Saturday, October 23, 2010

book review: think outside the sox

Due to my previous adventures as a magazine editor, the nice people at Search Press sent me a review copy of this book the other day. Woohoo! So, er... as there aren't currently any more issues of Bobbins in the pipeline, I'm going to put the review up here for you lovely online knitterfolk to peruse.

So basically there was a design competition on the internets called 'Think Outside the Sox' open to any budding young knitwear designers, and the winning patterns were published in this book. Don't be put off by the excruciating title, which made me want to stab myself repeatedly in the eyes. (Is it possible to release a crafty publication without a terrible pun in the title I wonder? I fear not, and usually I have a pretty high pun tolerance.) Anyway, this is a big, beefy old bookful of socks. 180 pages, and 61 patterns, no less. You can see most of them on the ravelry page. The publishers have achieved a seriously impressive density of knitting information. If they squeezed any more in, it would probably collapse under its own gravity and form a black hole. It's well organised though, and there are plenty of nice pictures, so it's not too overwhelming. Starting with the simpler socks, it has separate sections for lace, cables and colourwork, before moving onto more complex and inventive patterns.
And there is certainly no lack of invention. People seem to have risen admirably to the creative challenge posed by the title of the competition. My mind was boggled by the construction of some of the patterns, like the hexagon socks on the cover. These are basically made of mitred hexagons, with stitches picked up around the edge to join them together. I was fascinated by what wizardry actually transforms this flat structure into a sock shape. It's like an episode of Grand Designs, but with yarn.
These socks are knitted in a spiral, done by starting from the toe and knitting a strip, picking up one stitch at the edge as you go to hold it together. Perhaps the designer had just peeled an orange and was inspired to fashion a sock using the same sort of principles. I am quite tempted to give these a go out of sheer architectural curiosity.

And there are some which are tempting because they are just really pretty. Like Wandering vine or In the Peaceful Forest- I am a sucker for a leafy cable. Or Drip Candles, which are a beautiful way of using up leftovers.

If I had to grumble about something, I would point out that there aren't a whole pile of men's patterns here. They're not separated out into genders, they're just categorised as adult small, medium and large sizes, but the adult large ones seem to be mostly adorning the feet of lovely ladies. I spotted one pair of manly legs sticking out of some kilt hose, but haven't found any others. Personally i do like blokey sock patterns, I don't tend to go overboard knitting for my fella, but I do stretch to a pair of socks occasionally.

But all in all, an inspiring book, and a valuable addition to the shelf. It has been quite dangerous to my queue, and has made me remember what a small but pleasingly intricate thing a sock can be. If you like ingenious and imaginatively constructed ladies' socks, this book is for you.

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