the knitter’s book of socks.

The Knitter's Book of Socks + Yarn copyright 2014 josiah bain
The Knitter’s Book of Socks + Yarn copyright 2014 josiah bain

The only book I know of that covers almost every single spectrum of knitting socks is The Knitter’s Book of Socks (My go-to sock book) by Clara Parkes. Ms. Parkes has a way of lightening my mood and solving my yarn problems with her witty and inspiring words. Ask me what one sock book you need, and I would recommend this first, for a few reasons.

First, as the author explains in the introduction, this explains handmade socks from a “yarn point of view”, which is an important, but often overlooked or assumed factor. This book covers which fibers and which plies are best for stockings among other string-related theories. There is also a chapter on “Stitch Tricks” with several hints and helpful suggestions that I’d never seen prior to reading this.

The last reason (although, I could put many more of them) is all the patterns. The techniques used are colorwork stranding, double knitting, lace, cables, simple columns of knit and purl stitches, broad brushstrokes (paired increases and decreases to make the appearance of a cable, without the draw in and thickness) and slipped stitch patterns for more durable socks.

Looking at the first section of The Knitter’s Book of Socks, Ms. Parkes explains the ins and outs of what socks need in order to wear properly. Before reading this chapter, I never considered if a sock yarn could wick away perspiration well enough, if it was strong enough to wear, and I barely took into play the need for lasting elasticity (or even just regular elasticity) in a sock. Afterwards, these were the first things I took into account when choosing my fibers.

The second chapter is the most interesting and helpful. Concerning the fibers, Ms. Parkes helpfully explains what yarn companies look for in a sock yarn (and how they overlook this often), and which fibers can best display your handiwork; wearing well, feeling great and having enough elasticity to hold snug to your leg without cutting off your blood flow. She begins with the staple length (the average length of the cut hair of a yarn yielding animal) and then goes into great detail (without making the reader lose interest) about how this dictates the rest of the yarn making process. After she does this, she gives an overview of protein, plant (including seed and bast), regenerated cellulose and synthetic fibers, explaining which ones are best suited for socks, which ones should be blended with other fibers for optimal use and which ones should be best left untampered with.

The next section, again looking at yarns, deals with the twist and plies. This is especially valuable to know what look your yarn will give your finished fabric. Does it lend crisp ribbing, or does it muddle it? Would your yarn look best in cables or lace? This includes portions that summarize singles, 2 plies (relaxed 2 plies and tightly twisted 2 plies), 3, 4 and more plies, s-on-s plies, true cable plies and core-spun plies (lots of plies!). Again, this is really beneficial and interesting.

Chapter four moves away from yarn slightly, mainly discussing tricks that you can carry into your stitches to make an inelastic yarn slightly more elastic, and how your stitches will affect the wear and life of your socks.  This final subject discussed in this chapter is the most important thing a sock knitter could know, but is also one of the most overlooked subjects: negative ease. I could write a whole entire article on this, and I will later, but I will simply say this: Read up on it.

The concluding chapter showcases 20 all-new sock patterns by some of the most well-known designers out there; Cookie A, Cat Bordhi, Sivia Harding, Nancy Bush, Jared Flood, Lucy Neatby and Ann Budd, just to name a few. I am especially fond of the Elm socks by Cookie A and Kessington by Nancy Bush. They are all beautiful designed.

The resource section at the back of the book carries on the freshness of Ms. Parkes’ writing style. She teaches how to wash and care for the socks, and includes a very helpful technique glossary. She also has foot/shoe size tables that are invaluable when knitting for an unknown foot length, and a recommended reading list with many helpful books that enlighten anyone’s knitting experience.

Overall, this book has set the standard for any informational sock book, and I highly recommend it to any knitter, whether they yet to attempt their first sock, or have knit too many to count.

Happy knitting!


(<<<Stay tuned for next week’s post: Techniques: Twisted Stitches>>>)



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