Some months ago, I scooped up a skein of Sockotta in the LYS bargain bin. After arming myself with “Simply Sensational Socks” by Charlene Schurch, I embarked on my first pair of top-down socks (my entire prior sock experience was one pair of toe-up anklets).
The nice thing about this book is that it has a chart of average foot measurements by shoe size. Comparing my own measurements to the book, I seemed pretty much right-on for the measurements for my 8-to-8.5 shoe size. So after swatching, I just followed the instructions in the book for the garter rib sock, and finished the first one late last night. What I didn’t realize was the bad thing about this book – the instructions do not allow for any negative ease, or even mention it (at least, not that I saw, but I do admit I have not read the entire book). I ended up with a sock that agreed with my measurements, but which was much too loose to wear with a shoe. I could tell that the leg was a bit on the large side while I was making it and trying it on, but it seemed like it would stay up, so I didn’t worry about it. And after finishing it, it seemed comfortable enough with just the sock on my foot – but once I tried to put on a shoe, it was clear that it needed to be about an inch shorter, because as the sock stretched, all the extra material just bunched up at the heel. I figured I could just rip out the toe and make the sock shorter, but clearly the foot circumferance was a bit too bulky too.
I had my husband try them on just for fun, and not only did they fit him, he said “I’d wear socks like these”. Dilemma solved. Now I just have to knit the other one, and he’ll have his first pair of hand-knit socks.
So back to the book and the patterns – after reviewing the pattern I used for my anklets, as well as a number of other patterns, nearly all of them say to reduce the number of stitches determined by your gauge and foot measurements by 10-15%, in order to provide negative ease for a snug fit. After realizing the problem, I did remember doing that for the anklets. I’m really surprised that this book said nothing about that. Also, I found her instructions for rearranging the heel stitches after knitting the heel flap to be incredibly confusing. After looking at some other sock knitting resources, I figured out what it meant. Once I knew what I was supposed to do, the instructions made more sense – but I think the instructions could have been written much more clearly, and perhaps with some illustrations. My other gripe with this book is that it should have been spiral-bound. It’s impossible to keep it open for reference. But I don’t mean to make it sound like I don’t like the book. Now that I’ve made one sock, I understand the instructions. And knowing that I need to modify the sizes for negative ease, I’m sure I won’t have any problems knitting more socks from the patterns. Things that I really liked about the book are that it shows both toe-up and top-down socks with the different sections knitted in different colors, the charts for standard foot measurements, yardage charts, the instructions for 4-needle, 5-needle, and circular needle knitting, and of course, all of the patterns for different pattern repeat counts.