Knitting Book Reviews

Magnificent Mittens and Socks
by Anna Zilboorg

When I first saw this book, I was confused. Hadn’t this book been around for a while?

Ah, but wait. The older version I remember just said “Magnificent Mittens" on the cover, this one is “Magnificent Mittens and SOCKS."

Now, I need to tell you that I don’t have a copy of the original 2003 book, so I can’t compare the two and tell you exactly what is the same and what is different. The cover of the book says, “This expanded edition includes Anna’s toe-up, free-sole sock design" and has a blurb that says, “Now your socks can be as magnificent as your mittens," so I’m working on the assumption that the mitten portions are pretty much the same in both editions, while the sock part is entirely new. But, it’s only a guess on my part.

The main part of this book is taken up by the mittens. Lots of mittens. Glorious mittens. Bright, colorful, creative, they make you wish for snow kind of mittens. 42 patterns for the mittens themselves, along with charts for the cuffs so you can mix-and-match, and an assortment of edges so you can finish your mittens however you like. There are some embroidery stitches thrown in, too. The patterns here are FUN. They are lively and bright and definitely not the same old, boring mitten patterns. Not that other mitten patterns ARE boring, mind you, though some undoubtedly are, but these are unreservedly playful in their color combinations and their sense of adventure. Because, why not play with them? They’re just mittens, right?

“Just," though, is the wrong modifier. These mittens are not just creative to look at, they are masterpieces. Every detail is thought out, from where to put the thumbs (flat against the palm, or sticking out ’sore-thumb’ style), to what to do to make them extra warm. These mittens even have linings to make them water- and wind-proof. The author doesn’t leave you to assume that she’s thought these details out for you, either. Oh, no. She explains all of them for you so that you know WHY.

Then there are the socks. Now, again, I’m assuming the mitten section is pretty much the same as the earlier edition, but this book has SOCKS. But not in the way you’re probably thinking. She has not designed a whole new set of sock patterns to compliment the mittens. No. What she has done instead is given you the tools you need to convert any one of these mitten patterns to a sock. Hands and feet are basically the same size, after all, so if you leave out the thumb, add in a heel … your mitten has turned into a sock.

To make it even more fun, she gives you a method of making a half-plain, half-colorwork foot to your sock, so that they’re easier to get on but also easier to repair, making all the hard work last longer–because you know how hard-wearing socks need to be.

Really, there’s not much to NOT like about this book. If you have an earlier edition, is it worth getting this just for the chapter on socks? Maybe not, but those older editions are hard to come by and if you don’t have one, this not only comes a lot cheaper than those eBay prices, but has the extra sock information to boot, so how can you resist? I can’t think of anything truly negative to say–except that I rarely wear mittens because they make driving and carrying things harder than with gloves (I need all my fingers for carrying things), and so there’s a lot here that I won’t personally get any use out of … except for that handy chapter on socks. That changes everything!

Reviewed by Deb Boyken

Deb has been knitting since 1987 and has accumulated quite a collection of knitting books over the years. Her website, Knitting Scholar, can be found at
http://knittingscholar.com .