Better Socks Through Better Books

This review begins with my first pair of socks knit in 2006. One thing I never confessed to was that one of the gussets on one of the socks was upside down. I was still learning all the parts, all the stitches, and how everything fit together. I was delighted to discover that despite this error they still fit perfectly fine and unless I point out the error, no one is the wiser.

newpathwaysIn 2007, Cat Bordhi released the first book in a new series for sock knitters, New Pathways for Sock Knitters and I was instantly smitten. It was exciting to learn that the arch expansion position doesn’t entirely matter, what matters is that it exists somewhere along the way. Those extra stitches are important, but they don’t have to be executed with the same exactitude as say, a neck opening. I love Cat’s brain, so I tend to acquire all of her books to learn what new things I can. In 2011 she released her first ebook Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Socks which opened up a new world of smoother short-row heels. I was fascinated by this and knew it would go in my queue to knit some day.

Big Foot KnitsLast July another sock book by a different author entered the marketplace and despite its title, it is one I think every sock knitter should own, read, and learn from. It has changed my sock knitting life as much as Cat Bordhi has, Big Foot Knits by Andi Smith is a phenomenal book and you might wonder why it’s taken me so long to review.

I had grand plans to quickly knit up a pair of socks and show how the lessons applied to even my tiny feet.

Then I cast on with 2mm needles and a very light fingering weight yarn. Even for my feet, that gauge takes a while to knit. Yes, 9 stitches per inch take a while to knit no matter what size shoe you wear.

I finally finished those socks this week and as long-ago promised, am writing up my thoughts. This isn’t as detailed as I planned, but I hope I can show you how these books are valuable additions to your library.

Ok, while at first glance I should focus on knitting my socks from another Cooperative Press title, Tiny Treads (review soon), the reality is that without modification, I can’t just knit any sock pattern and expect the end result to fit and wear well. Just lopping off an inch or more for the foot length isn’t the solution. Andi changed my sock knitting life by showing me how to knit socks that fit me and my feet.

Don’t believe me? These are my toes. (Warning, pictures of my toes appear below, please scroll.)

still here? wow. ok. you’re brave.

my toes

Here are how most sock toes are knitted, with various degree of pointedness.

most sock toes

Sure, after wearing a pair all day, they do mold to my toes as knitted fabric is quite forgiving, but they don’t feel as if they were made specifically for my feet. Which is a shame as I try to knit my socks specifically for my feet.

most socks

In addition to Andi’s very comprehensive review of measuring all the parts of our feet (similar to how we’ve learned to measure for the other garments we knit or sew), she asks us to look at the shapes of our toes, heels, and legs. Why hadn’t anyone asked me to do this before?

Andi explains in detail how to work increases (or decreases) at the right speed so the slope of the toe is shaped like your toes. She provides numbers worksheets that let you keep track of the numbers and steps you through the maths to get you there. While I’m focusing primarily on toes today, she also explains how to work different cuffs and heels.

For this pair of socks I just wanted to make the toes better. Thanks to over 50 pages of instructions, diagrams, charts, and worksheets, I did.

proper toes

proper toes

Andi also includes 12 beautiful patterns if you want a little more inspiration. I wanted a simple pair of socks.

I chose to knit the heels of these socks with Cat’s sweet tomato heel. These are special socks as they’re the second pair from the same 100g ball of yarn, the first pair were knitted back in 2011. I used every inch of yarn and bound off with about 12 inches remaining on one sock and less than 5 on the other.

finished socks

just finished

I love the entire fit of these socks—from toes, to heel, to final cuff.

comfy new socks
I highly recommend these sock books by Andi Smith and Cat Bordhi.

just finishedProject details
Ravelry project page
Yarn: 50g Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine in Peat Mix
Needles: 2mm
Started: 26 July 2013
Completed: 12 January 2014
Toes: Big Foot Knits by Andi Smith
Heel: Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Socks by Cat Bordhi