What is it about knitting socks that is so addictive? Perhaps I like it for the expanses of easy stockinette and that I can knit away in a dark movie theatre. Or maybe I like it because it requires simple shaping techniques that effectively produce something that is so highly functional. Or maybe I like it because handknit socks just feel so darn good.
In any case, I’ve been knitting socks for a while, but I’ve always used just one pattern. Ever since I started, I’ve been using this old (archived, even!) sock pattern for Regia yarn. It’s 60 sts around and over the years, I’ve only adjusted a little bit up to 64 sts, but I’ve never really questioned the sock pattern despite sometimes having trouble pulling the socks on over my heels. Talking to Kate Atherley a couple weeks ago for the new podcast, I was convinced that I needed her new book, “Custom Socks” so I ordered it right away on Amazon.
Kate’s new book is all about figuring out how to knit socks that fit your feet perfectly. Wide feet? Narrow feet? High arch? These can all be accommodated. Kate went through an extensive process of surveying about 500 people on all the details of their foot sizes and she gives the min, max, and average of everyone’s foot length, ankle circumference, gusset circumference, heel diagonal circumference, and low calf circumference. All the key data you need to figure out a sock pattern that will fit your particular feet. Kate comes from a tech background, is currently the lead technical editor for Knitty.com and has written a book that appeals to my need for precision. There are tables and tables of numbers that specify yarn requirements and stitch counts for knitting a pair of socks in 9 different gauges and 12 different foot sizes.
There are 12 really gorgeous “fancy” sock patterns that feature lace or cables or some sort of pretty ribbing. Kate even used our SweetGeorgia BFL Sock yarn to knit her “Oh, Valencia!” socks. These sock patterns are not simply presented and left as such, but Kate goes in depth to describe how she calculated the pattern for each sock. Lace patterns often have a looser gauge than stockinette, so fewer stitches are required. She explains, step-by-step, how she arrived at her numbers so that you, too, can design your own sock patterns following her guidelines.
Personally, being a stockinette-girl, I was downright rabid for her two basic sock patterns. One toe-up and one top-down sock pattern. I like feeling that I am working with the definitive version of the basic sock pattern.
Finally, Kate shows you how to do Judy’s Magic Cast-on and Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, two very popular techniques for modern toe-up sock knitters. She also discusses the fibre content, yarn structure, and fabric density that is best for socks.
Kate has been teaching sock knitting and designing socks for over 10 years now and her new book is a must-have if you are a sock knitter. It not only shows you “what” to knit, it gives you the “why” and “wherefore”. Every question you could ever think of (why do socks fall down? is there a difference between toe-up and top-down socks? what length do I knit my socks?) has been answered here. Want to knit socks that actually fit? Start here!