Book Review

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New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One
by Cat Bordhi

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Cat Bordhi first stirred our sock excitement six years ago when she showed us how to knit socks on two circular needles. The small booklet became a runaway success that set a new standard for self-publishing and still remains on the top of Amazon lists.

Then Bordhi took a small break to write a children's book and two books about the knitted moebius. And, for the last two years while traveling and teaching, she has been slowly, thoughtfully incubating this very special book.

A New Discovery
Cat stumbled upon the basis for this book while sitting on a dock of a lake in northern Indiana, taking a much-needed break from teaching. She slipped a partially completed toe-up sock onto her foot, rotated it a little, rotated it again, and again, and could not believe her eyes.

No matter how she rotated it, the sock still fit her foot perfectly. She realized that those arch stitches we've always put in tidy triangles on either side of the heel could actually go anywhere within the arch area and the sock would still fit.

Cat immediately began exploring the idea to see just how far the design possibilities led. As she played and experimented, a group of common sock "architectures" began to take shape—which she's given names such as Foxglove, Sidestream, Riverbed, Sky, and Cedar. Each architecture places the arch expansion in a different location on the foot.

One architecture puts all the expansion on one side of the foot. Another puts it on the bottom of the foot. And, in my favorite case, the expansion occurs in a spiral coriolis band that swirls around and around the foot. Cat then designed several patterns using each type of sock architecture. Some are whimsical, some are elegant, some are for children and some for adults. But in all cases, you have to see them to believe them—and once you do, you won't be satisfied until you've grabbed your needles and cast on your own pair.

A Textbook for the Toes
But before you choose your pattern and launch into that full-blown pair of socks, you'll want to start at the beginning and read every single page, just as you would a textbook. This is not simply a book of patterns, this is a full-blown sock journey.

Your best bet is to start at the beginning, erasing any preconceived notion of socks from your mind as you familiarize yourself with Cat's way of thinking, her vocabulary, and her terminology. Here's where you'll also catch all the instructions for techniques (such as Judy's Magic Cast-On, the most ingenious invisible cast-on I've ever seen) referenced later in the book.

Cat helps you over the hump with two "learning" patterns for baby-sized socks. Dip your toes in the pond with these patterns first and you'll find any further patterns much easier. You'll see how the patterns frequently reference diagrams (or "panels") that illustrate a specific technique and show the precise layout of stitches on your needles. It can look intimidating, but if you simply follow each step, row by row, stitch by stitch, line by line, you'll get there.

Then come the eight sock architectures and corresponding patterns, or you can jump right to the end where Cat gives away all her secrets. Her master patterns let you plug in almost any needle, yarn, and measurements and get clear instructions for knitting a sock sized from infant to large adult, top-down or toe-up, with different toe, heel, and cuff variations. There's enough meat here to keep you knitting constantly for at least a year without ever repeating the same sock.

Socks Soar...Flexibly
I should note that this book is not just for people who knit socks on circular needles. Every single pattern is presented for both five double-pointed needles and both two circulars or one long circular needle, depending on your personal sock-knitting preference. While many people enjoy knitting socks on circulars, just as many prefer DPNs, and Cat was wise to include instructions for both.

The Lure of Letters
Although many of us have already knit a few pairs of socks, much of what you see in this book will be new territory. Cat has gone overboard to make these patterns as clear and user-friendly as possible. In addition to diagrams and charts galore, she also introduces the notion of lettered stitch markers in her patterns. "Knit until A," the pattern will say, and you know exactly where Cat wants you to be.

Skacel will soon release Cat's Magical Markers expressly for this purpose, and anyone who enjoys making beaded stitch markers can also add letters to the mix for their own custom markers.

The downside to all these charts and letters and diagrams and guides is that some people, those who thrive on simple clarity, may be overwhelmed. My only advice, again, is to take the patterns line by line, row by row, and to work the little "learning" patterns first until you're comfortable with things.

If you get stuck or need help, Cat has just added several excellent tutorial videos to YouTube. Even if you aren't reading the book, those tutorials may be immensely insightful.

Prettier and Prettier Publishing
In terms of physical quality, this book raises the self-publishing bar yet again. It is perfect-bound with a rectangular shape that stays open comfortably on a table or chair. All 136 pages are printed in full color, with abundant white space, diagrams and charts and illustrations galore, and clear and evocative sock photographs on almost every page.

Socks are shown in a ton of different yarns and in a variety of poses—some are shown flat, others on wooden sock blockers, and yet others on three-dimensional invisible feet resting at different angles.

Book One?!

I envision Cat Bordhi's brain rather like a room full of IBM supercomputer from the early 1980s—the enormous machines that hummed, blinked, and continually spat out punchcards with answers to all the world's problems.

It's the same brain that figured out a way to knit socks on two circular needles and create a true knitted moebius without any cast-on edge (as did a few other people, I might add). It's also a brain with great imagination, compassion, and a marvelous sense of whimsy, all of which come through beautifully in Cat's writings. I marvel that this is just "book one" and wonder where she will lead us next.

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