Book Report, Special Holiday Gift Edition: Custom Socks

Hi, guys! I hope you are all doing well! I was just pondering how much selfless crafting I can get done before the holidays arrive when I realized that I hadn’t reviewed this book yet! The timing seems perfect to talk about a book that makes gift giving easier, so here goes. 🙂

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet by Kate Atherley (Amazon affiliate link here; Indiebound here) is by far the knitting book I’ve used most in my life. I asked for it for my birthday last year, so I’ve had it for just over a year, and I’ve used it to make six pairs of socks for other people (with a seventh pair on my needles right now).

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

Marpleridge

The book contains 14 patterns, including a basic toe-up sock, a top-down sock, and a ribbed sock. The not-so-basic sock patterns are all really lovely and cool, and Kate includes instructions for knitting each pattern both top-down and toe-up, so you can pick your favorite (or even knit one each way!). So far I’ve made the basic ribbed socks three times (in three different sizes, for three different people), the plain top down socks twice, and the Marpleridge socks once. I want to try each one of the other patterns in the book, but particularly Carpita, Harcourt, and Man of Aran.

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

Carpita

While I like the patterns in the book, its real genius is that it has really simplified making socks in any size with any yarn. The book includes a BOATLOAD of charts that makes this easy- for example, if you know the finished circumference of the sock that you’d like to make, you can look up exactly how many stitches to cast on, how many heel stitches to separate out and how many heel rows to knit, how many stitches to for your heel turn and gussets, and the when and how many toe stitches to decrease depending on the gauge of your yarn. She includes crunches these numbers for sock circumferences from 5″ to 10.5″, at gauges from 4 stitches per inch to 9. Could you sit down and crunch these numbers yourself? Yes, maybe, and no, depending on how advanced your knitting skills are and how good at math you are. As a so-so knitter and a terrible mathematician, I am glad to be able to refer to the charts! You just jot down all the numbers that you need and plug them into the patterns in the book- it’s easy as can be!

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

There are lots of tips for solving sock problems (ha! sock problems! are those really even problems?) that go way over my head, for example, how to do special heel flap decreases to keep your gusset stitches even when you’re knitting colorwork. I’m not sure if I would even know when to use this! But the nice thing about this book is that it offers lots to more advanced knitters, which is not something that every book can do. I also appreciate that Kate includes an entire chapter on fitting what she calls “non-average” feet. This is in-depth knowledge that isn’t easily available online, including things like what to do if your foot circumference is really different from your ankle/leg circumference, and how to account for things like diabetes and other special medical needs. This feels really inclusive and helpful– after all, isn’t it more likely that someone with “non-average” feet might be making their own socks?

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

My favorite use for this book, though, is for gift giving. Kate includes charts that give the average foot and sock circumference, as well as the average foot and finished sock length, for each shoe size (men’s, women’s, and even children’s). So I’ve been able to successfully make socks that fit really well for my dad, my sisters, my brother-in-law, my mom, and Blake, just by plugging their shoe sizes into the chart in this book. The first pair that I made using this technique was a pair of basic ribbed socks for my dad… I held my breath when he tried them on, but they fit like a glove sock! I’ve also used these charts to adapt other sock patterns for gift giving, too- I just altered the stitch and row counts that were included in whatever pattern I was using to match the numbers from the book. This is particularly helpful for simple patterns that only give you one size and just say “knit to desired length” or something like that. I haven’t had a pair not fit the recipient really well yet!

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

All in all, I love this book, if that isn’t clear, and think it would be a great addition to your personal or neighborhood library. It’s made me much more confident that the socks I knit for other people will fit, and as a result, be worn! Now, tell me, are you doing any holiday knitting? What do you like to knit for other people? Any favorite items or patterns? Do tell!

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

Harcourt

Sock Obsession!

Hello, friends! I hope everyone had a great weekend!

I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling with finding the time to blog regularly. One result of this is that small projects generally don’t get blogged, or boring, “regular” garments. But only blogging more complicated projects doesn’t paint a very complete picture of what I’ve been making! So, today, I wanted to talk a little bit about my big obsession of the last several months- sock knitting!

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It all started with my Ondawa sweater. The instructions suggest that you seam the sweater with a strong, round yarn, a sock yarn, because Shelter is prone to breakage (plus it makes the seams less bulky to use a thinner yarn). So, I begrudgingly bought a skein of matching grey yarn, Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk (the cheapest sock yarn I could find in a matching color), and used a few yards for seaming. Now, I had a nearly-complete skein of sock yarn in my stash, and I couldn’t stand to let it go to waste, so I remembered the gorgeous socks I’d seen made from the Hermione’s Everyday Sock pattern and cast on. I’ve never really understood the point of handmade socks- they seem like they would be scratchy, saggy, and sweaty. And why put so much work into something that goes on your FEET? Feet are gross! So I was a little grumpy when I cast on! But I was going to use up that yarn before it got trapped in my stash forever!

I owe much of my success at my first attempt to Sarah. Her “sock-a-long” posts held my hand while I worked through all the tricky bits, and gave me the confidence to keep going. Plus her finished socks looked so pretty that I was inspired to power through the scary heel turn and get to the end! But I still wasn’t convinced that handmade socks were for me (I decided to make this pair as a gift for my mother-in-law… her house has particularly cold floors in the winter, so I thought she might like them).

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I changed my mind about socks when I found out how magical sock yarn is! I occasionally meet up with a group of knitters based in Queens, and when I saw Melissa and Kathryn working on socks in an amazing speckled yarn, I needed to know more! They directed me to Gauge x Tension (which, sadly, is closing, which is a bummer because I’ve bought my yarn from there almost exclusively since I found out about it) where I picked up a skein of Spun Right Round sock (colorway: “Don’t Go Away Mad”). Readers, I fell in love! I had just started my new job, which increased my commute time dramatically, and it turned out that sock knitting was just the thing to keep me from biting my nails when the train was delayed. Plus, socks are small enough that I can keep a project bag stashed in my purse at all times, so whenever I’m stuck waiting for someone, I can just pull it out and knock out a few rows!

I made a second pair of Hermione’s Everyday Socks, this time for myself, and I absolutely love them! The textured pattern is really simple, so you don’t need to have a pile of instruction pages on your lap, but it’s fun and satisfying to knit. The pattern is really easy to understand and follow, so it’s not too challenging for a subway knit. And the yarn is just so beautiful, and makes a sock so incredibly warm that my feet feel good, even when I’m standing on the cold concrete floor at work. I was totally sold on this sock knitting business!

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My third pair of socks was another gift, this time for my aunt. I bought a second skein of Spun Right Round, this time in the colorway “Graffiti Overlay”. I decided to try out another free pattern, the Simple Skyp Socks, which are reviewed really positively on Ravelry. I found this pattern to be slightly more difficult to follow- the beginning of the round seemed to change frequently, and I didn’t understand why (newbie problems!). But in the end, the socks looked really nice, and it was fun to try out a different stitch pattern.

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If you can’t tell, I’ve gotten super passionate about knitting socks! I’ve made five pairs as gifts, and am working on a second pair for myself right now. While I don’t know if the recipients appreciate them, I really enjoy thinking about the person that I’m making them for while I’m knitting away. And it’s done wonders for my commute- I’m naturally impatient, restless, and twitchy, and while I haven’t changed into a new person overnight, it’s gotten easier for me to be patient when I have something to keep my hands occupied, without having to drag around a huge project bag. Also, sock yarn is just so fun! It’s a great way to use colors that you might not wear all over your whole body, and to try out independent dyers. It can be expensive, but I’m a slow knitter, so spending $25 on a skein that gives me a project to work on for a couple of months isn’t too hard on my budget. If you’re on the fence, please give it a try! I definitely recommend the two free patterns that I reference in this post… they’re great introductions to sock knitting. 🙂 And if you haven’t checked out the Spun Right Round shop, do it! I’m not being paid to advertise for her or anything– I just love her yarn and want everyone to try it. 🙂

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Fun fact: I realized just a few weeks ago that I totally didn’t have to buy sock yarn for my Ondawa sweater because I DIDN’T USE SHELTER. Did I remember this at the time? Nope. Definitely not. But I’m so glad I forgot, or I’d never have fallen down the sock rabbithole! 😀 So thank you, bad memory, for giving me another hobby! 🙂

Anyone else as sock-obsessed as me??? What are your favorite patterns?