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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Review of Sock Architecture by Lara Neel #shareCPlove

I bought Sock Architecture a few months ago and it’s become one of my favourite reference books. While it includes some patterns, the main focus is on different methods of knitting socks. It has the most comprehensive selection of heels and toes I’ve ever seen. It’s maths heavy and includes equations on how to apply the methods to any number of stitches. I’m someone who likes to understand how things work so I find that really interesting.

I was particularly interested in the afterthought heel section. It had never occurred to me that most types of heel could be done as afterthought heels, even flap and gusset. I’ve been knitting lots of self striping socks lately and an afterthought heel allows the striping to go from the leg to the foot without a disruption to the stripes.

I made my Dad a pair of socks for Christmas using an afterthought heel with gusset and the extra needle technique. This involves using a provisional cast on for the gusset stitches and holding the heel stitches on a spare circular needle while knitting the foot (I tend to knit all my socks top down although the book includes instructions for toe up as well). I found it a little fiddly with the extra needle getting in the way but I really liked the results, I think in future I would use waste yarn instead of the extra needle. I decided to use a different yarn for the heel and toe which complemented the stripes, as the shorter rows affect the spacing of the stripes.

Last week the cold weather really set in (although being in the south I barely got any snow) and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to cast on some socks in Regia Snowflake. For these I used an afterthought heel without a gusset and the thumb joint flat top heel and toe. The only afterthought heel I made before had a hat top heel and I wasn’t happy with the fit as it left a point at the back of the heel so I wanted to try another option.

Afterthough heel

The process of an afterthought heel ©Rachel Gibbs

The heel stitches were knit with waste yarn and then picked up after the foot was complete. With some careful planning I was able to make the heel stripes flow seamlessly from the body of the sock. It fits well and I’m really happy with it. I’m sure by the time the second sock is finished the snow will have gone but hand knit socks are always welcome.

I would definitely recommend it if you have a geeky interest in sock composition. I wasn’t paid to review this book, I’m just a fan (although if you buy through the Amazon links below I get a small commission). This is part of #shareCPlove, a competition to promote the great publications from Cooperative Press.

Price: £15.95