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.
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
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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