Lena Maikon, "Knitted Comfort for the Sole"

Lena Maikon, "Knitted Comfort for the Sole"

I don't want to demean the work that an author and an agent and a publishing house and a stylist put into creating a knitting book.  I really don't.  I know full well that bringing a knitting book to term is an awful lot of work.  No one would do it unless they believed passionately in the project.

And yet.

And yet, I am puzzled by this book.  I had my first inkling of trouble when I read in the introduction that "If this is your first time knitting socks, you'll find the Anatomy of the Sock Section (page 12) particularly helpful." 

Well, except that no you won't, for two reasons.  First, it's not a "section."  It's an annotated picture.  A picture of a sock, with the landmarks labeled.  Leg, toe, heel, and so forth.  I'm guessing you already knew these things. 

Second, it's wrong.  There are only seven things labeled on the sock, and "instep" is labeled incorrectly.  The instep (as most people know, even non-sock-knitters) is the top of the foot.  Mysteriously, the bit at the base of the heel where the heel flap merges with the stitches on the foot, is labeled "instep."

Flipping through the book, I noticed that a surprising number of these patterns feature mohair yarn.  Oh, it makes my toes itch just to think about it.  One mohair sock pattern, maybe two or three, I could understand that.  But nine?  Out of twenty two?  That's right: 40% of these sock patterns are knit in mohair yarn. 

Even the patterns that don't include mohair all seem to be impractical or ill-conceived in some way.  Like the socks designed with the same construction as a shoe, including the tongue and shoelaces.  Or the sheep socks, which are admittedly cute, but which feature a big prominent ridge of super-lumpy yarn along the top of the toes and along the back of the heel flap. 

(Let us not speak of the muppet-skin fun fur legwarmers.  I am sure that there's an eight year old girl out there somewhere who yearns for them with all her heart.)

When are you supposed to wear these socks?  It's surprising how many of these patterns could never be worn inside a shoe.  It's almost as if this book was written by someone who has never worn a sock.

Almost all of the pictured socks are short, ankle-length, although the instructions urge you to knit them to your desired length.  This leads me (uncharitably) to suspect that the designer simply didn't want to - or didn't have time to - knit proper full-length socks to be photographed for the book. 

Every pattern is knit top-down, with a star toe.  This is the simplest toe, because you simply decrease as you would for a hat, breaking the yarn and threading it through the remaining stitches drawstring-style.  Unfortunately it is also one of the least effective toes; it tends not to fit people well (you may have noticed that few feet are cone-shaped at the end) and the puckered closure is both obtrusive and easily damaged by wear.

If you are smitten by a particular project and have to have this book, then go for it.  I definitely won't stand in your way.  But if you're simply looking for a book of sock patterns, I really think you can do far better.