Book Review

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Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters
by Cat Bordhi

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With some knitting books, you can open them up, pick a pattern, cast on, and knit your merry way into the sunset. Others make you learn a new way of doing things first—and then you get to pick a pattern and play. Cat Bordhi's books always seem to fall in the latter category.

Not because Cat is a cruel taskmistress. She just sees the world a little differently. You or I might stare at an apple and say, "Yup, that's an apple," but Cat would tilt her head sideways, smile, and exclaim, "Look, two butterflies coated in honey!" And then you see it too, but only after she pointed it out.

Give her another five minutes and she'll already have converted its angles into a stitch pattern and figured out how it could be incorporated into the instep of a sock. Just because.

Which is not to suggest you'll never be able to grab her books, cast on, and go—you will, but only after you've gotten acclimated to the altitude. (In the case of this book, that acclimatization process may first involve getting out a dictionary and looking up the word "insouciant," which she used in the book's title.) But Cat is eager to make her world as accessible and easy to navigate as possible. She ultimately doesn't want you to need this book at all.

A Second Pathway
Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters is the second in Cat's New Pathways for Sock Knitters series. And it does present a new pathway of sorts, with its different yet enticingly easy-once-you-get-the-hang-of-it technique for knitting socks.

Part of the intrigue involves that new architecture, and part of it involves being able to knit a perfect-fitting sock again and again with the aid of a humble piece of cardboard.

Getting Started
As with Cat's first book in her New Pathways series, this book begins with homework. In order to be able to enjoy any of the other patterns in this book, Cat first needs you to knit what she calls an information-gathering Discovery Sock.

During the process of knitting this sock, you'll learn how this sock architecture works and you'll also gather all the facts you'll need for any future sock in that particular gauge. Best of all, this information-gathering sock is extraordinarily easy. (And when you're done, you'll have a sock. What could be better?)

Cat isn't throwing entirely foreign techniques at you; she presents things most knitters already know how to do, but in a somewhat different series of steps. Which means the learning curve is very low—and you have to do your homework.

Cat as a Genre
Cat is known for turning concepts on their sides and blowing our minds in the process. Her first book showed us how we could knit a sock on two circular needles instead of the standard four or five DPNs. In her second and third books, we learned how we could create a true knitted moebius with no cast-on edge—again, on circular needles.

She returned to socks for her fourth knitting book, basing it on her revelation that a toe-up sock will work perfectly no matter where you put the arch expansion stitches within the foot area. It read like a Harry Potter book, with a distinct sense of foreign lands, new languages, and great adventure.

Her latest book may represent Cat's simplest mind-bending design notion to date. She first explored the concept in her Houdini Socks in Twist Collective. In a nutshell, the idea is this: You knit the sock from toe to heel as a flat object, as if the leg never were to exist. It ends up looking like a foot-shaped pillow that's been seamed shut.

Only it hasn't been seamed shut because Cat conveniently had you run lifelines through two of the rows. Just when you're staring at this flat thing and wondering how it could possibly become a sock, she shows you how to reload those lifeline stitches, snip a stitch in the row between the lifeline rows, pop open the sock like a magic change-purse, and knit up the leg. Voila, instant sock.

Cat insists that this new technique improves upon waste-yarn openings because it gives you a stronger, smoother corner.

Despite Cat's infamous preference for circular needles, she has written all the instructions in this book for one long circular, two circulars, and four or five DPNs. She does refer to lettered markers, as she did in her previous book, but she explains to DPN users how to omit the markers and just use the DPN needle intersection as their indicator instead.

I should note that you do not need to have read all of Cat's previous sock books in order to get the maximum benefit of this one. While they build upon one another as a genre, they also exist independently.

What about the Cardboard?
But before you can even cast on, you first need to trace the outline of your foot onto a piece of cardboard. This becomes your very own so-called personal footprint, a reusable template for all your future socks in one particular gauge.

As you go along, she has you do some simple fittings and jot a few notations on the outline. Once you're done with the discovery sock, you also have a template that shows you exactly where the toe, foot, heel, and leg want to begin and end for a perfect-fitting sock. Then you can move on to the other patterns, 28 fun, lively, varied creations designed expressly to work with this sock-construction technique.

No, you can't cheat and skip ahead—all of the patterns refer to numbers and calculations that can only be derived from that first exploration sock and your resulting personal footprint. I know that some knitters won't like this, but then again they'd probably be better served with an open-and-go book anyway—but I still urge them first to give Personal Footprints a try.

An Easy Cat?
Cat has worked hard to make this book as simple to follow as possible. And if you still have questions, she's created several new YouTube video tutorials.

But this is still very much a Cat Bordhi production. There's adventure, discovery, silliness, and plenty of unexpected "a-ha!" moments, backed by solid, well-constructed information. In that regard, in fact, this may be her best book yet.

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