Solefull Socks: Knitting from the Ground Up by Betty Salpekar, photography by Barbara Benson, pub. Bread Crumbs Press, 2014.
Ingeniously practical as well as gorgeous, these 18 sock designs made me gasp with each turn of the page. They employ a new architecture: knit the entire sole from the center out, then the top of the foot from the outside in, and finally the leg around and around as usual.
From a practical standpoint, this system enables you to reinforce or cushion just the sole, re-sole the sock without disturbing the top, avoid picking up stitches, try the socks on to check fit as you knit, make the socks any length to suit your whim (or yarn yardage). This is wonderful in itself, but solefull architecture also allows the designer to cover the entire sock top with colorwork or stitch patterns, resulting in breathtakingly beautiful pieces.
The book begins with a tour of Salpekar's sockway, replete with diagrams and definitions. Not everyone loves this kind of reading as much as I do. You can skip this section, but stay vigilant as you knit your first sock using this method. If you use the handy-dandy chart for the sole toe, check your understanding of the short rows against the written instructions.
And now: the designs! The first chapter features socks in plain stockinette. Chapter 2 explores knit, purl, and slip stitch combinations and Chapter 3 covers patterns such as chevrons which involve increasing and decreasing. Next come chapters using color stranding, traveling stitch, and lace. In some of these chapters, Salpekar indicates members of the "Trellis Quartet": solefull sock designs in a trellis pattern done with knit and purl, color stranding, traveling stitch, and lace.
Most of the socks are in three sizes: 8.75", 9.5", and 10.25", corresponding to women's shoe sizes 5 - 10. While I appreciate this generosity of sizes (sock patterns have historically been given in one size only), some knitters have complained about the lack of even larger sizing and/or charts to help a knitter customize the patterns to their feet. If you would be disappointed by these omissions, do not buy this book. But if you need a larger size and wouldn't mind knitting these lovely socks in a heavier weight yarn (after punching some buttons on a calculator to make sure you're following the instructions for the best size), don't be afraid to take the plunge.
The charts and diagrams are exceptionally clear. Salpekar seems to have chosen the clearest method of charting for each situation. Given that most of the patterns are written in multiple sizes, this task was not as straightforward as it sounds. Detailed keys, where necessary, make each chart approachable.
This method requires even fewer knitting contortions than the usual sock construction. The distinctive double decreases on the top of the foot are on the outside of the sock and so won't be felt except by the most sensitive feet. And there are a couple of ways to entirely avoid these ridges (mirrored single decreases and grafting).
The traveling stitch designs (like Semi Aran, above) are particularly pretty, but my favorite is Fair-gyle (shown at left). All the socks are attractive, and this structure begs to be used in other ways.
Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes relating to innovation and perseverance. These quotes are an inspiring addition to the collection.
I recommend this book very highly to knitters and designers who are open to new ways of thinking---not simply sock knitters, but anyone wishing to fuse the practical with the artistic.
Salpekar is working on a sequel to this book with a different version of solefull socks. This tantalizing prospect may take a while to come to fruition, but I'm certain it will be worth the wait!
Disclosure: Bread Crumbs Press sent Kangath a copy of Solefull Socks free for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Bread Crumbs Press or the Betty Salpekar.
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