Hand knit socks are a wonderful treasure. Sock patterns and books are constantly being written, techniques are being updated, and historical pieces examined to find the best fit, form and fashion for hand knit socks. I am particularly interested in breaking down how various patterns really work. I knew I would have to closely examine Vogue's book titled The Ultimate Sock Book
What I found in the book is really just another good old sock book. The book has two parts. The first part is on sock knitting technique and construction and the second part is knitting patterns from several well-known hand knit designers.
The first part of the book contains; a brief history of sock knitting with a focus on knitting socks during war time, instructions on using double pointed needles, toe up and cuff down construction, knitting short rows, parts of a sock, some nice tables on sock yarn weights, and a universal sock calculator chart for using superfine through DK weight yarn. To encourage some creativity, there is a basic sock pattern and a brief stitch dictionary to encourage knitters to adapt patterns to their own liking.
All of this material in the first section is nice and would be very useful to advanced beginner or intermediate level knitters who are new to knitting socks. In terms of this being a sock design book, it is very limited. A formula for toe up or cuff down socks on double pointed needles with charts that only work with finer yarns doesn’t break down the heavy duty nuts-n-bolts of sock design. There are none of the more recent techniques such as knitting on two circular needles, and there is no information on how to properly swap out toes and heels in a sock pattern and still get it to fit. The first section is good, I just had higher hopes when I saw a title with Ultimate in it.
The patterns in the second section are wonderful and varied. There are traditional looking European designs, cabled socks, lace socks, and basic ribbed socks among others. Among my favorites that I would like to knit are the Leaf Lace Socks by Susan Lawrence, which features an all over lace pattern, the Diamond Lace Socks by Joan Michael-Mcgowan – another all over lace sock, and the Nordic Star Socks by Jan Malone. Interestingly, many of the designer patterns in the book use a variety of techniques not covered in the first section. So, you may get to knit with a new technique in a provided pattern, but are not given an explanation of how to use it in your own sock designs.
It is common for sock books to use this formula – provide a basic recipe and then several patterns. If you already have some of these sock books, make sure you flip through this one well before you decide to buy.
I checked this book out from my local public library. I was not compensated by the publisher or book manufacturer in any way for this review.
Some of the patterns in the book do contain errors. There is an errata sheet posted on the publishers website, at Sixth & Springs Books, see link below.
Offsite link: Ultimate Socks Errata Sheet