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.
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…
This 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!