One of the things I keep learning about knitting is that there’s always more to learn about knitting. Knitting socks on straight needles seems like an enormous faff to me – and yet someone wrote a whole book about it! Why? I needed to know, so immediately requested a review copy.
Luckily, Alice Curtis opens her book, Knit Your Socks on Straight with an explanation of where she’s coming from and what the book is about. As a yarn store owner, she encountered a fear of knitting in the round, and developed sock patterns to help her clients / students knit around that fear.
Knitting your first socks
I don’t imagine that beginner sock knitters are the only people who will buy this book, but a book like Knit Your Socks on Straight does need to cater to beginners. Curtis opens the book with several pages of chat which evolves into a technique section. The section is illustrated, but I would say not thoroughly enough – I couldn’t follow her cast on description, and I know how to do it.
However, I do like the way she talks you through the different options she’ll use (cast on, heel and toe, for example) and explains why you might choose each one. A lot of beginner sock patterns simply instruct, which means that the knitter has to take everything on trust – I know I wasn’t that trusting, and got in an awful pickle with my first sock as a result of thinking that can’t possibly be right. The patterns in this book also start with simple designs and move to more complex ones, which some beginners may find useful.
What about the seams?
Socks with seams sounds like a bad idea, but Curtis tackles it head on. She’s developed – or reinvented, or adapted – a method of seaming which seems to be both simple to do and comfortable to wear. (It’s a crochet seam, for the curious.) However, her smartest move is to make the seam a design feature. Socks are seamed up on the outside, where the seam won’t rub, and the seam is part of the design. It’s a cat-flap moment, and makes the book much more interesting.
Sadly, this is a book that might have been better as a blog post. The patterns are good, but not as exciting as that single page explaining the secret to socks on straight. There are 20 patterns in the book, by my count, and 4 of them seem to be variations on stocking stitch socks with side seams. Earlier, Curtis did a great job of explaining each choice and why it was made, here she’s presenting 4 versions of the same sock, just in different sizes and yarn weights.
The rest of the patterns are pretty good. They’re clearly explained, well-illustrated (although it’s not always clear where the seams are). A new sock knitter will probably find plenty to enjoy. I didn’t find anything I wanted to knit but this may be because I am jaded. The patterns are a mix of quirky novelty sock designs and more discreet textured patterns – there’s probably something here for everyone, and there are certainly a couple of patterns I would happily wear.
I do find it odd that Curtis chose to knit all the patterns from the cuff down. It seems like an odd limitation – sideways socks are exciting, new, and open up a whole different set of options. I expected at least one sideways sock or something with an interesting construction but this is purely a technique shift. On that basis, I feel that it would have been a kindness for Curtis to cover translating patterns from in the round to on straights, but I didn’t find anything on that topic.
Overall, the book is a good, if limited, and I think it fills a gap in the market. While I think that almost any knitter can learn to use DPNs, I don’t for a minute imagine they would all like it – and knitting, above all, should be enjoyable. Curtis’s book is a good choice for any knitter who wants to make socks without knitting in the round.