August 25th, 2009

Book Review – Knitted Socks East and West

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Just before leaving for Sock Sumiit, a pretty new book landed on my desk.  Given my intense focus on all things socks related it immediately caught my eye.  The beautiful cover didn’t hurt either.  I’m grateful to Melissa for getting this review done so quickly!

Knitted Socks East and West 30 Designs Inspired by Japanese Stitch Patterns Judy Sumner
Judy Sumner has been knitting for over 60 years. She is passionate about the craft and enjoys studying and collecting stitch dictionaries. Judy is well known for her beautiful sock designs featured in Interweave Knits, Knit Simple, The Knitlist and many other publications. Her most popular pattern to date is Feather & Fan Socks  published in Socks, Socks, Socks.
In her new book Judy took her enjoyment of stitch dictionaries a step further when she chose to expand her knowledge of Eastern stitch patterns by enrolling in a Japanese pattern reading class and applied her new knowledge to the art of knitting socks. Judy delved into Japanese knitting and pattern writing, intrigued by the stitch definition and the pattern construction. Japanese stitch techniques traditionally focus on the beauty and order of nature.  Judy resolved to employ sixty years of knitting knowledge and applied it to the Japanese techniques, thus creating thirty fresh, unique and interesting sock patterns.
These thirty beautiful patterns feature many knitting techniques and span ability levels. Each pattern is well written and includes tutorials and cultural significance.  The patterns that I included here are but a sampling of what the book offers. 
The Origami pattern features fingering weight yarn knit into Judy’s new interpretation of her classic feather and fan lace design.

The pattern begins at the toe and includes instruction for a short row heel. The cuff of the sock is the pattern namesake since it appears to be folded in multiple paces when it is not on the foot.

Ikebana is the ancient art of floral arrangement. Judy utilizes a light fingering weight yarn includes bamboo and silk which reflects the light for superior stitch definition. The pattern introduces the pkok technique that is easily learned and absolutely beautiful when mastered.

Judy describes this pattern as one of the more complex presentations since it requires that two patterns be knit simultaneously, though the end result is well worth the concentration. These knee socks feature beautiful bobbles and flowing vines that seem to climb up the leg; a true example of timeless fiber art.

The Japanese Garden pattern uses worsted weight yarn knit into a symmetrical lace pattern invoking both serenity and beauty.

These socks are knit cuff down and include an amazing ribbed triangle decrease on the calf of the sock. These are a must knit for those in cool climates!

The Fuji Pedicure socks (as seen on the cover) are fun, fresh and perfect for a spa day since they are toe-less! These socks are knit with fingering weight washable yarn, perfect for the washing machine after your day of relaxation. Judy’s pattern features a zig-zag lace pattern that almost appears to be cable knit. The socks are constructed from the cuff down and stop about one inch from the toes, leaving them free to be pampered while your feet are kept warm. Once your polish is dry just slide on your flip-flops and be on your way!

The Bonsai pattern is a true work of art. Mirroring the ancient art of tree sculpting, Judy has successfully mastered the art of sculpting fiber.

The progressive lace and cable pattern is knit cuff down, however Judy artfully chose not to include a traditional ribbed cuff. This allows the sock and leg to appear decorative and elegant as the pattern continues to climb the leg.

As Judy explains in her book tsunamis are both powerful and destructive, however the socks she designed are quite the opposite.

The Tsunami socks are very traditional in that they include both cables and argyle diamonds, however the interwoven placement of the two geometric patterns create a fresh and tranquil yet unexpected effect. Knit in a light fingering weight from the cuff down and presented in a trouser length makes these socks suitable for both men and woman.

The Karatsu socks feature a beautiful intermediate lace pattern complete with wrapped stitches and bobbles.

The pattern is written in a sixteen stitch, twenty-four row repeat which can be tedious, though brilliant. This is by far my favorite pattern in Judy Sumner’s collection. Knit from the cuff down in fingering weight yarn the author recreates the traditional art of Japanese pottery for which the socks are named. The calf portion of the socks feature a ribbed triangle similar to the one included in the Japanese Garden pattern, though the use of mirrored decreases brings a fresh perspective. The Karatsu socks would surely be a challenge to knit, however Judy includes every vehicle necessary to complete such a task.
As a Western designer, Judy Sumner utilizes timeless Eastern techniques for thirty fresh and inspirational sock designs. This book opened my eyes to a new and challenging level of sock knitting.  Having knit socks for over 7 years I am truly pleased and excited to add this book to my collection. The photographs are beautiful and inspiring; a complete work of art.
Knitted Socks East and West 30 Designs Inspired by Japanese Stitch Patterns Judy Sumner Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2009 $22.50.

Melissa Sibley works a day job in higher education at a local university. She is a mother to one toddler and writes both for her blog ( and part-time for WEBS in Northampton, MA. Melissa is attempting to pack her beach bag full of sock yarn. Who needs towels anyway?
I hope you have enjoyed Melissa’s peek inside this fabulous new book!  Pre-order your copy today!



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One Response to “Book Review – Knitted Socks East and West”

  1. Letter & Line Says:

    Hi Kathy and Melissa,
    This is the first time I’ve visited your site. Knitpurlgurl linked to your blog and I wanted to thank you for posting this review! I tend to skip over sock pattern books because I’m a novice knitter and am in the scarf/hat rut.

    That being said, I am in love with the Ikebana socks. I would wear these with short boots because who’d want to cover them up?? I am so inspired to try my hand at something other than scarves and basic hats:)


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