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Book Review

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The Eclectic Sole: Socks for Adventurous Knitters
by Janel Laidman

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Janel Laidman's maiden voyage into the self-publishing world is a journey of sock discovery. A biochemist by training, Janel founded Chameleon Colorworks dye studio (which she has since sold) and edited Spindlicity. This book was born from her Chameleon Colorworks sock-of-the-month club, and it was nurtured along its path by sock whiz and self-publishing pioneer Cat Bordhi.

In a Nutshell
The Eclectic Sole contains a varied and tempting selection of 14 sock patterns that dip their stylistic toes into lace, ribbing, texture, and colorwork waters. You'll find psychedelic undulating ribbing, flickering colorwork, sneaky illusion knitting, ethereal lace, and a particularly captivating pair of socks that are knit side-to-side and sport holes throughout—begging to be paired with an even finer knitted undersock.

Looking through the book is like wandering through a candy store. If you haven't sampled at least one sock by the time you reach the end of the book, your willpower is much better than mine.

Making Color Easy
The market is full of differently dyed sock yarns, and not all dye techniques are suitable for all sock types. Janel addresses this problem in a fresh and helpful way that immediately distinguishes this book from many others.

She lays out her color terminology at the very beginning—terms ranging from almost-solid semisolids all the way to painted yarns with heathering and longer color repeats. For each term, she even shows a close-up photograph of a sock knit in that kind of yarn to help you visualize what those colors will do on the needles.

In each pattern she then lists the type(s) of dye techniques for which that pattern is particularly suited. This is invaluable help for choosing the right yarn for each project because the last thing you want is to labor for countless hours on an intricately patterned sock, only to discover that your brightly contrasting yarn has obscured all the detail.

Under the Covers
The book assumes that you already know how to knit and are comfortable working in the round. And it also assumes that you want to skip straight to the patterns first and then look up techniques as you go along—which is why you'll find detailed technique tutorials and chart explanations at the back of the book. I appreciate this organization.

Most of the patterns are knit from the cuff down, but three are knit from the toe up and two from side to side. Janel's instructions are written to accommodate DPNs, magic loop, or two circular needles, depending on your personal preference. Charts are large and clear.

The knitting techniques used in each pattern are decidedly varied, but the yarns are not. With one exception, Janel uses yarns that knit up at 7.5 to 8.5 stitches per inch.

Most of the socks reach somewhere between the mid- and lower-calf, while some are anklets. But nowhere does Janel actually mention the finished size of the socks or the size of foot they're designed to fit. Patterns are written for one size only, presumably for a woman's medium-sized foot—but if you've been in a shoe store lately, you know just how different each person's foot can be.

You can calculate the sock circumference by dividing the number of cast-on stitches by the recommended stitch-per-inch gauge. If you need to enlarge the calf for a looser fit, depending on the complexity of the stitch pattern, you may have some work to do.

Forgivable Foibles
The book's designs are fresh, varied, and exciting. Its shortcomings are minor—most probably stemming from the book's self-published nature. The rather skimpy margins, for example, cause the eye to get a little nervous as it wanders precariously close to the edge of the page. Those same narrow margins sometimes cause the page numbers to nestle a little too close to the text of the pattern. On the flip side, Janel uses a larger font than do most publishers, making the text easier to read.

If you want to sample one of her patterns before buying the book, you can download Rivendell (the same Rivendell socks that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee blogged about this spring) from Janel's site for $6.50. Or you can spring $23.95 for the whole book and get 14 patterns for a mere $1.71 apiece. Such a low price for so many hours of creative entertainment—you'll want to ask...is this legal?

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