Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Looking for more socks?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Just in case I haven’t kept you busy enough with sock patterns, here are some sock patterns I contributed to books that have come out in the past year.

First of all, I am excited about  The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes, author of The Knitter’s Book of Yarn and The Knitter’s Book of Wool. 

Clara Parkes spends a significant portion of the book discussing the various pros and cons of all different types of sock yarns, focusing on how twist, ply, and fiber content work together to create elasticity, durability, moisture management, and stitch definition. If you’ve read her other two books on yarn and wool, some of the ideas here will be familiar to you. However, the specific application of all this knowledge is really valuable when it comes to making socks that behave just the way you want them to.

The remainder of the book features 20 sock patterns. The patterns are organized by technique, starting with simple ribbed and textured patterns and moving on to cables, lace, colorwork, and slipped and twisted stitches. There are 15 top-down socks and 5 toe-up patterns to choose from.

See all the patterns from The Knitter’s Book of Socks on Ravelry here.

In Elm, I used a careful pairing of increases and decreases within a simple rib motif to create the illusion of smooth, overlapping branches. While the pattern has less elasticity than a straightforward k2, p2 rib, there’s still sufficient stretch for a comfortable fit. The socks were knit in String Theory Caper Sock, a hand-dyed merino-cashmere-nylon blend that’s become a sock club favorite.



For so many knitters, knitting is definitely a family affair. My Grandmother’s Knitting by Larissa Brown celebrates the passing on of these crafting traditions and honors the influence of those who’ve come before us with 21 patterns and 17 family stories. It’s always interesting to learn how people got their start in knitting or designing.

See all the patterns from My Grandmother’s Knitting on Ravelry here.

My family history is complicated, with lots of travel around Asia and the United States. The curved lines on these socks represent their journeys. I named the Wan Jai socks after my grandmother, whose name translates to ‘sweet heart’ in English. These socks were knit in Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20, a beautiful and soft merino-cashmere-nylon blend.

 Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd is a wonderfully complete sock technique book. Inside, there’s information on all the different cast-ons and bind-offs that are good to use for socks (8 and 7 of them, respectively) as well as 6 different heels and 5 different toes.

It features 10 top-down patterns and 7 toe-up ones. Nearly every possible technique is featured: cables, lace, stranded colorwork, entrelac, twisted stitches, intarsia, shadow knitting, replaceable soles, traveling stitches, stripes – there’s something for everyone. Many of the patterns have multiple sizes and Clara Parkes has written helpful notes on every yarn featured in the book.

See all the patterns from Sock Knitting Master Class on Ravelry here.

I contributed the Asymmetrical Cables socks. The semi-solid color and texture of the Pagewood Farm St. Elias yarn I chose for these socks called for a bold pattern, so I decided to knit hefty yet simple cable panels with garter-stitch interiors. Each sock has a stockinette background that showcases the movement of the cable panels. The panels start out in parallel on the side of the leg, then they diverge as one panel swoops across the front of the leg and the top of the foot to create an elegant visual line.


Socktopus and Sokkusu

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

This April’s sock club shipment featured Sokkusu yarn from Alice Yu. I loooooove Sokkusu yarn. Alice and I met in 2009 while I was in the UK and have been great friends ever since. She is passionate about sock knitting and sock yarn (hence her nickname Socktopus) and has an eye for detail. Back then, Alice ran a shop called Socktopus in London which carried her favorite yarns imported from all over the world. She developed opinions about sock yarn (oh boy, show me a sock knitter who isn’t opinionated about sock yarns) and went in search of the perfect yarn.

When Alice found that that it was actually difficult to find the perfect yarn, she had Socktopus Sokkusu-Original sock yarn milled to her specifications. Working with mills isn’t easy, and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories, so it’s no surprise that it took nearly a year to get the yarn just right. Alice’s dream sock yarn is a 3 ply, tight twist, 100% merino fingering weight yarn that is durable and also soft soft soft! She created the signature colors for which Socktopus is known – gorgeous saturated colorways with life and verve. Alice also designs sock patterns which are available through the Knit Love Club and in her book Socktopus: 17 Pairs of Socks to Knit and Show Off   published by GMC in October 2011.


Finishing projects pays off! One lucky sock knitter from the 2012 Cookie A sock club received a copy of Alice’s book as well as some more of her luscious sock yarn!

Socktopus showcases not only Alice’s fun and creative designs, but her great sense of humor too. The book begins with an at-a-glance photo index showing all 17 projects, and lays out the sometimes serious, sometimes silly reasons and motivations to knit socks.

In the first chapter “Sock Yarn Basics,” Alice gives an overview of fibers used in sock yarn, yarns from around the world (to make comparisons), sock fit & anatomy. It’s a useful primer if you need some background information about socks.

The second and by far larger chapter contains the main content of the book: The Patterns. The patterns start off simple as can be with a “Totally Vanilla” stockinette sock, then work their way through more complicated techniques. There are lacy socks, textured patterns, the occasional cable… and some cool stranding and slipping techniques that bring out the best in variegated yarns. Alice likes to experiment with different techniques, so while most of the patterns top down, 3 of them are worked from the toe up. There is even a steeked sock!

Each pattern is charted (chart haters should note that written directions aren’t included) and step-by-step technique tutorials guide knitters through any tricky bits. You can check out all of the patterns on the book’s Ravelry page here. Shur’tugal has been among her most popular patterns, along with Rumpled! and Vorticity. As you might expect, the book features Alice’s own Sokkusu yarn.

Have you knit any of Alice’s patterns or tried Sokkusu yet?


Book reviews from across the pond

Monday, May 14th, 2012

I have quite the backlog of books that deserve to be reviewed.

Contemporary Irish Knits by Carol Feller

Carol Feller is an Irish knitwear designer whose designs have been featured in Knitting in the Sun, Interweave Knits, and Knitty and her own self-published pattern collections. I first met Carol when we both taught at Knit Nation in London last July.

Her book is organized around yarns available from Irish mills (and a couple of Irish hand-dyers). It’s interesting to learn about the production of yarns in Ireland, which now has just three major spinning mills to produce hand-knitting yarns like authentic Donegal tweed. I found this particularly interesting in relation to my recent trip to Iceland where we learned that all of Iceland has only one spinning mill compared to the Faroe Islands which does not have a mill at all and outsources their spinning to a Polish mill.

Carol includes a few pages at the beginning and the end of the book dedicated to ensuring proper fit and good technique. With 18 projects for men, women and children, there is a little something for everyone. The techniques include the expected Aran cables as well as lace and other textured stitches. She talks about how the “traditional” Aran sweater is only as recent as the 1950s, not centuries old as one might expect. Again, I thought this was interesting in relation to the Icelandic yoked colorwork lopi sweaters which have also been around only since the 1950s. I guess that was a great decade to begin knitting traditions!

Check out all the patterns from Contemporary Irish Knits on Ravelry here.

Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague

Ysolda is a Scottish knitwear designer who has a lot to say about sweater shaping and fit. Probably best known for her Whimsical Little Knits series, Little Red in the City is a much larger volume with a wealth of information.

More than just a collection of sweater patterns, this book has over 100 pages dedicated to making sweaters fit at any size. The book is dominated by different kinds of modifications like short row bust shaping.

Each of the seven sweater patterns has an extensive size range, photographed on two models (Ysolda herself and Amanda of Lorna’s Laces), and is accompanied by a design story.

You can see all the sweaters from Little Red in the City on Ravelry here.

Whimsical Little Knits 3 by Ysolda Teague

The third in Ysolda’s series of little books of accessories is out, and it contains 8 charming patterns, each photographed on a different designer friend (or Ysolda herself). I was excited to see the photograph of Stephen West in Ysolda’s hat taken in London after Knit Nation last year.


Saturday Treat by Ysolda Teague

Ysolda worked together with the folks from Fyberspates to develop a few new colors in their Scrumptious yarns for this book. It features six quick projects, perfect for weekend knitting. While Saturday Treat has a similar concept as Whimsical Little Knits with quick knits, you’ll notice that it is more “grown up” with less whimsy and a different direction in styling.

For two lucky readers, I have a copy of Contemporary Irish Knits and Little Red in the City to give away! Comment on this post for your chance to win.

The fine print:

  • Comment on this post before midnight PDT Friday, May 18, 2012 for your chance to win. One comment per person, please!
  • Winners will be drawn by random number generator.
  • One winner will receive a copy of Contemporary Irish Knits by Carol Feller; the other winner will receive a signed copy of Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague.