First, the facts:
Title: Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn
Author: Carol J. Sulcoski
Published by: Interweave Press, 2008
Type: Sock Patterns
1. The Road to Handpainted Happiness
2. The Patterns
Pattern Size Range: N/A
The In-Depth Look:
There are two things I really need to tell you about this book.
The first is that the explanation of the different kinds of hand-dyeing, and how to deal with them when knitting with them is, all by itself, worth the book. The second is that there are some lovely patterns in here.
So–the first thing. The first chapter. It talks (surprise, surprise) about hand-painted yarns. How was the dye put on the yarn? Randomly? Big sections? Tiny splatters? Stripes? All these are things that will affect your knitting. Is it likely to “pool”? (That is, to have different colors grouped together at about the same place on every row so that you get “chunks” of color.)
What about the colors? The author defines three classes: Nearly Solid, Muted Multis, Wild Multis, to differentiate between those skeins that have all the colors of the rainbow and the ones that discreetly range from periwinkle to ocean-blue.
Then, she gives you tips on how to avoid pooling … because some yarns are going to pool no matter what you do … unless, say, you try a different stitch pattern, or maybe a different sized needle, or use some of the other tricks she points out. Since I personally don’t like pooling in my socks, this section is one of which I am particularly fond!
Then, the second thing–the patterns. I’ll confess right here that I mostly just knit plain, toe-up, stockinette socks, so I’m not as widely versed in the subtleties of sock patterns as I could be, but there’s no question that some of these are particularly lovely.
The Longbourn Socks are inspired by the wallpaper in the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice and no only has a nice pattern, but embroidery as well. I like the Staccato socks, and that part of their intent is to give you, the knitter, a chance to use up odds and ends from other skeins. (And who doesn’t have odds and ends lying around?)
The Color Collision Socks and the Spot Check Sock actually change the direction the sock is knit–several times–to avoid pooling. I like the texture to the Herringbone Rib Socks, and I very much like the two-yarn Spot Check Sock which nicely tames the wildest of Wildly-Varied yarns. And, of course, the Flame-Thrower Socks are unlike any I’ve seen before.
Some of the others are perfectly nice patterns with a nice rib stitch, or stitches with texture, or stitches with lace–all with the intent of complimenting the handpainted yarn they’re knit with. Some have special, extra touches, like a unique way of turning the heel, or shaping the toe, but they’re not the kind of socks that make you think, “Different!” (Which, don’t get me wrong, isn’t a bad thing in a sock!) The socks on the cover are awfully reminiscent of the Jaywalker socks that swept the online knitting world a couple years ago, but, well, it’s a chevron pattern–what can you do? (grin). It IS a different pattern, it just kind of looks similar. I don’t really understand the point of the Split-Toe Sweetheart socks, either, but maybe that’s just me?
Each pattern is coded not by difficulty, but by the type of handpainted yarn you should use. (Is this pattern for a mostly-solid? Or a muted-multi? Or both?) That’s a particularly nice touch, I thought.
The photos are all good–attractive without being distracting, and without camoflauge. (Apparently none of these models ever wear shoes.) Not only are their multiple, modled pictures of all the socks, there’s a photo of the plain, flat sock next to the title. You know, so you REALLY get a look at the sock without being distracted by a petticoat hem or a dog serving as a foot rest. All the patterns are listed in the Table of Contents, which I always appreciate for the sake of later reference. The instructions look clear and simple, as do the charts and diagrams.
All in all? A very nice book about socks. And, even if the patterns were terrible (which they are NOT, by a long shot), it would still be worth looking at just for that first chapter.
This book is available at Amazon.com for $13.57.
This review copy was kindly donated by Interweave Press. Thank you!