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Book Review

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Sock Innovation: Knitting Techniques & Patterns for One-of-a-Kind Socks
by Cookie A.

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First there was Cher, then Madonna and Prince and Bono. But the music world isn't the only place where single-name phenoms can rise to stardom.

In the winter of 2005, a little-known designer named Cookie A released a sock pattern called Pomatomus in Knitty. It was an instant hit. Did she disappear back into the woodwork? No. She followed up in the Winter 2006 Knitty with the equally popular—if not even more so—Monkey sock pattern. Today Cookie co-blogs on Knitters Anonymous and has her own line of knitwear designs (currently all socks). This is her first book, and it is impossible to overstate just how much the sock-knitting world has been anticipating it.

Two Books in One
Physically this is one book, but its contents can easily be divided into two sub-books. First, you get a mind-bendingly thorough design and technique master class. And second, you get a collection of 15 gorgeous, innovative, and extremely tempting sock patterns.

Giving Away Her Secrets
In the first half of the book, Cookie reveals an array of invaluable design secrets. We're not just talking about toes and gussets here, although she outlines those with great clarity. Likewise, she explains afterthought heels in a way that makes me want to cast on and experiment right now.

No, we're talking deeper design concepts that may cause a little smoke to come out of your ears at first. Things like inverting stitch patterns—including cables—so that you can knit them both in the round and in right-side/wrong-side rows. Also, converting and re-charting flat stitch pattern charts into charts you can follow in the round.

She also talks a little bit about how different types of stitches will affect the knitted fabric (thicker or thinner, more or less elastic, etc.), working with multicolored yarns, resizing stitch patterns, and making smooth transitions from one stitch pattern to another.

Cookie writes with intelligence and passion, and assumes the same degree of intelligence and avidity in her reader, which makes this book an extremely refreshing read. She also has a gift for explaining things we may already know instinctively, but in a way that finally gives us an "a-ha!" moment of true revelation. These are small things, like how we should decrease cable stitches when transitioning from cables to stockinette in order to prevent puckering in the fabric.

All this technique and design information is passed to you within the first 55 pages of the book. And, while it's tempting to skip directly to the patterns, I encourage you to spend some time on this section first. It will help you identify when Cookie transitions her patterns from cuff to heel to foot, understand the pattern placement, and ultimately feel more confident experimenting on your own—something Cookie encourages you to do. "There are so many possibilities," she urges, "the sock can be your empty canvas."

Gasp-Worthy Patterns
As if that masterclass weren't enough, Cookie then proceeds to deliver 15 original new designs, each named after the friends and family who inspired them. Cookie's socks are not simple stockinette affairs. They tend to have the stunningly ornate and sculptural detail of a Gothic cathedral.

Cables entwine in candycane swirls and giant frothy waves punctuated with occasional well-placed yarn-overs and purl ridges. One of my favorites, called Kai-Mei, has a simple ribbed cuff from which a leafy lace pattern emerges at the heel and swirls across the foot to the toe, using a shifted gusset decrease technique reminiscent of the ideas Cat Bordhi unleashed in New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One.

But don't get me wrong: While these patterns may look complicated, they are entirely achievable by any knitter who knows how socks work, can read a chart, and has a little patience. All the patterns begin at the cuff and work down to the toe. They are laid out in a clear, easy to follow graphic template where each step is distinguished from the next to a) help you see where you are and b) give you a marvelous feeling of progress as you advance from one step to the next.

Cookie A has long been a supporter of hand-dyers, and her yarn choices for the patterns in this book continue that trend—she showcases the yarns of great folks like Lorna's Laces, Colinette, Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Dream in Color, Fleece Artist, Mountain Colors, Hand Jive Knits, and Shelridge Farm.

Matching Expectations?
Cookie A's sock patterns have been so popular that I know expectations were very high for this book. Having spent some time with it, I can say that the book meets and exceeds every expectation I had. This is a brilliant and valuable book that every avid sock knitter will want to own.

It's also a steal. You'd need an entire weekend workshop—which would cost you at least $100—to absorb what she presents in the design and technique section. And you get 15 gorgeous patterns that would normally retail for $6 to $6.50 apiece—adding another $90 to the tab. Instead, you get Cookie's wisdom, guidance, and inspiration for a mere $22.95. And best of all, it's captured on physical pages that you can leaf through again and again as you journey along your sock knitting path.

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