May 7th, 2009

Book Review: Sock Innovation by Cookie A

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Earlier this week I eluded to an announcement regarding this blog.  For those of you who have blogs of your own, you know the time it takes to generate content, write the content, edit, add pictures, links, etc.  When not traveling I think I’ve got a pretty good routine down for keeping the blog updated and there are very few times when there’s nothing to talk about.  In fact, often times there’s so much I want to share with you that I can’t always fit it all in.

The videos that I started doing over the past couple of months have been very well received and a lot of fun to produce.  I’m looking forward to putting together more of them.

One area that I think the blog has been lacking is book reviews.  I sometimes mention a new book, or even highlight one if we have an event going on, but formal book reviews are not something I’ve ever really done and in all honesty, they are not my strong suit.  Fortunately, there are those who are very good (and interested) in doing the leg work necessary to write a compelling review.

Even more fotunate for me and the blog and all of you, one of our former staff members recently approached me about writing book reviews for the blog.  Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity.  We’re still in the early stages of working out logistics, etc. 

Please say hello to Melissa Sibley.  She is a former WEBS store associate and is currently working at UMass.  Besides being a terrific knitter she also dyes her own yarns.  You can learn more about Melissa on her blog at www.keeganlaneyarns.com/blog.  So, here we go – a review of Cookie A.’s new book Sock Innovation!

Living in New England with long winters and frigid temperatures means a lot of large knitting projects. Once the temperatures start to rise and we all begin to thaw I know my favorite knitting time of year is on the horizon. For me, summers are a time to knit small, light-weight knitting projects. My favorite summer knitting, hands down, is socks and Cookie Apichairuk’s (known in the fiber realm as Cookie A) new book Sock Innovation Knitting Techniques & Patterns for One-of-a-Kind Socks could not have come at a better time. A how-to for those interested in constructing (whether it be knitting or designing) their own sock patterns from the cuff down, just in time for spring.

Sock Innovation is an encyclopedia for cuff-down sock knitting. It is way more than patterns; it is blue prints leading knitters on an educational stitch exploration. Cookie A presents her readers with riveting lessons filled with the how-to’s of sock knitting from stitch construction, to pattern placement, and over-all sock technique. As a reward for the reader’s studious hard work Cookie A presents fifteen patterns, using the ideas previously mentioned, filled with innovation and challenge to knitters of all skill levels.

Cookie A begins her sock knitting journey by explaining the anatomy of a sock in her “Sock Techniques” chapter. From choosing a cuff (my favorite is the Picot Cuff tutorial) and outlining heel options (afterthought heels are very popular right now) to three different and very well explained toe options. Cookie A proves to the knitter that every pattern has multiple possibilities and that you can change a pattern to meet your individual tastes. The main point that is stressed is the art of pattern placement. Cookie A explains that how a stitch pattern falls on a foot can be manipulated and revised to have the best placement possible, both for aesthetic reasons and actual wearability. All knitters need to know that they do not have to knit a pattern, as written, and in the same yarn and color as it appears in the sample garment. Part of the beauty of a hand knit garment is the freedom to create an item you are completely pleased with and with the help of Cookie’s tutorials this is definitely possible.

Beyond the dissection of the actual sock patterns Cookie A takes the time to discuss with the reader the importance of each individual stitch in the “Stitch Techniques” chapter. Choosing one decrease over another, or crossing a cable in front or in back can make or break any pattern. Cookie gives knitters the ability to make both knitting and designing patterns precise and beautiful. When I was a novice sock knitter, I often favored the knit two together (k2tog) decrease. Over time I’ve learned that there are many ways to decrease your stitch count and that every type of decrease has its place.

One of the most useful topics in the book can bring any knitter to their knees – charts. Cookie A and her editors do a great job discussing the difference and application of all purpose vs. flat knitting charts. Another topic in the chart tutorial is the concept of inverting stitches. Cookie A is famous not only for her innovative patterns, but also for creating patterns that mirror themselves from one foot to the next. Cookie A discusses how stitch placement and pattern sequence creates different types of fabrics and how those resulting fabrics then fit around a constantly moving foot. Cookie A explains the mathematics of a pattern and its direct relationship to the physics of a fabric to the physical anatomy of a foot in such a way that never makes a non-math or non-science orientated knitter feel threatened or overwhelmed. I had never thought of sock knitting in this light until I had read this book. For every concept there are multiple photographs, charts and tables to assist in the explanation of these unique concepts.

In one of the final chapters “Sock Design”, Cookie A takes the concepts from the previous sections and presents them in some of the most beautiful and mind-bending patterns I’ve ever seen. The patterns range from lace and lattice to dancing cables and increase patterns. Cookie A takes time to explain patterns in a fluid and descriptive tone. She continually encourages the reader to challenge themselves through their knitting. Her writing and ideas actually push the knitter to want to try the patterns and will inspire many who have read her book to try their hand at pattern designing. Cookie A’s patterns are not just there to be knit, they were created to teach and enlighten the knitter as well as broaden their technique and challenge their mind.

Every pattern in the book is beautiful and tempts me to cast-on for a new pair each time I turn the page. I am a very picky knitter and I always select patterns that teach me a new technique or that challenge me in a different way. Cookie has succeeded in tempting me to try each and every pattern. For these reasons if I had to choose a favorite pattern it would be the Kai-Mei, which is written as a lace pattern that travels from the outside of the heel and across the foot to the toe decreases. I hope to cast on for this pattern this weekend!

All of the patterns utilize a fingering weight yarn and range in needle sizes from US 1 (2.25mm) to US 1.5 (2.5mm) in both two circular and double pointed needle options and in classic Cookie A style they are all knit cuff down. As always, be sure to check your gauge and the yardage of your chosen yarn.

Each of the sock patterns is named after knitting friends who have encouraged, supported and challenged Cookie A during her knitting and designing journey. This personal touch brings the book from an informative level to a friendly level. Once you finish the book you feel as though you have sat in on one of Cookie’s sock classes where her friends were your classmates. This book is a collection of knowledge every knitter needs to add to their fiber arts library.

Sock Innovation Knitting Techniques & Patterns for One-of-a-Kind Socks.  $22.95    Written by Cookie A. Edited by Anne Merrow  and published by Interweave Press LLC 2009.

Melissa works a day job in higher education at a local university. She is a mother to one toddler and writes both for her blog (www.keeganlaneyarns.com/blog) and part-time for WEBS in Northampton, MA. Melissa has a slight addiction to sock yarn, which her husband wholly supports, now that he has his own pair of hand knit socks.

 

Okay everyone – I am really looking forward to your feedback.  Like I said we’ll continue to tweak these and improve.  More pictures is a definite addition we need to make.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments section!

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10 Responses to “Book Review: Sock Innovation by Cookie A”

  1. Hattie Says:

    AMAZING review! I don’t think there are enough reviews of books out there, this is a great idea!

    Yay Melissa!

  2. Some Bunny's Love Says:

    Woohoo!! I am looking forward to reading Melissa’s reviews. Her clear and concise writing adds to the WEBS team. :)

  3. Charminglochie Says:

    Fantastic book review!! Can’t wait to see more of them :o)

  4. Guest Says:

    Well written review. I now feel justified in my decision to purchase :)

  5. Debbie Says:

    Excellent review. Makes me want to hurry down and purchase the book. I think I will. Probally will purchase yarn too.

    Thanks for a great review Melissa. Did you major in English in college? Excellent writing.

    Deb T.

  6. Erika Says:

    Very good review. It was very informative. I was on the fence about this book, but now I know I need to get it.

  7. lu Says:

    Thanks for the review. It is well written and nice to read. Good for a change, too. I have the book on order at the LYS but it is so popular, I may not see it till June! Not so far away. Thanks Kathy and Melissa.

  8. Shelby Says:

    What a great review! I want to get the book…now!

  9. Laura Says:

    That was an excellent review — Melissa not only writes well, but her enthusiasm and admiration for both the teaching and pattern sections of the book came through well. I look forward to more book reviews from her!

    She’s not the only fan of Cookie’s book, either — there’s a one-pattern-a-month KAL that just started on Ravelry for the patterns in this book. That’s right, a 15-month KAL (because there are 15 patterns). I can’t imagine a better way to really learn the techniques Cookie uses than to knit through the entire book — and this is the first sock book I’ve ever wanted to knit all the way through! It’s going to be very challenging, but what’s fun knitting without a challenge now and then?

  10. Craigslist PVA Says:

    Interesting post. I have stumbled this for my friends. Hope others find it as interesting as I did.

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