Howdy, knitters! It’s been a crazy month. Thanks for coming over to check out the blog. If it’s your first time here, you might enjoy checking out my knitting origin story and poking around the other blog posts as well as this one. If you’re a returning reader, it’s great to have you back. Today, I’m excited to be writing about my new favorite knitting book — Sock Architecture by Lara Neel, published by Cooperative Press. Before jumping into that, let’s take a look at what else has been going on in my knitting world lately.
Recently In Podcasts
For me, the biggest news in podcasts is that I changed up my podcast workflow. The short version is that I’m now using the Downcast app on my phone instead of iTunes and my ancient iPod nano to manage how I listen to podcasts. Making this move is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while, but I finally committed to it once I realized that something was wrong with downloading episodes of The Yarniacs Podcast through iTunes. It just stopped working for me — all of my other podcasts were fine, but no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get an episode of The Yarniacs to download. It made me sad. I wasn’t the only one having the problem, either. After a bit of troubleshooting, I gave up and switched over to Downcast. I’m glad I made the switch. I’m no longer tied to my computer at home to get new podcast episodes, which is great. One of my favorite features is the ability to listen at a faster playback speed. I’m finding that I can easily listen at 1 1/4 speed. Doing that means that I get to keep up with all my podcast listening easier. If I’ve got plenty of time, I will listen at regular speed, but being able to speed up is nice.
Another podcast highlight is the read-a-long happening at Ewe University. We’re reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and having a great discussion in the Ewe University Ravelry group. I started reading this book last year, when I first heard about it, but it got shuffled away. I’m thrilled to have a good excuse to dig it back out. It’s especially great to be reading it with my knitting friends over at Ewe University.
Yarn Thing with Marly Bird continues to grow on me as a favorite, too. I’m not just saying that because I won another of the call-in contests, either. 😉 I love how Marly talks to so many people in the fiber industry and is able to pull the curtain back and give a behind-the-scenes peek at how things work. This “inside baseball” kind of thing is really cool to me.
NH Knits is another fun listen for me. Claire was kind enough to give me a shout-out in Episode 010, which was really cool. Episode 011 featured a visit to shearing day at the farm, which was lots of fun.
Lara Neel re-released another slew of her Math 4 Knitters podcast, bringing the re-released episodes to 19. Years later, these podcasts still hold up — I didn’t hear them when they were originally released, and I’m loving them now. I’m definitely looking forward to Lara getting caught up with the re-releases, and I hope she steps behind the microphone again to pick up where she left off. In addition to hosting this excellent podcast, Lara is the author of Sock Architecture, which I’ll be discussing later in this post.
All the podcasts I’ve been listening to continue to be enjoyable.
Recently On My Needles
I’m continuing to keep my needles clicking working on various projects. It’s a lot of fun.
At the end of January, I did my December/January charity knitting by knitting up the Modern Ribbed Hat. It was a quick knit, and fun. The size was for a child, where it would be a bit of a slouchy hat, but I also like the way it fit me as a beanie-style hat. I think it would be excellent for cold-weather camping.
In the middle of January, I knitted up a Valentine Washcloth for my secret pal in a swap on Ravelry. This was a lot of fun. The bulk of the project was simple knitting, but the addition of a crocheted edge gave it a nice finishing touch. I got some of my friends to show me how to do a little crochet and I’m really happy with how my project turned out. My SP was happy with it, too.
Ravelry Project Page: 2015 IBK Swap – To You, With Love
Pattern: Sweetheart Washcloth by Susan B. Anderson
Yarn Used: Pacolet Valley Fiber Company Southern Bales Organic Cotton in the Rose Red and Baly Pink color ways
We finally made it to my parents’ house to celebrate Christmas, so I was able to give my mom a couple of presents that I had knitted for her. The first was a skinny triangle scarf. This was a fun knit and was accomplished by holding two yarns together and knitting them together. The Blue Heron yarn had a neat metallic feature that gives the scarf a bit of zing. It also has a gradual color transition that gives it a bit of life. Using the Supd & Chloe yarn with it helps ground the scarf. I’ve got enough Blue Heron yarn to do another one, so I’ll probably put it on my needles before too much longer.
The other project I knitted for my mom was a pair of socks. This was also a fun knit, done in a sport weight yarn on US3 needles. That made them knit up so much quicker than other socks. Mom says they’re really comfortable, so I call it a win. I enjoyed using the larger yarn for socks, and will probably do it again sometime.
On the Yarn Thing with Marly Bird podcast that featured Darn Good Yarn, I made it in the call-in queue and won a gift certificate. I used the certificate to get some recycled sari silk yarn and knitted some mittens for my wife. Working with the recycled sari silk yarn was definitely an adventure, and I’ll probably devote a full blog post to it in the coming weeks. But for now, here’s a snapshot of the mittens.
I started working on my Beekeeper’s Quilt again! A friend sent me some bacon and eggs mini-skeins recently and I knitted up a hexipuff with part of the eggs mini. I’m going to try to make more progress on my hexipuff knitting now that I’m starting to collect bits an pieces of sock yarn.
At the beginning of the year, I kinda co-started a goofy disorganized KAL for Susan B. Anderson’s Fox in a Vest pattern. We’re having a ton of fun in the thread about it. I even managed to cast on my fox about a month after we started the KAL. I’ve almost got the head complete….
Ravelry Project Page: Fox in a Vest
Pattern: Fox in a Vest by Susan B. Anderson
Yarn Used: Zwerger Garn Opal Uni Solid 4 ply in the 3081 Natural colorway and Zwerger Garn Opal Der Kleine Prinz/The Little Prince
Finally, I’m making good progress again on my Christmas 2014 socks. I love this self-striping yarn, and I’m excited to be in the home stretch (OK, I just finished turning the heel) for my 2nd sock in the pair. It’s going to be a challenge putting these socks aside until Christmas 2015 rolls around.
For my birthday, I picked myself up a copy of Lara Neel’s Sock Architecture book from Cooperative Press. This is, far and away, my favorite knitting book right now. Lara’s style of writing is something with which I instantly connect, and reading the book feels like I’m sitting in a room, knitting with a friend, and talking about the technicalities and nuances of knitting socks. Her style is conversational enough to be engaging, but underneath that conversational style lies a deep and precise technical exploration of all things sock knitting. Lara touches on the history of knitted socks and dives right into how socks are constructed.
I’m a sock-knitting newbie, with only a handful of completed pairs of socks under my belt and I read this book cover-to-cover — everything was completely accessible to me. I suspect seasoned sock knitters will find a wealth of information as well. This book truly is for any level of sock knitter.
This book really is the perfect sock book. If you want sock patterns, there are 17 wonderful patterns. But Sock Architecture is not simply a pattern book. Yes, there are patterns, but the book also includes thorough discussion on all sorts of techniques — toe-up, cuff-down, heels (afterthought and flaps), toes, etc. Most of the patterns include instructions for both toe-up and cuff-down, which I thought was particularly interesting — it really showed that a sock knitter can work in his or her preferred method of knitting a sock and come out with awesome socks. Everything in this book serves to build the knitter’s confidence.
Where the book particularly shines is in attention to detail. In addition to being full of well-written patterns, the book contains detailed descriptions of all the techniques employed in sock knitting. That’s great, but it’s the photography that sets everything apart. Each sock is expertly photographed from different angles, with close-up photographs of the heel and the toe. I’m sure these pictures will prove to be invaluable as I experiment with new-to-me heel and toe techniques. Lara also includes excellent photography in the technique section, where she thoroughly explains every heel and toe used in the book. In addition to excellent photography of all the parts of a sock in which a knitter is interested, Lara makes another excellent choice for her sock photographs: they are all photographs of solid colored socks. There are so many beautiful striped and variegated yarns out there, and most of these socks would look great with fancy yarn. But if they were photographed with fancy yarn for the book, it would have really taken away from the design of the sock itself, and the ability to concentrate on the details of the techniques employed. Keeping the photographs simple was an excellent decision, and I’m very happy that it was done that way.
For the adventurous sock knitter, going beyond the patterns in the book is the obvious next step. There’s a reason this book is called Sock Architecture — Lara’s thorough treatment of the architecture behind making a sock is enough to make a knitter confident in designing his or her own socks. Mix and match heels and toes based on what your personal preference is. Make the leg and foot as fancy or as plain as you like. The possibilities are endless.
I’ve already pretty much decided that once I’m finished with my Christmas 2014 socks, the next pair of socks I cast on for myself with be Lara’s Bootstrap Socks. They look really cool. I really think I’m going to work through every sock pattern in this book, and I might even try my hand at knitting toe-up instead of the cuff-down I’ve done for all my socks so far. I’m also excited about trying different heels and toes, and Lara’s instructions for the various options make so much sense to follow that I’m already confident in trying any of them. One of the coolest things about the patterns in this book is that almost all of them are appropriate for men’s socks as well as women’s socks, which is particularly refreshing. Most of the cool sock designs I’ve seen elsewhere really have a feminine touch to them, and I wouldn’t be interested in knitting them for myself or for my dad. Not the case with the patterns in Sock Architecture! Of course, any of the patterns would look great as a women’s sock, too.
My only complaint with this book is the same complaint that The Knitmore Girls voiced when they reviewed this book. (For what it’s worth, it’s pretty much entirely the fault of The Knitmore Girls that I bought this book.) That complaint is with the binding. This book would be much better served with a spiral binding so that it could lay flat on any page. Since that issue can be corrected with a trip to the local copy shop and having them cut the binding off and re-bind it with a coil, that’s not a huge deal. I haven’t made it to the copy shop for the rebinding yet, but it’s on my list of things to do.
Finally, the awesome thing about picking up your copy of Sock Architecture directly from Cooperative Press is that in addition to getting the paperback copy, you will receive an electronic copy directly in your Ravelry library. For a lot of things, an electronic copy is great — and it will be great for the patterns in this book, e.g. But having a real-life print copy can’t be beat for cuddling up with all of the information that is in this book, and just thumbing through all the pictures.
All in all, without hesitation, I heartily recommend this book to any knitter who knits — or wants to knit — socks.
Just so you know, the links to amazon.com and Cooperative Press in this blog post are affiliate links, which means that if you click those links and buy something from either site, it won’t cost you any extra and I’ll get a small kickback on the sale. I purchased copies of the books myself, so they’re not even review copies. I really do like these books, and no one has to pay me to say that. 🙂
What’s your favorite sock book? How did you learn to knit socks beyond the simple stockinette sock? What’s your favorite heel and toe? Are you ready to become a sock architect? Join the conversation and leave a comment with your thoughts on sock knitting.
Until next time, keep on knitting for the ones you love!