Review: Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd

This month’s sock book, Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd, is a collection of patterns from well-known designers and contains an accompanying DVD.

Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd

Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd ©Rachel Gibbs

Mastering Good Sock Design

The socks cover a range of techniques and styles, which are described at the beginning, in a chapter called Mastering Good Sock Design. This includes fit, yarn and gauge, needle choice, heels, toes and aesthetics. Each method is described, with instructions on how to work it, and it also includes why you might pick that particular one, which I appreciate as it can be hard to know which one to choose. It then indicates which socks in the book use that method, including page numbers which is always useful. All these techniques are also covered on the DVD.

Needle choice covers four and five DPNs, tiny circulars, two circulars and magic loop. While almost all sock patterns can be made with any type of needles, it can be interesting to know which the designer used.

Heels and Toes

The heels section covers a large array of heel types, including different ways to turn a flap and gusset heel, different stitch patterns to use on the heel flap, and toe-up and top-down variants of a flap and gusset heel. It also covers short row heels and afterthought heels (which it calls peasant heels). All the instructions are generic and can be worked with any number of stitches. This does require you to do a bit of your own thinking and may not suit people who want more detailed instructions

Band Heel

Band Heel ©Rachel Gibbs

The toes section is also very extensive, covering some unusual choices used by the patterns in the book, including a mocassin toe and a horizontal band toe as well as the standard options. The toes instructions are only given for one of toe-up and top-down depending on what the book patterns use, which I do feel is a disadvantage, especially as the more standard toes are only top-down. The only toe to cover both is the short-row toe.

Aesthetics (stitch patterns)

The aesthetics section is mainly of interest to designers. You don’t have to sell patterns to be a designer, but if you’ve ever wanted to make up your own pattern instead of following a bought one, you may find this section useful. It covers cables, stranded colourwork, lace, slipped stitches, twisted travelling stitches, entrelac and shadow knitting. Each section briefly describes the technique and then covers the advantages and disadvantages as well as things to take into account when using the technique for socks, such as the effect on stitch count.

Patterns

The patterns are grouped into top-down and toe-up and each section starts again with why you might want to use that method and suitable cast ons. The top down section has six cast ons, three methods for joining in the round and three bind offs (you don’t have to use the Kitchener stitch). For toe-up, there are two cast ons and four bind offs. These are demonstrated on the DVD.

Each pattern has a distinct box indicating which techniques are used in the pattern and which page they can be found on. There are also design tips and notes on yarn choice from Clara Parkes (the author of The Knitters Book of Yarn, which I reviewed in April). The gauge is mainly given in both stocking stitch and the stitch pattern used, to help you achieve a good fit.

Top-Down Socks

Top Down Socks

Top Down Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

The first pattern in the book, Asymmetric Cables, is by one of my favourite designers, Cookie A, (read my review of her first sock book), and it has cables so of course, I love it. It comes in multiple sizes, although the largest size is a 9″ foot circumference so although the pattern is unisex it may not fit all men. I also find it odd that the cable pattern is only written out and not charted.

French Market Socks by Nancy Bush comes next. These are stranded socks with a four-point toe. The colourwork charts use symbols as well as colours to identify the different yarns, useful if you’re working off a photocopy. This sock is only available in one size, probably due to the patterning continuing onto the toe.

Almondine by Anne Handon has a lovely lace design and comes in a wide range of sizes. The designer considers the lace pattern unisex, although I’m not sure I would agree. This pattern only has charted instructions and not written for the lace.

Happy-Go-Lucky Boot Socks by Véronik Avery uses slip stitch colourwork and sport weight yarn. Again only one size is offered, which is disappointing. I do like the unusual heel flap though.

Thigh High Stripes by Deborah Newton are the impressive socks from the front cover. There is only one size available, which is given as measurements immediately above the heel flap, midway up the leg and at the upper leg just below the ribbing. Some suggestions are made on how the size could be adapted but are not included in the pattern. It expects the gauge to be the same in the stranded portions as in stocking stitch, which could cause a problem.

Rose Ribs by Evelyn A Clark are another delicate lace pattern, available in two sizes. The stitch pattern is not charted, although it is only 7 stitches and 8 rounds so fairly easily memorisable.

Twisted-Stitch Stockings by Meg Swansen

Twisted-Stitch Stockings by Meg Swansen ©Rachel Gibbs

Twisted Stitch Stockings by Meg Swansen as the name suggests feature twisted stitch cables and also removable sole. The legs are calf length and incorporate decreases to fit. The cable pattern is charted and not written, although as it rather large that is understandable. Only one size in included, but it is considered very stretchy, so this is less of a problem than with some other socks in the book. If you don’t like grafting, these are not the socks for you as there is a large seam in the middle of the foot. As the foot is worked flat, this involves purling through the back loop which is one of my least favourite stitches to work, although instructions on knitting backwards are also included.

Knot Socks are also by Nancy Bush. These socks are inspired by Estonia and feature an unusual ribbed cable, a square heel and a three-point toe. The yarn used in finer than standard sock yarn and US0 (2 mm) needles are recommended. The cable is charted and not written out and once again, there is only one size (and a small one at that).

Mock Cables and Lace are by Ann Budd, the collator of this book. This features lace that looks like cables and twists that look like cables but aren’t. The leg length is quite long, and a larger needle is used for the first part of the leg to help the fit, however, there is only one size given. The pattern is charted but not written and I like the way the pattern flows into the heel flap.

Slip-n-Slide by Chrissy Gardiner

Slip-n-Slide by Chrissy Gardiner ©Rachel Gibbs

Slip-n-Slide are by Chrissy Gardiner and use slip stitch patterns (but not colourwork). This forms delicate patterns on the surface of the socks. I would be considered how these socks would wear, in the given 100% merino yarn and with a patterned but not reinforced heel flap. The instructions are only written out, which for a 17 round pattern seems an odd choice.

Toe-Up Socks

Up-Down Entrelac by Kathryn Alexander use 30 different colours, so would be perfect for using leftover, although you can also buy a kit. The legs are worked top down, the foot toe-up and the heel is afterthought. Although since the odd construction is to enable that kind of toe, I’m not sure the name is appropriate (perhaps why peasant is used instead). I think it is the longest pattern in the book and not for the faint of heart. Only one size is given, which is perhaps not surprising for such a complicated pattern, and three different needle sizes are used.

Bulgarian Blooms by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts involves working intarsia in the round and a tutorial for this is given in the pattern. I’m not sure why intarsia wasn’t covered in the aesthetics section, although it is very infrequently used for socks. There are five sizes given, which is a refreshing change.

Stealth Argyles by Eunny Jang use shadow knitting to hide the diamond pattern. The motif is charted, and this is the only colourwork chart in the book not to use symbols to differentiate colours, as symbols are being used to show which stitches are purled.

Terpander by Melissa Morgan-Oakes features a large central cable, which is charted only, and a toe-up heel flap. Instructions for working socks two-at-a-time are included. Only one size is given, but it would be fairly simple to extend the purl panels between the cables.

Half-Stranded Socks by Anna Zilboorg

Half-Stranded Socks by Anna Zilboorg ©Rachel Gibbs

Half Stranded Socks by Anna Zilboorg also feature a removable sole, but this one is knit in a more traditional direction so it doesn’t require the whole thing to be unravelled and doesn’t have a giant grafted seam. I love the stranded colourwork and while the colours are reversed on the second sock, this isn’t immediately obvious which I like. Due to the large colourwork pattern, there is only one size given.

Pussy Willow Stockings by Cat Bordhi features Cat’s mocassin toe, a travelling lace pattern and a twisted stitch heel flap. It has two sizes, and is said to be stretchy so could accommodate more. The yarn overs are used to shape the gusset, which is unusual but pleasing.

Toe-Up Travellers, also by Ann Budd are the final socks of the book. They have a beautiful Japenese twisted stitch cable pattern and wrapped stitches. The charts are very large but clear.

Instructional DVD

I had problems watching the included DVD on my laptop, although that probably says more about my laptop than the DVD. It worked fine on my TV.

Sock Knitting Master Class DVD

Sock Knitting Master Class DVD ©Rachel Gibbs

The DVD is split into sections, so you can just watch the part that interests you, although it then continues into the next section automatically which is a bit annoying. When talking about designing with different techniques (aesthetics), it demonstrates what is being talked about with the socks from the book. This can give an interesting insight into the designers’ thought processes, although Ann Budd is the only designer actually featured in the video.

When demonstrating the different needles, the example socks and needles used were far larger than usually used for socks. This may make it easier to see on camera but it annoys me. The video is good at discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the different types but doesn’t go into how to actually work that method in any detail.

It doesn’t show all the heel types available in the book, only the round heel toe-up and top-down (the most common flap and gusset version). I find it odd that when showing how to pick up the stitches on the heel flap the camera is facing Ann Budd and not showing her perspective, which makes it a little hard to see what is going on as her fingers are often in the way.

The DVD does not have subtitles, which makes things harder for knitters who are hard of hearing or may not have English as their first language.

Conclusions

I think the patterns are very attractive and I like learning about new to me designers. The technique section at the beginning is not as in depth as I might have liked but covers everything you need to know to make these socks, and I do like how it goes into the benefits of each method. I find the lack of sizing options a problem, especially as most of the socks that are only available in single sizes are at the smaller end of the range. As a designer, I know it can be hard to provide a range of sizes, but I couldn’t wear half of the socks in this book.

I appreciate there are space constraints in any book but I would like more consistency in whether a pattern has written or charted instructions and both in more places. The instructions, however, did seem clear and easy to follow, although I haven’t knitted any of the patterns myself.

I think if you like the patterns in Sock Knitting Master Class and are interested in trying some more unusual techniques then the book would be great, but not if you have large feet! The DVD is somewhat helpful if you’re a visual learner, although since the book was published in 2011, there are a lot more tutorials available online these days.

These are affiliate links, I get a small commission if you buy using these links.

 

Review: Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

The Yarn Harlot is well-known in knitting circles for her blog full of amusing yarn related anecdotes and Knitting Rules! is written in that style, but also contains lots of helpful knitting content. You can easily read it through from start to finish, or just look up the information you need.

Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee ©Rachel Gibbs

If you’ve ever felt bad about knitting too much, having too much yarn or not being able to get through a conversation without mentioning knitting, then Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is here for you and even has handy tips and quizzes to help you deal with it. The first two chapters are “What is Knitting and How Does it Get Like This?” and “Yarn and How Not to Feel Guilty About It” and are recommended reading for any budding knitting-addict. The section on identifying mystery yarn is something that all knitters will find comes in handy at some point, and contains multiple ways of identifying fibres, weights and yardage.

Letter to Inventor of Ziploc bags

Letter to Inventor of Ziploc bags ©Rachel Gibbs

Highlights include “Five Reasons Why People Don’t Knit” (and why they’re all poor excuses), a quiz to assess your level of knitting obsession (I come out as a Scientist, unsurprisingly), a letter to the inventor of ziploc bags thanking them on behalf of the knitting community. It also has a section on identifying mystery yarn, which is something that all knitters will find comes in handy at some point and contains multiple ways of identifying fibres, weights and yardage.

Chapter Three is called “Know Your Stuff” which is all about stuff knitters use that isn’t yarn, i.e. needles, bags, patterns and notions (it has a handy list of what should be inside a model knitting bag). l. It’s also the only book which I’ve seen mention casein needles. I inherited some casein DPNs from my grandma and can attest to her point that they taste very, very bad, despite being made from milk protein.

The next chapter is “Gauge, Swatches, and Learning to Accept Them” which includes 10 Times When You Should Worry About Gauge” and “5 Times You Don’t Need to Get Gauge”, to cover all the bases. She includes a cautionary tale to remind you about the perils of ignoring gauge, but in a  very amusing way.

Ten Reasons Not to Knit Socks

Ten Reasons Not to Knit Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

The final four chapters are about different types of project: hats, socks, scarves and shawls, and sweaters. Each gives 10 reasons to knit that type of object (the socks chapter has 10 reasons not to as well) and then has basic patterns for everything other than sweaters, including size charts to fit almost anyone. There are then suggestions on how to build on the basic patterns to make more interesting things.

For a small book, it packs in a lot of information and in a very accessible way. While the technical bits are probably more suited to a beginner knitter, I think all knitters can get something out of this book as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a very relatable writer. Not only does Knitting Rules contain guidelines for knitting, it’s also a celebration of knitters everywhere and the crazy things they do for love of the craft.

These are affiliate links, I get a small commission if you buy using these links.

New Pattern: Total Internal Reflection Socks

My new pattern, Total Internal Reflection Socks, is another one that requires a bit of a physics lesson. Total internal reflection is when light hits a boundary between two mediums at an angle greater than the critical angle so that it entirely reflects back instead of passing through. It’s used in fibre optics to make the light bounce from side to side along the cable and reach the other end.

Total internal reflection diagram

Total Internal Reflection ©Wikimedia Commons

The pattern has zig-zagging cables that travel all down the sock on a twisted rib background. Smocked panels separate the bouncing cables and continue right into the toe.

Total Internal Reflection Socks

Total Internal Reflection Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

The socks come in three sizes, to fit leg circumference of 8/S (9/M, 10/L)”/20 (23, 25.5) cm and feature a flap and gusset heel. This makes it easy to adapt for a high instep. The pattern has written and charted instructions, whichever you find easier to use, and a diagram to help you visualise how it all fits together.

Flap and gusset heel

Flap and gusset heel ©Rachel Gibbs

Because of the stitch patterns used, these socks use a lot of yarn. The sample is made in The Uncommon Thread Tough Sock in the Lust colourway. I made the Medium size with a 9″ foot and used 96g. Be aware that you may need a yarn with a yardage of more than 400 yards and you may need more than 100g, especially if you make the Large size. Some indie dyed skeins, in particular, are larger than specified, try weighing your yarn first.

Close up of Total Internal Reflection Socks

Close up of Total Internal Reflection Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

Thanks to all my testers and my tech editor who helped make this pattern even better.

Visit the Ravelry pattern page here for more information and buy Total Internal Reflection Socks for £3.50+VAT directly here.

If you like this design and want to be notified of future pattern releases, sign up to my newsletter.

Review: CoopKnits Socks by Rachel Coopey

This month’s review is from one of my favourite designers. CoopKnits Socks was the first book Rachel Coopey brought out in 2013 and I bought it almost immediately. It contains ten patterns, featuring lace, cables and stranded knitting.

CoopKnits Socks

CoopKnits Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

The patterns

The first pattern in the book is Dawlish, a cabled sock and I wrote a blog post about the pair I made last year. Next is Milfoil, a lacy sock with different patterns for leg and foot which alternate between the left and right socks. Rachel Coopey is a big fan of mirroring patterns between socks and different patterns within each sock. On Budleigh, each half of the sock has different cables.

There are all over patterns too, Pennycress has a small lace motif and Saltburn has cables with striped contrast cuffs and toes. Calamint is another favourite of mine with an elegant lace panel flanked by twisted rib. All the socks come in more than one size and while they tend to be more feminine, there are some that I would consider unisex.

All the socks

All the socks ©Rachel Gibbs

Most of the patterns have a flap and gusset heel, except Paignton which uses an after thought heel. There is a photo tutorial included at the end to help you pick up the stitches here. The socks are all worked cuff down.

Brighton is the only stranded sock, and also the only knee sock in the book, all the others being a standard mid-calf length. A short version is also included if you prefer that. As the colourwork is made in bands, this allows for decreases to accommodate calf shaping, which should ensure a good fit.

Saxifrage is another beautiful cabled sock and shows that you don’t need to use fancy hand dyed yarn to get a good result, being worked in Opal. The other patterns use a range of hand dyed and commercial kettle dyed yarns, such as Malabrigo, which show off the detailed designs well.

My socks

The other sock I have knit out of this book is Willowherb, another lace sock but one with strong geometrical lines. The pattern names seem split between wild flowers and seaside towns, giving a very British feel.

My Willowherb socks

My Willowherb socks ©Rachel Gibbs

I enjoyed knitting this, although I accidentally made two left feet (which some would say accurately reflects my dancing skills). My cast on is a little tight, but that’s entirely down to me. The leg is also rather long.

The patterns all have charts and some have corresponding written instructions. I do find the cable symbols a bit odd and the columns are only numbered on multiples of five, which might be annoying for some people. Other than that I found the patterns very clear and easy to knit.

Additional information

Why knit socks

Why knit socks ©Rachel Gibbs

At the end is a how- to section with a couple of photo tutorials and links to other tutorials. I’m a fan of the “Why knit socks” page with some words of wisdom to get good results, including a shoe size chart which is always useful when knitting for other people. A digital copy of the book is included with the print version, something I always appreciate.

CoopKnits Socks is a great book if you want to knit some pretty patterned socks. I like the photography, it shows everything you need to know and looks good.

If you like the look of these socks, but don’t think you’re up to knitting them, I have a new e-course that might help. Check out Level Up Your Socks for tips to grow your confidence in knitting patterned socks.

These are affiliate links, I get a small commission if you buy using these links.

 

Review: The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

There’s nothing I like more than geeky knitting books. I don’t mean this in the sense of patterns based on sci-fi or scientific concepts (although I like them too), I mean being geeky about knitting, getting really technical about how things work and why. The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, in Clara’s words, shows you how to be a “yarn whisperer”, to understand the fundamental differences between yarns and how this will affect your finished object.

The Knitter's Book of Yarn

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes ©Rachel Gibbs

The book has four sections: Fiber Foundations (the book uses American terminology and spellings so when quoting I will too), Making Yarn, Ply Me a River (which has patterns) and Putting it all Together. It is a book packed with information and can either be read straight through or dipped into at your leisure if you want information on a specific type of yarn.

Section 1: Fiber Foundations

Endpapers of The Knitter's Book of Yarn

I love the endpapers of The Knitter’s Book of Yarn ©Rachel Gibbs

This section talks about the fibre that is used and is split into protein fibers, cellulose fibers, cellulosic fibers and synthetic fibers. It goes into detail about the different animals that can be used, talking about differences in scales, micron count, staple length and what that means about warmth, elasticity, felting and water absorption. It explains why, lovely though it would be, you don’t want a bulky sweater made of qiviut and why one made of mercerised cotton wouldn’t keep you warm.

I like that it talks about the history of where the fibres came from – how alpacas were nearly rendered extinct by Spanish conquistadors and the struggle to produce artificial silk. This is not strictly relevant for knitting purposes but I find it interesting.

Section 2: Making Yarn

Section 2: Making Yarn

Section 2: Making Yarn ©Rachel Gibbs

While the first section helps you to decide on a type of yarn, the second helps you decide between specific yarns on sale. Why you might prefer one brand over another, and how many indie dyers are using the same base. As the author is American, when talking about specific mills and fibre festivals, they are all US-based. It is also ten years since the book was written and so while the concepts remain the same, some of the mills may not longer be operational and some yarns discontinued.

This section also covers different dying techniques and how this affects the colour of the knitted object. It contains warnings on pooling, bleeding and dye lots, all things that are a good idea to think about before you spend hours knitting.

Section 3: Ply Me a River

The way the yarn is spun (worsted or woolen) and the concept of plies is introduced in section 2 but expanded here. This section is split into number of plies and suggests yarns and projects that are suited to that type of yarn. Specific yarns are mentioned, but also advice is given on substituting.

Some patterns use charts which aren’t always as readable as they could be, since a lot of the page is taken up with the key. None of the patterns are particularly complicated, but there is often more than one size given and they seem to be clearly written. For shawls it’s indicated if the measurements are before or after blocking, and sometimes both are given which is useful.

The patterns use a range of yarns – commercial and small-scale, all different types of fibre. Again, being American, many of the yarns are unavailable here in the UK (or have been discontinued) but as the point of the book is to explain what it is about the yarn that makes it suitable for the pattern, this should make finding alternatives fairly easy.

Putting It All Together

The final section contains tips on washing, specific to the different fibres and including how to get rid of odors and moths. It then talks about the different yarn weights and has a handy chart of the standard yarn weight system (with the numbers in a picture of a skein). A glossary is then included, which is handy as, although terms are explained when they are introduced, it’s useful to have a central resource.

Conclusions

This isn’t a book for everyone. If you’re happy petting yarn and don’t really care why it’s so soft and cuddly or don’t want to do a lot of reading to find out why your latest project is pilling, or wearing through, or hanging oddly then carry on knitting and don’t worry about it. The patterns are ok, but probably not worth buying the book for.

If however, you’re like me and love the technical side of things (once an engineer, always an engineer) then I would recommend The Knitter’s Book of Yarn. It will help you understand the fundamentals of yarn and what to expect when you encounter something new. While it is a little out of date and American focussed, this doesn’t change the principles. I find the style engaging and the concepts explained well.

These are affiliate links, I get a small commission if you buy using these links.

Review: Sock Innovation by Cookie A

This months book, Sock Innovation: Knitting Techniques & Patterns for One-of-a-Kind Socks by Cookie A, is one of the first knitting books I ever bought, and one that I love and continue to use to this day (hence the slightly battered appearance).

Sock Innovation by Cookie A

Sock Innovation by Cookie A ©Rachel Gibbs

Background

I started really getting into knitting when I started Uni in 2007 (studying Electronic Engineering). I knit my first pair of socks a year later, from a Knitty pattern (this was in the very early days of Ravelry). They were not a beginners pattern but despite multiple mistakes and poor yarn/needle choice, I finished them on my 20th birthday (and IIRC was late to lectures because I was redoing a too tight cast off).

In October 2009 I bought my first sock book, Sock Innovation by Cookie A. I was attracted to the complex designs, but it’s the technique section that has made it one of my favourites.

The Patterns

Cookie A is famous for her patterned socks (although I seem to be the only person who has never made a pair of Monkeys) and this book has 15 socks full of lace, cables and texture. They are all named after people and I like the stories of how the socks were inspired by the people they’re named after.

Kai-Mei Socks by Cookie A

Kai-Mei Socks by Cookie A ©Rachel Gibbs

Some of my favourites are Vilai, which combines twisted stitches and lace into a very structural design, Cauchy, named after the famous mathematician (and a cat along the way) with a textured zigzag pattern and Kai-Mei with an iconic angled lace panel.

My Socks

The only socks I’ve ever made from Sock Innovation, however, are probably the most complicated: Bex. I love the three different sections of the pattern, and how they fit together into tessellating hexagons. Then, of course, there is the fact that they’re covered in cables and we know I have a thing for cables.

My Bex socks

My Bex socks ©Rachel Gibbs

I made my Bex between February and November 2010 (thanks, Ravelry project page). I used Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4 Ply, as I was still relying on what was sold in John Lewis, a British department store which has never been particularly good for sock yarn, especially if you don’t want multicoloured Regia. It’s a bit fuzzy for cables, really, and produced quite an inflexible fabric. I had progressed to 2.25mm Knit Pro Symphonie DPNs, though, which was a vast improvement over the remnants of my Mum and Grandma’s metal and casein (did you know they used to make needles out of milk?) mismatched UK Size 14 (2mm) DPN collection which I started on.

I really enjoyed knitting them, though. The charts were complicated but clear, and I really liked the transitions between different parts of the pattern, such as leg to heel flap, something that has inspired my designing.

The Techniques

Sock Innovation is a very unusual book, in that as well as giving you patterns to knit, it shows you how to develop your own sock patterns. It has three sections – sock techniques, stitch techniques and sock design.

Contents page of Sock Innovation

Contents page of Sock Innovation ©Rachel Gibbs

It starts by describing the basic structure of a sock. All the patterns in the book are top down and most feature a flap and gusset heel, so this is what is focused on, although the book does include information on other heel types. One of the most useful things I’ve found is the chart of heel turn numbers for a large range of different stitch counts. Clear photos are included to show the different options. The art of placement is also discussed – how the same pattern can be placed in different ways on a sock for different effects.

Stitch techniques covers inverting stitches (going from knit to purl) and mirroring stitches. how to chart stitch patterns to include repeats and converting from working flat to in the round. It also covers how stitches affect the knitted fabric, which ones tend to be wider, or narrower and how elasticity is affected by stitch choice. It then covers adapting stitch patterns and transitioning between different patterns.

These techniques are then all pulled together into the final sock design section. This covers the important of gauge swatches (spoilers: very important) and how to put everything together to get a sock you like.

Conclusions

I have learnt so much from this book when it comes to what to think about when designing socks, as well as practical tips on how to do it. These are the things that can make a good sock pattern into a great one.

I love the patterns, there are some really attractive ones and while the instructions are concise, they give you all the necessary information. There is only one size option (usually 8″ leg circumference) given for each sock, which is a disadvantage, however, some include tips on how to change the sizing yourself.

If you like knitting complicated socks, and especially if you’ve ever thought of trying to design your own I would definitely recommend this book.

These are affiliate links, I get a small commission if you buy using these links.

 

New Pattern: Gray Code Socks

I think my latest pattern might be my geekiest yet. Gray Code Socks have a cabled pattern based on a sequence in binary code and the pattern is available free if you sign up to my newsletter.

Gray Code Socks

Gray Code Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

With four binary bits, there are sixteen unique combinations that you can make. A Gray code, named after Frank Gray, cycles through each possibility only once and each binary word is only one bit different from the previous one. It has many uses in electronics, as well as making cool socks. The most common Gray code is a reflected binary code where each column of bits has a number of zeros followed by the same number of ones, and then repeats the sequence in reverse.

Binary code is normally formed from zeroes and ones, in Gray Code Socks I’ve used left and right cables instead. This makes the bit change between rounds visible as a cable changing direction. The full 16 combination cycle fits well onto the leg of the sock.

Gray code in cables

Gray code in cables ©Rachel Gibbs

The socks are top down with a flap and gusset heel. The pattern contains three sizes, to fit 7.5 (8.5, 9.5)”/19 (21.5, 24) cm circumference, and has written and charted instructions, whichever you find easier to use. The cable pattern is subtle enough that people who normally insist on plain and boring to knit socks might be persuaded to try it, especially if they have a geeky background.

If you have particularly short feet, you may find that you cannot fit the whole cable sequence on the foot. Because they are made top down, you can measure how long the cable pattern is on the leg and make a decision at the heel as to what to do. If it will bother you, you could just make the foot ribbed.

Gray Code Socks side view

Gray Code Socks side view ©Rachel Gibbs

The socks are available from Ravelry, where you can find more information, or if you sign up to my newsletter you will get a code to download the pattern for free. You can choose whether you want to receive my monthly roundup of what I’ve been up to, interesting things I’ve found in the knitterly community or the wider world, a knitting tip and my pattern of the month; or you can just get a newsletter when I have a new pattern or special deal available.

 

Review: Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor

This is the second post in my knitting book review series, last month I reviewed Lazy Sunday Socks by Jane Burns. I’ve decided to alternate between sock specific books and more general knitting books (which can often be applied to sock knitting). Today I’m looking at Cast On, Bind Off: 54 Step-by-Step Methods by Leslie Ann Bestor.

Cast On Bind Off

Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor ©Rachel Gibbs

Most people when they learn to knit start with either the long tail cast on, or the cable cast on and the traditional chained bind off. These are simple and can be used for a variety of projects but sometimes there are better options out there. There are 33 cast ons and 21 bind offs in this book, separated into categories such as basic, stretchy, decorative and provisional. It also includes specialist cast ons, such as double-sided, most often used to start toe up socks, and möbius.

Stretchy Cast Ons

Stretchy Cast Ons ©Rachel Gibbs

I really like that each entry has a characteristics and “good for” section, to help you choose the most appropriate tool for the job. With so many to choose from it can be easy to become overwhelmed but this helps make decisions easy. It also gives alternative names where applicable as often things are known differently across the world, which can be useful if a pattern specifies a particular method that is unfamiliar.

There are clear photo tutorials for each method, showing what the finished cast on/bind off looks like, as well as every step in the process. While the position of the yarn and needles is always very clear, sometimes I wish there was a close up of how the stitches are supposed to look on the needle, so you know you’re doing it right. Being spiral bound means you don’t have to fight to keep the book open and can have it open on your lap while your knitting needles are in your hands.

Double Start Cast On

Double Start Cast On as seen on my Opal Sweet and Spicy socks ©Rachel Gibbs

My favourite cast on for 2×2 ribbing is the Double Start Cast On, I first learned this from a video Nancy Bush made years ago. This is included in the stretchy section (rightly so, this is why I like it for ribbing) and under “good for” is “tops of socks”, which is precisely how I use it, as without a stretchy cast on for top down socks it can be hard to get the sock over the heel.

I really like this book, I find it clear and easy to use. I think it’s perfect for any level of knitter: those who are just starting out and have only just realised there’s more than one cast on and those who have been knitting forever and appreciate having a reminder of things they know exist but can’t always remember how to do (yes, it includes Kitchener instructions), or want to learn new things.

These are affiliate links, I get a small commission if you buy using these links.

Review: Lazy Sunday Socks by Jane Burns

This is the start of a series of new monthly blog posts reviewing some of my favourite knitting books. I’m going to begin by looking at Lazy Sunday Socks by Jane Burns. This is a book of five elegant beaded socks, all worked in Eden Cottage yarns.

The Book

Lazy Sunday Socks

Lazy Sunday Socks by Jane Burns ©Rachel Gibbs

I hadn’t made beaded socks before but I like the concept of socks for lazing around in. So often we worry about how our socks will wear and hide them away in shoes and boots. These socks are meant to be seen, and without the friction of rubbing against shoes and being walked around in all day they can use less practical but very pretty beaded designs and luxuriant yarn.

The book is an A5 sized paperback which comes complete with a code for the digital version, which is always a bonus. I prefer to read paper books but, especially for travel knitting, having the digital copy can be really helpful.

The Patterns

The five designs range in complexity – from Sitting in a Rainbow which is mainly stocking stitch with only 16 beads, No Room for Ravers which is simpler than it looks and up to No Mind to Worry. You could choose to make all of them without beads and still have lovely socks, but Jane Burns has placed the beads to accent the design very skillfully. All feature lace and some have cables too.

All the Lazy Sunday Socks patterns

All the Lazy Sunday Socks patterns ©Rachel Gibbs

The patterns are all cuff down, with a flap and gusset heel, which is also my preferred construction. The patterns have very clear charts, but if you prefer written instructions this may not be the book for you. The socks come in at least four sizes and both the finished sock size, and the to fit size are included.

The Yarn

I’ve been a fan of Eden Cottage yarns for a while. In fact, my Falling Petals Socks are made in their BFL Sock. Victoria makes beautiful muted colours in a range of bases, several of which are suitable for sock knitting. They complement the designs in Lazy Sunday Socks very well. Semi solid colours are well suited to the lace knitting and the colours match the feminine feel (I’m sure there are a few men who would like lacy beaded socks but if any type of sock pattern is primarily female, that would be it).

One pattern uses a typical Wool/Nylon sock mix, but the others are either MCN or Merino/Silk. While these yarns would not be recommended for socks that would be worn in work boots or to hike through a rain storm, for the eponymous lazing around they should stand up fine and feel wonderful on your feet. The socks probably shouldn’t be machine washed though, with the delicate yarn and beads. Jane includes tips on choosing yarn and beads to help you get good results.

My Socks

My favourite was the No Mind To Worry Socks and I decided to cast these on last Autumn. I used WooSheeps Doug in Serendipity and Debbie Abrahams size 6 beads in colour 606, both of which I bought at Fibre East in July. The colours work very well together, I love the complex blue/grey of the beads.

My sock

My sock in WooSheeps Doug ©Rachel Gibbs

I had knitted with beads once before, but it was quite some time ago and I appreciated that a guide to using beads was included in the book.  I used the crochet hook method to place the beads, and while using a 0.6mm crochet hook sounds terrifying it wasn’t  too bad apart from when it poked holes in my project bag. The beads are only placed every four rounds and only four beads at a time, which is quite manageable.

It bothered me slightly that the pattern wasn’t completely symmetrical on the foot, but that’s probably just me. Also, be aware that there is a minor errata for the chart.

My first No Mind to Worry Sock

My first No Mind to Worry Sock ©Rachel Gibbs

I’ve only made one sock so far. As much as I enjoyed beaded knitting, I wanted a break (especially as I got distracted by my own designs).  I’m looking forward to getting back to it some day when I’m in the mood to create something pretty and just go with the flow.

Conclusion

I really like Lazy Sunday Socks. The patterns are well thought out and Jane has included some good tips. The photography is beautiful, as are the socks. The book is even the perfect size to fit in my project bag. If you want to give beaded knitting a try I would recommend this book.

FO: Funyin Hat

I recently needed a project to knit while travelling to and from Sheffield for my Grandparents’ Diamond Wedding Anniversary. All of my WIPs were at boring stages so I decided to cast on something new. I got a kit of two shades of Buachaille yarn to make a Funyin hat at Edinburgh Yarn Festival and this seemed like the perfect option.

Funyin hat selfie

Funyin hat selfie ©Rachel Gibbs

I love the combination of colourwork and cables in this pattern, it makes for a very interesting knit, although not a particularly fast one. The corrugated rib was particularly slow to work.

Funyin hat

Funyin hat ©Rachel Gibbs

The Buachaille yarn was designed by Kate Davies, the designer of the pattern, and so they work really well together. All the colours are based on the scottish landscape and I used haar (the pale grey), a cold sea fog, and macallum (the pinky red), which is apparently a scottish ice cream with raspberry sauce. The pattern was designed with the lighter colour as the background, but I decided to swap this and I really like how it looks. The yarn is very woolly and smells gorgeous.

Funyin hat, back view

Funyin hat, back view ©Rachel Gibbs

I made the large size as I prefer my hats to cover my ears and I’ve found previous Kate Davies patterns aren’t quite long enough for me. However, if I were to make it again I would skip the extra length rounds as the slouchy top is quite stiff and has a habit of standing up. Nevertheless, I’m sure it’ll come in handy now the weather has turned rather cold and I’m really pleased with it.