In Review: Sock Architecture

 We used to dream of having a library in our home, but the fact of the matter is that there is barely enough room for us let alone our books. When we decided on our small house, we also decided to part ways with the majority of our favorite books. With a good library in town, it seemed like the fair & wise thing to do. At the time, I prided myself on just a handful of essential knitting titles. Over the last few years, however, that micro-library has swelled to what sometimes feels like a disproportionate quantity of texts that I simply can’t live without. That’s why these days I try very hard to never buy a knitting book unless there is something specific in it that I can’t get anywhere else.

When Lara Neel’s Sock Architecture became available last August, I read tons of positive reviews. I was oh so tempted to purchase this book right away, but between the limited book space issue and the self-inflicted attempts to curb some of my fiber arts spending, I held off making the purchase. I started following Neel’s Instagram account through which she often shares photos of her own sock experiments as well as reposts of socks knit by others using her book. What finally convinced me to place my order is that it became very apparent that Neel was doing extraordinary things with sock construction. As a curious knitter and someone hosting a year-long sock knitalong, it seemed necessary that I take the time to tour this book.

Photo courtesy of Lara Neel.

What arrived at my doorstep was probably the most comprehensive approach to sock knitting that I have come across. The first 50 pages are solely dedicated to understanding measurements, fabric, gauge, fit, as well as both basic toe-up and top-down construction which include cast-on, heel, toe, and bind-off options for each that are not only explained well, but laced with excellent caliber references. It’s a lot to digest in one sitting so you may want to break it up a bit, but it is extremely thorough and complete. If you had questions about to properly fit socks as well as how they knit-up, you won’t after reading and working through this section.

Now I am the first to admit that I am not a ‘numbers knitter’ — I am someone who wants to get a pattern, figure my gauge & size, and just knit. I will make mods here and there when necessary, but for the most part I would much prefer to not have to make any modifications or changes to a pattern. I was a bit concerned that Sock Architecture would be too numbers driven for me, but what I found was an excellent balance of in-depth discussion and dissection of sock construction right along side patterns that are simple to follow. Each design includes not only a straight-up pattern, but also instructions for customization. I think it’s easy to see that this has to potential to appeal to a really wide range of knitters, both those new to sock knitting as well as sock knitting veterans looking to expand their skill sets with guided customization.

As for the patterns themselves there are 10unique sock designs, but 17 actual patterns as 7 of them include versions for both toe-up and top-down construction. This, I think, is an excellent teaching tool for really getting at the heart of sock construction. It should also be noted that each of these patterns comes with calculations for 5 different sizes as well as the formulas (and information on taking accurate measurements in the introduction) necessary for customizing each individual pattern. This feature is not only an excellent teaching tool — it would be absolutely fabulous to teach a class or club with this book to explore all the different techniques, but it also makes this book very practical for knitting socks for all shapes & sizes of feet.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this book, however, is the far-reaching survey in sock construction it contains. Take my Bootstrap Socks, for instance…

SRR HEELThis is a heel that I never would have tried on my own. Who has ever heard of a Balbriggan heel anyways? Sourced from references in the late 1800s, I had serious doubts that it would be comfortable. The barely existent gusset, the shallow heel, and the seaming on the bottom (what the what?!) made these kind of an experiment and a test of the book itself in my mind. How practical were these techniques after all? I’m here to say, these are among the best fitting & most comfortable socks in my sock drawer. And you know what? After these socks, I trust Lara Neel and her designs & research. She can indeed design a pretty interesting to knit, comfortable to wear, and overall rad sock. That’s just a fact.

From covering the basics in great detail to innovating with construction in new and exciting ways based in historical technique, Sock Architecture is one knitting book that any knitter — even those with limited library space like me — would seriously benefit from adding to his/her collection. Make room on the shelf, my friends, because this one is a keeper!

19 responses to “In Review: Sock Architecture

    • You are welcome! I can definitely review Indie Socks! Iwill probably aim to get a bit farther in the project I cast-on from it before I do, but I will get there. Anytime you have a review request, let me know – I’m open to suggestions!

  1. good to read this sarah, i like you, am trying to not hoard to much in the book world but i recently thought i might really want this book to continue my sock matering attempts. i feel convinced this will be a good thing to get now. thanks.

    • You’re welcome! I definitely have more than I *need* but this is definitely a great resource. You won’t be disappointed. I will probably be slowly working my way through it for a couple years!

  2. This looks great! I have been knitting for a month and a half, and I’ve done mittens and scarves and everything in between, but not socks (the final challenge?). I’ve watched tutorials on youtube, and haven’t understood the concept yet. So I think I’ll try this book, for sure. (: I can’t wait to start knitting socks, and hopefully I’ll have rad Christmas gifts for everyone this year!!! ^.^

    • This book would definitely be one bad-ass reference. Just as an FYI, I have a whole series of tutorials that walk you through all the steps of knitting the Churchmouse Yarns & Teas Basic Sock. They are up on YouTube (I can get you links if you need them). I also highly recommend the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group — the Socks with Sarah Thread is full of really helpful sock knitters!

      • I’m going to concur with Sarah: the Churchmouse Basic Sock pattern is a great one to start with. Well-written and clear, plus you have the added support of Sarah, her Ravelry group and the Churchmouse fan club, all of whom can walk you through any questions. My first two pairs of socks were knitted with this pattern and they were a great success. (Something I’ve since seen replicated with other new sock knitters.) With that as my base, I’ve begun some toe-up socks using magic loop, and can’t wait to start diving into the patterns in Sock Architecture (which is waiting on my bookshelf, although I’ve given it a good initial read). And don’t forget to have fun!

  3. Great review! If I was a beginning sock knitter, I’d pick up that book straight away. Like you, we have limited room for books and I’ve made a commitment to collect eBooks. Saves on a lot of space 🙂

    • I just can’t get into eBooks. I try, but I’m way too old-school. And I’m terrified that I’ll somehow lose them. I totally admire that you are going that route!

      • I used to think like that! I broke my dependence on paper of all kinds and now enjoy a less cluttered and much more organised life. I have yet to lose an eBook, but have lost the occasional book over the years.

      • I know I need to move in this direction — I have papers everywhere. But I’ve always been a write-it-down type of person. And I’m so visual that if I can’t see it, I completely forget I have it. This might be an uphill battle!

      • We should chat! There are tools that give you what you need creatively & visually, but get rid of the clutter & paper. It is quite a shift, but well worth the effort! Trust me 🙂

      • When Sock Architecture was released initially, the publisher offered a hardcopy/ebook combo, which I took advantage of. Perhaps that’s still a reasonably priced option?

  4. Wonderful review! I’ve also become picky about my knitting books to save shelf space. This one sounds worthy of a home in my bookcase.

  5. Thanks for the review! I really like this sock pattern, and I had considered casting it on, but I was highly skeptical about the comfort level of that heel. All the seaming was throwing me off. Now that I know better, I’ll definitely have to add this pattern to my que!

    • I was super wary, too! The seaming is actually quite minimal — I would still be careful to do a neat job of it, but I would like it to a feel like an afterthought heel.

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