Wednesday, January 30, 2008

a baker's dozen

Well. It seems that I have a little problem. (Just one? And it's little? Are you quite sure? I can hear you asking.) Yes, just one. That I'm going to tell you about. In this post. It all started when we had some friends over last weekend, and I wanted to show them a charming comic strip that Big One drew for me for my birthday.

"I think it's in one of the sock books," I said.

"One of the sock books?" my good friend asked, incredulous. It was immediately clear that her astonishment stemmed from her belief that if one were to knit socks, surely more than one book about it would be redundant. Surely what a sock knitter needs are not books, but yarn and needles. Need I mention that this very good friend is not a knitter? Not a knitter, but she's a hopeful person, so she asked:

"The extra sock books? They must be from the library."

"Oh, no," I said, laughing. "They're all mine."

It wasn't until after my friends had gone home that the awful truth emerged. I own not just a few sock books. I own so many sock books that even I might be forced to admit that I might have just one or two too many.

My friends, I own twelve books about knitting socks. I'll just let that sink in for a moment. Twelve.

This is more than I need, and I know this because I use a minority of these books, and indeed I find only a minority of these sock books to be interesting or inspiring. So here is my review of each of my books about knitting socks. They are listed roughly in the order in which I acquired them.

Vogue Knitting: Socks
This is the first sock book I ever bought, long before I thought about knitting socks in any kind of realistic way. Amazon says this book was published in 1999, and I think I probably bought it shortly after it came out. Back then, all I'd knitted were sweaters, and the only book I really needed was Knitting Without Tears, by HRH Elizabeth Zimmerman.There are a few interesting patterns in here, but I've never tried one. Perhaps this is a book I could have done without.

Fancy Feet, by Anna Zilborg
I believe this book was given to me for Christmas by Joe, probably around the same time. For me, this is not actually a sock book in any meaningful sense, because I would never want to knit up any of these designs as socks. The construction is too wacky, and they probably wouldn't fit in my Danskos.

This books is quite useful as a source of patterns for stranded knitting, and I have used it more than once when I was looking for patterns for mittens and sweaters.

Socks Socks Socks: 70 Winning Patterns from the Knitter's Magazine Contest
I got this book when I started to think about maybe getting some sock yarn and think about maybe making a sock or two. Actual sock knitting was still years off.

This is a good book, with lots and lots of patterns, including some outlandish ones. I've used one pattern from this book, but I look at it fairly often for ideas.

Cool Socks, Warm Feet, by Lucy Neatby

I like this book, I really do. It's engagingly written, and extremely funny. It also seems like a great idea for a book, some creative patterns for printed yarns. I've found, over and over, that what works best for fancy striping yarns is K3 P1, but I keep looking through this book to see if I can find something else I'd like to do instead. So far, no dice. I think I could have saved my money.

Folk Socks: The History and Techniques of Handknitted Footwear, by Nancy Bush

Ah, Nancy Bush. I love everything she's ever done, I think. I like her sock patterns very very much, and I've knitted many of them. What I really like about this book is that half of it is about the history of socks, with great photos and lots of interesting stuff. I don't think I've knitted any of these designs in particular, but I probably will someday, and it doesn't matter, because I love reading this book.

Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles, by Cat Bordhi
Although this is how I knit socks, on two circs, and in spite of the fact that there are some excellent photos explaining how to set up your socks this way, I don't find this book useful at all. The designs are uninspiring, the photography is not so good, and I've really just never used this book. I like a lot of what Cat Bordhi has done since, but sadly, this is the book of hers that I own. I could have saved my money on this one.

Simple Socks, Plain and Fancy, by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts
I really thought this was going to be the breakthrough book for me. I read it in my LYS, and I was sold on her innovative system. It's basically short row toes and heels, and I've never tried it. I studied and studied the instructions for toe-up socks, and just couldn't make them turn into a toe. I showed it to an experienced sock knitter friend, and she made it work, but was unimpressed with the results. I've paged through this book a few times since, but I've found nothing that interests me enough to want to try it again. Another book I probably shouldn't have bought.

Sensational Knitted Socks, by Charlene Schurch
This is the book that finally made it possible for me to start knitting socks, and Charlene Schurch is my hero. This is not a book of patterns so much as a book of sock formulas. Lots of charts, tricks, and plenty of stitch patterns, although once you understand her charts, you can plug any pattern into a sock. This is the book I return to again and again, and the book I recommend, over and over.

As I think about it, probably the reason this book works for me is because the author is much like HRH Elizabeth Zimmerman in her thinking. I apply her formulas to most socks I make, regardless of their source. Because of this, I can comfortably ignore instructions about gauge and number of stitches to cast on. I just do what works for my yarn and my tension and my needles, and figure out the math from there. Love love love this book. This is the book, along with Knitting Without Tears, that would go with me into exile.

Two critiques: I wish this book were smaller and spiral bound, because it goes with me literally everywhere, and I find that the lacy patterns knit up much larger than expected, based on the charts. Once I figured this out, it was not a big deal to compensate for it, but the book really leads you to believe that's not going to happen.

Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave
I like this book. I've made several of the patterns, including the socks on the cover, and I have several others marked to do in the future. Good photography, and it's spiral bound, so it lays flat.

Knitting on the Road, by Nancy Bush
Love her books, love this book. I've knitted several of these designs, and plan to knit many more. I bought this book because of Grumperina, and her gorgeous Traveler's Stockings, but I haven't quite worked up the courage to try them yet. I think our anniversary trip to the beach in May will be the time. Mine will be purple.

Knitting Vintage Socks, by Nancy Bush
Another great sock book. Here, Nancy Bush researches some old sock patterns from the late 1800s and translates them into knitterese for our time. It seems that back in the day, folks knitted socks as such tiny gauges that my size o needles would look like pool cues.

I've knit several of these designs, and this book is a keeper.

More Sensational Knitted Socks, by Charlene Schurch
This is (obviously) a sequel to her first book about socks, and it is in the same vein: charts and recommendations rather than patterns, and lots of good tricks. This book is arranged differently, with all the stitch patterns at the back of the book instead of with the chapters, and the main charts are in the back rather than in the front. This is very confusing if you are really familiar with the first book, but wouldn't be a big deal otherwise.

I like this book. It does cover some new territory, particularly in the stranded patterns. I've used it quite a bit since I bought it this summer, but in terms of concepts, it's pretty interchangeable with her first book.

And finally, a pattern I love: Loksins!

This is not a book, obviously, but a pattern available for free download here. I love this pattern so much, I've knit it twice, and I'm about to cast on to knit it again. It's perfect. It looks fancy and difficult, but it's really easy once you get going. You don't have to look at the pattern past the first repeat, just read the knitting and keep going. It knits up exactly right for me with this yarn (Claudia Handpainted Fingering) on size 1 needles.

I think AK was right. I have too many sock books.

Coming this week: a response to some of the responses I've been getting to Five Good Minutes.


Granna Judy said...

Well, if you have too many sock books, you might offer a look at them to someone you know who knits socks. But I agree with you that the Schurch books are really wonderful.

Call me sock-book-less.

Lindsay said...

I learned to knit - very basically - a few years ago and have been trying to find good info on how to move past rectangular flat pieces. Thanks for the book list! I'm going to go check these out at the library. Do you have any book recommendations for sweaters or other garments?

elsie deluxe said...

Hi Linds! My most recommended knitting book is Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears. It will easily and happily take you beyond scarves, and it's beautifully written as well.

AKi said...

Since we're all admitting to our excesses: I have too many cookbooks (though they span a number of different ethnic cuisines--do your socks?) and my girlfriend has too many books period.

shaun said...

But you don't have Ann Budd's new sock book yet!

But probably you don't need it -- I was going to get the Schurch books, but a friend said to get the Budd book instead, which got me off and running.

I really want the newish Interweave one!

klflote said...

Hi LC: Thanks for the great reviews. I have several of the books, but added some more to my "want" list. I've started my Little O Silly Docks, on two circular needles of course. I have some trouble picking up the heel flap stitches with the 2 circular method, but otherwise really like it.

klflote said...

ooooops...I meant Silly Socks, but I like the idea of knitting some Silly Docks!

elsie deluxe said...

Are you Michael's friend Shaun? I thought you were on your way to Mexico! Thanks for visiting my blog. I like that Ann Budd book. A copy of it came to our local homeschool playgroup last week. I think I'd better refrain from buying it, tho.

elsie deluxe said...

I pick up the heel flap stitches using a double pointed needle. I usually use a size smaller than the needle I'm using for the socks. But then, if my sock book collection is vast, my needle collection is vaster. If you can't picture what I'm saying, I'll show you next time I see you. Let me know.

Lindsay said...

Thanks, Elsie. :) I tried to look at the sock book by Schurch last night, but my local library didn't carry it. I just checked and they don't carry that one either, so I think that I'll be getting it from Amazon. Thanks for the tips. :) And thanks for posting about the different aspects of your life. It is not only nice to know what's going on, but your writing style makes reading a joy.