True story: last fall I had a sock pattern accepted for publication in Knitty's Deep Fall issue, and I was suitably stoked about it riiiiiight up until Kate Atherley's name popped up in my inbox. As it turns out, Kate was going to be tech editing my sock pattern.
A little bit of panic set in.
"I can't let Kate Atherley look at my crappy sock pattern! She's, like, good at knitting. And math. She's going to think a lobotomized monkey wrote it. This is the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of time!"
The Volteado socks were, of course, published, and if Kate thought a dim-witted chimpanzee wrote the pattern, she was kind enough not to actually say so.
That's the kind of panic-inducing reputation she has though--precise and thorough and incomparable designer of gorgeous socks (and other things, but I was mostly thinking about the socks).
So, when I got the chance to review her new book, Custom Socks, I was overjoyed. I just KNEW it was going to be brilliant, and that maybe the math would give me a little bit of a headache, but that would be ok.
I'm going to go over some of the highlights of this amazing book, but if you're pressed for time, here's the TL;DR version: if you knit socks, you NEED this book.
True to the title, this book gives you everything you need to knit socks that fit--whether you have "average" feet or unique feet, Kate gives you all the tools you need to create a great fitting sock, either from someone else's pattern or when creating your own.
She starts with the basics--how socks are supposed to fit, and what parts of the foot you need to measure to size your socks. She talks you through the process of determining whether your feet are average--in which case most sock patterns should work for you with little to no adjustment--or unique, in which case you may need to make adjustments.
Of course, she doesn't just leave you stranded there. No, she goes on to address some of the circumstances that might require pattern adjustments--slender ankles, shapely calves, high arches, even long toes!--and explains how to make those adjustments. Is it a lot of math? Yes. But it's worth it for socks that fit!
Two of my favorite inclusions in the book are an extensive yarn requirements chart, where Kate indicates approximately how much yarn you'll need to knit socks sized 5"-10.5", at gauges from 4-9 sts per inch (finally, you'll know if you have enough yarn leftover for another pair!); and shoe size charts, where she provides approximate sock measurements for womens', mens' and childrens' shoe sizes (if you've ever tried to measure a child's foot, you'll know how valuable that is).
But don't let the title fool you. This book isn't just about knitting socks that fit. It's about knitting great-looking socks that fit. In addition to the truly exhaustive information Kate provides about sizing, measurements and customization, this book is full of tips and tricks about how to make your socks look good.
Those holes at the gusset? Kate tells you how to get rid of them. Blocking? Covered. Keeping your socks from wearing out? Check. Stretchy cast-ons and bind-offs? Yup. Avoiding or fixing those darn ladders? That's here too.
And if that weren't enough, she's also included both top-down and toe-up plain vanilla sock patterns (that she talks you through adding your own stitch patterns to, I might add!), PLUS 12 original sock patterns! Even better, 5 of the patterns include instructions for working both top-down and toe-up, and several of the designs are unisex--something the knitting world is truly in need of.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Man of Aran--cozy, unisex, quintessential winter socks.
Oh, Valencia! Lacy, feminine and fun to knit.
Wellington Road. Those cables!
Fitzcarraldo Knee Sock. If I ever find time to knit knee socks, it will be these!
If you're a sock knitter, clear a space on your bookshelf and order this one right away!
All photos courtesy of Interweave Press/F+W
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