Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters
by Cat Bordhi
One of the best things to happen to knitting lately has been the influx over the last decade of the twenty-something knitter. Even though I'm in my fifth decade and qualify for female codger status, needles and yarn in hand, I am canny enough to realize that young knitters have brought great new blood to the craft, plenty of creativity and a desire for new and innovative patterns and ideas. I hope this trend continues; knitting has never been more fun. Likewise, sock knitting has taken off over the same period of time. This has always been one of my favorite passions in knitting (first thing I ever did knit) and now there is even a SOCK SUMMIT, a convention just to gather sock knitters to exchange ideas, yarns, patterns and techniques. Sock projects are handy; they fit in purses for take-along and they are relatively quick to make up and take little yarn. Socks are universally admired as gifts (even Pablo Neruda was moved to tears, or at least odes, by a gift of handknit socks.)
Cat Bordhi has been putting out one "different" sock book after another and has championed new methods of knitting. In this book, she not only shows a new way of making socks, foot-first, so to speak, but she includes several methods of working the sock in the round so that you can pick your favorite method and not be boxed into something you don't cotton to, or else be forced to revise the pattern to suit your own knitting tastes.
The beginning of the book teaches you how to make up a sock footprint; this is kind of a shoe-last for socks, a template. Making this footprint pretty much insures the sock will fit, so you can have fun times getting the footprint of family and friends and keeping these relics around for sock making as well as general merriment. (My guy at home wears size 15's so you can imagine the fun we can have singing "Your Feets Too Big" by Fats Waller. Of course, I wear 11's, so I'm hardly one to point and laugh.)
Then you can choose your method of working in the round. This is so kind of the author. She gives toe-up cast on methods (worked by Turkish and Eastern European knitters) Then there is the two-circular method--since one circular doesn't bend sharply enough to make a small circumference such as a sock foot or a leg tube, knitters use two short circulars to make a "hinge" between them and knit around on the two needles to make a seamless tube or the cup of the foot. Personally, I don't like this method and I'm fine with double-points--straight needles (really they don't bend AT-ALL, so you use three or four in a triangle or square and knit around this arrangement. Classic. Pre-circular, works fine.) And then there is the "Magic Loop" method, using one circular. Wait! Didn't I just say one circular can't handle the small circumference? But lo, it can, if you use a very LONG cabled needle and pull a long loop of cable out between the front and the back of the tube. You knit off one needle, pull the loop and knit the back needle to make a seamless tube.
So the knitter has a choice here. The book really is meant to be used as a how-to, follow the leader. You make a test sock, using familiar yarn, making a footprint and using it step by step until you've complete a perfect-fitting foot. Then you start at the foot opening (where the leg begins) and then up the cuff to the end. After that, you are competent to branch out into the beautiful textured and patterned socks included (I liked the Seeking Sunlight sock.) Not all the socks use exactly the same technique, and there are different heels, such as a sort of star heel that is very pretty. Some templates--footprints can be made of cardboard, paper, laminated paper (I own a laminator for my work, here's some fun) or even a jigsaw and wood for the craftsman--make some permanent "footprints" and even sock dryers while you are at it.
If your sock knitting is getting a bit boring and stale, I promise you, you will be absolutely diverted by this book. As for me, my guy needs socks and doing his feet first makes sure I know I've made them large enough for his size 15's. And yes, my 11's. So this method is for me. Off to create footprints. This book is great.
Reviewed by Joanna Daneman
Joanna's twitter page can be found at http://twitter.com/jayelldee where you can see what she''s reading now.