chapters progress, the socks become slightly more adventurous and introduce the knitter to new techniques – lace, cables, bobbles, beads, stranded colourwork, all of these are included in turn. I quite like these simple lace socks, above, and there are even one or two pairs with bobbles on them that I would make as a fun pair. You know I’m a fan of colourwork, and I admit I was quite taken with the two-colour mosaic socks, below.

The yarns included in the samples will also be familiar to most people who look through the book – they include well-known American labels such as Knit Picks, Patons, Blue Moon, Berroco, and a few others. This also makes me think the book was produced with accessibility in mind, since these kinds of recognizeable labels can be pretty easy to locate.

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So, I think that while a lot of experienced knitters will probably glance at this book and then put it back on the shelf, it may be just right for others. Do you know a knitter who hasn’t yet embarked on his/her sock knitting adventure? Or are you that knitter? If so, you just might be an ideal recipient for this book.

I’m happy to pass on my copy to a sock knitter or would-be sock knitter out there. If you’d like to put your name into the ring, please comment below and tell me why you enjoy/would enjoy sock knitting. The more sock knitters, the merrier!

[ETA]: I should have included a deadline! I’ll accept comments to this post through Saturday midnight, and will draw a winning name some time on Sunday. Thank you to everyone who has left a comment so far! It is lovely to read them.

61 Comments

Filed under book review, socks

If Only.

My friends, the time draws ever closer to that exalted weekend of the year, the New York Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck, New York. I am thrilled to bits to be attending for a third year in a row, can’t wait to see all the people who will be there, and comfort myself in procrastinatory moments at my desk with warm wooly thoughts of the event to come. We are now in single-digit countdown of days to go.

If only I could somehow manage to convince my campus that a teeny little weekend really isn’t enough, that wooly gatherings such as these really do require one to take a bit of recovery time afterwards.

Kim, you’re so helpful. Thanks for having my back.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Stranded again

On Saturday afternoon I was merrily engaged in another Advanced Level Knitting Technique: In-Transit Stranded Colour-work. (Because really, if you’re not working up a colour-work hat while crammed onto a commuter bus sailing down the highway towards the big city, I just don’t think you’re as committed to this whole “knitting” thing as you should be.)

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I please myself to say I executed most of the crown shaping on that bus ride without any dropped stitches (though sadly my cute dragonfly stitch marker was the casualty…It was clearly the sacrifice the knitting fates were looking for and I had lost it by the end of the ride). But of course, this being colour-work and all, my eyes were pretty well glued to the knitting and I totally missed out on the degree of weirded-out glances I undoubtedly received.

This is the Beaumont tam, from Jared Flood’s recently released Made in Brooklyn booklet. It is a beautiful pattern and relatively quick to execute as colour-work projects go. And though this was the first time I’d worked with the project-specified yarn, Classic Elite Fresco, I doubt it will be the last. It’s soft, the colour selection is great, and it’s got bunny in it (10% angora/30% baby alpaca/60% wool), and I will definitely need one of these hats for myself somewhere down the road.

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Because yes, this hat is no longer in my hands but lives with the fabulous ladies of the Purple Purl. The last time I was in the shop, Miko somehow managed to walk me over to the Fresco and hold me in thrall long enough to convince me to knit them up a Beaumont, and I left the shop with the ribbing already on the needles and a vague sense that I had somehow gotten myself hosed.

But naturally, I say this with love, because sample knitting is a very rare thing for me (aka “what do you mean I have to do all this knitting and time and don’t even get to KEEP IT FOR ME ME ME ALL ME” sort of knitting), but it’s very easy to do when you love the home that the knitting is going to. I’m just so super happy that the Purple Purl is about to turn Two Years Old. It feels like they’ve been around a whole lot longer than that, and I hope they never leave. Even though it takes me an hour and a half to get there, they are the store that feels most like my Local Yarn Shop.

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Do you have a beloved Local Yarn Shop? What fabulous things have happened at your LYS lately?

Have a fantabulous Sunday evening, and hopefully a manageable Monday ahead!

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Filed under fair isle, finished object: accessories, knitting in public, yarn stores