on walkabout

Posted on Posted in book reviews/events

i’m on a plane at the moment, winging my way toward san francisco and a visit with our dear friend cookie. since i’m going to be in the shadow of a sock guru for the next week, i’m not only packing a couple of unfinished sock projects to take along (just to look somewhat on the same wavelength), but i thought i’d leave you all with some food for thought (i’ve been thinking a lot about socks lately, maybe as a substitute for actually knitting them? not sure . . .).

and for variety’s sake, there will be two dishes to choose from . . .

the first is from another dear friend, alice (AKA socktopus), who celebrated a big milestone this month with the birth of her first daughter. while our knitting community rallies around the new family, i though it would be fun to highlight one of her other recent achievements—the publication of her own socktopus book in october, 2011 by taunton press (she’s just had one great event on top of another this past year; go alice!).

while most of alice’s book focuses on a collection of sock design from her popular club (more on those later), she starts the ball rolling with a concise overview of sock knitting basics—things to consider when getting started that will have the biggest effect on the final results.

she delves just far enough into fiber facts, yarn characteristics, tools, fit, fabric, and constructions to begin building a knowledge base, without overwhelming the reader. this is so like alice herself that i had to smile when i read these pages—in her work, clean, clear, and to the point.

the pattern section begins with a basic sock recipe—and i love this—shown in a setting that is anything but. just to prove that you don’t need to be fancy to be effective.

a plain sock in a smashing color is at least as eye-catching as something complicated.

each design is shown at a variety of angles and distance, so that we get a sense of it both as a fashion piece and as a knitted item. i always enjoy it more when knitted items are photographed as part of our lives, instead of as pristine objects on display.

that said, in an instruction manual, we of course want to see the details of each piece to guide our own work. and this book delivers both. nice.

each pattern is accompanied by good-sized, easy-to-read charts; written instructions are provided for the construction points, though not necessarily for every pattern rnd.

in addition, many patterns include tutorials on technique or notes on unusual abbreviations or maneuvers.

the designs are by and large deeply textured with allover patterns in lace, crossed stitches, and slip stitch effects, while maintaining a mostly-girly point of view (though there are several that could bat for either team).

(i love this pair!!)

the textural choices are the perfect way for alice to show off the gorgeous colors of her handpainted yarns, making a great case for such a designer pairing.

the stitches really enhance the colors, bringing out rich background tones and glowing highlights.

if you’re a texture junkie, this collection of 17 designs should be on your shelf—just sayin’. you can purchase a copy here.

now, for those who have read this far, a special treat from the lovely folks at taunton—a giveaway copy for one luck winner. if you’d like to throw your hat sock in the ring, please leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm EST on sunday march 4th. i’ll get my friend cookie to do the honors and we;ll announce it as soon after that as i can (remember, i’m traveling; it might not be til wednesday next week)

now, as if all that excitement wasn’t enough i’ve got another great sock book to show you. while it has its similarities, it couldn’t be more different in some ways either, so read on.

this one—by the esteemed clara parkes, fiber guru and author of knitter’s review—also released in october (by potter craft), just about the same time as alice’s and it is also about socks.

but the knitter’s book of socks diverts from the path of the previous book in several important ways and in doing so, rightly wins equal position as a favorite new release for me.

anyone who reads knitter’s review knows that clara is a very thorough investigator. when allowed to unleash her full reporting powers on a book-length project, what she delivers is a thoughtful resource of considerable usefulness to knitters and other scholars of fiber. you want to know that answer to a fiber question? go ask clara (or better yet, read her three books).

this volume delves a little deeper into individual properties of  fiber, yarn, and fabric that will affect the outcome of your sock. she also reaches further afield to talk about factors outside the sock itself that will have an effect on your experience.

she takes the sock student from the ground floor (when the fiber is still on the animal) through the fabrication, tools, wearing experience, and finishes off the lesson with some schooling on washing up afterward. nice and tidy.

all of this takes up about half the volume (which is a nice thick hardcover totaling about two hundred pages).

the other half of the book is devoted to sock designs and patterns that explore the concepts presented in the first half (or you can flip straight to those to get started knitting, if you like).

the big difference in this collection of designs is that it is a compilation of many designers chosen by the author—myself and cookie among them. those are our socks, together in the photo above; isn’t that cute? i bet you can you guess which is which, haha. in fact, they appear together an erie number of times, as if we were following the photographer around.

cookie’s sock is really cool—a pattern of traveling stitches that cris-crosses all over the place, but not the way cables do. i really love it.

we are in good company, with nancy bush, sivia harding, ann budd, cat bordhi, and many others, for a total of twenty new and creative designs.

while many of these are indeed girly and/or focused on a fancy motif or construction, there are plenty of choices that will be suitable for men and boys.

clara’s stepping stones design is one and stephen houghton’s salted caramels is another (to point out just a couple)

i love the look of the yarn used for this design; it’s something that david would really like and supports the design beautifully.

this is another attractive pair that has a delicious moroccan feeling, due to the combination of stitch pattern and color. i could see a pastel yarn choice being equally lovely, but changing the tenor of the design completely.

each pattern is accompanied by written instructions in the construction; charts are provided for specific pattern stitches. the charts here are a little harder to read though, which is the only drawback i can see to the book layout.

all in all, a wonderful and  varied resource for the sock knitter, whether beginner or experienced—there’s always something new to learn, right?

clara has green-lighted a giveaway copy of her book as well; same rules apply. leave a comment at the end of this post by 9pm EST on sunday, march 4, 2012 if you’d like to be included in the drawing.

thank you to both authors for sharing their wealth of knowledge and skill with us!

i will be back with a report form the west coast just as soon as i gather my wit’s after landing (that could be a day or two, hee-hee and this will give me some leeway)

431 thoughts on “on walkabout

  1. I would love to add Socktopus to my library of sock books! Already have all of Clara’s books 🙂

  2. What great reviews of these two good looking books. Love Clara’s books. This one looks great. So does Socktupus! Good luck on your trip!

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful reviews & keeping us in the loop. Would love to win either one.

  4. I would love to win a Copy of “The Knitter’s Book Of Socks”. This looks like an invaluable resource.

  5. Hello,
    Beautiful socks galore! I lone knitting socks.

    Please include me in both drawings. I would love a copy of these sock books.
    Thank you,
    Julie in San Diego

  6. I would really love Clara’s book(or Alice’s) because I really want to be a better sock knitter. Socks keep my loved ones feet warm and they deserve better made socks from me.

    Also, thank you for giving a great review to two books I wasn’t thinking of purchasing but now will.

  7. I would love a copy of Socktopus. The patterns look lovely and fun to knit. I recently acquired The Knitters Book of Socks by Clara. It’s a great resource. Thanks!

  8. Lovely books! Thanks for sharing your reviews. Either book would be loved and used!

  9. The books look lovely, I would love to win either one of them. Ineed to get back to knitting socks again.

  10. One can never have too many sock books.I’d give either book a happy home. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Both books look like must-haves and are now on my birthday wish list–unless I win! Thanks so much.

  12. Please enter me in the drawing for either book. I’d love to knit my very first pair of socks… this win may be just the inspiration I need!

  13. I love knitting socks, and always seem to have a Cookie A sock on my needles – maybe because I’m slow? I’d love a copy of the Socktopus book, please! I already own the Knitter’s Book of Socks (Elm is presently on my needles, but hibernating as I figure out leg length).

  14. I would love the Knitter’s Book of Socks! So many of the designs are ones I would be proud to wear and to give as gifts.
    Thank you!

  15. i would love to win socktopus! i am a newer sock knitter and the socks look so do-able to me. the bright colors inspire me to cast on lots of bright things!

  16. I absolutely don’t have enough sock books! But, what’s really appealing is not just the actual, gorgeous, patterns, but that there is writing ABOUT socks! There just isn’t enough writing about knitting, imho 🙂

  17. Your review of Socktopus has me sold! What a beautiful book of amazing sock patterns! What would I cast on first? –The book of socks looks good too…so many good books! Thank you for introducing them here!

  18. Thank you for such wonderful reviews of the books. It is always so nice to get a review of a book before buying it and you were very thorough. All of the pictures make them irresistible!

    I’m addicted to sock-knitting — I just can’t get enough. I especially love intricate patterns and different techniques, which it looks like both of these books offer. I’m wish-listing them right now!!

  19. Thanks for your review of Socktopus – I haven’t found it around here and would love to make my way through these patterns.

  20. I have Clara’s Book Of Yarn, and it’s a great book, wouldn’t mind adding her sock book to my collection 🙂

  21. I would LOVE to add Socktopus to my library! So many innovative patterns. Ditto the Book of Socks! Thanks for the great reviews!

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