Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sock Book Reviews

But first – my faithful reader Ev asks what is the tool that I showed in the last post. That, my dear, is a fringe twister! You attach your strands (or groups of strands) from the end of your woven scarf or shawl to the alligator clips. Then you wind the handle like mad in one direction. When the ends are twisted enough you shift them all onto one clip and wind like mad in the opposite direction. Make an overhand knot at the end to hold the twist in and there you have a nice tight scarf fringe. You can even count your windings to increase consistency. There’s an illustration and a brief description on this PDF from Leclerc and a somewhat more elaborate tutorial on this PDF from Ashford. Note that Ashford’s twister clamps to the table but is otherwise quite similar. A clamp would be especially useful for making cording. Hope that helps!

Now for the promised book reviews. As I hinted yesterday, there’s a definite theme here: socks! Which is odd because although I love all the fantastic sock patterns out there, I usually only ever make plain stockinette socks using my standard memorised pattern. Boring but easy to knit on autopilot and terrifically functional. Be that as it may, here’s the latest additions to my vast book collection:

Book KneeHighs

Knitting Knee-Highs by Barb Brown, published by Krause Publications, 2011. Signed by the author! (She was actually at FibresWest this last weekend but I didn’t meet her. The Twist of Fate booth where I bought it got her to sign copies for them.) Barb is from Alberta and has had her sock patterns published in a number of publications. This book is a great resource even if you aren’t interested in knee-socks since each pattern has a short sock version as well. Most are of the stranded 2-colour pattern variety, similar to Turkish or alpine ski socks, but with my favourite flap heels and wedge toes. There are several lovely cables and lace patterns as well, including one that reminded me instantly of my last pair of Monkey socks. (Turns out it was in exactly the same yarn!) Best of all, there is a section in the beginning that includes formulas for calculating your own knee-highs, custom fitting tips and details on how to convert to shorter socks or legwarmers.

I have a few small caveats with this book. I wish Barb had included more details on the different places one can put the “calf wedges” (my term) when designing and also that all the knee-socks pictured seem too short to me. I like mine right up to the kneecap and the photos mainly show them ending right at the widest part of the model’s calf or a teensy bit above. I totally guarantee they will not stay up that way! That problem could be easily remedied with some of the patterns by adding more repeats above and below or even incorporating the shaping but others such as the ones with large colour-stranded charts would take a lot more finagling. It could just be my personal taste and you might be happy with the length as written. However, to Barb’s credit she does include several sizes for each sock pattern which is not all that easy to achieve with some stitch patterns. I also like many of the alternative shorter versions though it seems a little backwards to discuss changes from long to short socks. Might have been good to add how to do it in the opposite direction, i.e. the changes that need to be added to a short sock to make them into knee-socks. Then you could adapt almost any sock pattern. There are really not very many knee-sock patterns out there in comparison.

Book CookieASpeaking of mostly regular-length socks, the second book I got (this time from Jane Stafford’s booth) is adorably entitled knit. sock. love. by Cookie A, published by her own One Leg Press, 2010. This is a gorgeous book! The photography by Laura Kicey is spectacular and totally negates the fact that you’ve probably seen a number of these patterns before. However, Cookie has added several sizes to most (such as the familiar Hedera and Monkey socks) and included clear diagrams and instructions for each sock pattern. It pays to be your own publisher because you can get the book design the way you want it! I’m a huge fan of Cookie’s elegant design style using lace, cables and traveling stitches – no colour-stranding here. Plus there are a few knee-socks included. Love. Sock. Knit.

If you’re a rank beginner or a sock knitter who prefers toe-up short-row heel styles neither of these books may be right for you. The authors don’t give directions for alternative needle or style options nor hold your hand with basic sock knitting techniques. Both use charts extensively. An experienced sock knitter could probably adapt at least some of the designs to their preferred method. I know I’ve done that in reverse with at least one of Wendy Johnson’s toe-up sock patterns. Hint: lace patterns often look quite different when knitted upside down or in reverse order. Ask me how I know.

Anyway now there are several pairs of knee-socks in both books that are calling me to get my needles out – especially since I don’t have any socks on the go at the moment. After all, although I have many pairs of handknitted socks I only have 2 pairs of rather plain knee-socks. However I’ve been monogamous with my Abotanicity Tunic (also in sock yarn) and it’s now several repeats into the lace section and looking good so far. I didn’t change needle sizes upward yet though I’ll probably ease up to a 3.5 from the 3.25mm soon and then go to the specified 3.75 further down on the skirt. I can only read while knitting the alternate plain rows and must concentrate on the 294-stitch lace rounds! I’m just coming to the end of the second 100g ball so I’ve already knit the equivalent of 2 pairs of large men’s socks or a pair and a half of knee-socks anyhow. Onward…before it’s too warm to wear a wool tunic. Ahem. I wish. Although it must be spring because T-Man rode his electric-assist bicycle to work for the first time this year. But then it hailed on him on the way.

1 comment:

Ev said...

Thank you for explaining! The Cookie A book looks like a real winner... might have to look into it one of these days. :)