Sunday, July 16, 2006

REVIEW: Cool Socks, Warm Feet - Lucy Neatby (book)

I'm sitting here surrounded by knitting books, current knitting magazines, vintage knitting magazines, knitting DVDs, knitting CDs, straight knitting needles, circular knitting needles, double point knitting needles, and easily enough yarn of various weights, colors, textures, origins to fill my old house. Fair warning: I have opinions on all of 'em and I'm not afraid to share!

Cool Socks, Warm Feet by the brilliantly talented Lucy Neatby is the book that opened up the world of sock-knitting for me. As strange as this may sound, the layout and feel of the book broke down my defenses and calmed my raging sockophobia.

This book is spiralbound and that makes a surprising difference. When you're struggling with needles and yarn, you shouldn't have to struggle with the pages of your book as well. What a pleasure it is to flip to the page in question and have it lay flat. Sheer bliss. The book is beautifully laid out. The color photos are luscious. The directions are clear, direct, and easy to follow. The patterns are varied in style and experience level. The various design changes possible within a pattern are spread out before you like desserts at a buffet. Choose one! Choose all! Round toe? The directions are there. Kitchener? It's there. Wedge? Of course. And same goes for heels. There are cuff choices. Cast-on options. Cast-off methods I'd never heard of before.

And the Chimney Toe! You'll find great instructions for this innovative toe grafting method on Lucy's website.

Sock books used to intimidate me. The information might as well have been written in ancient Greek for all that I could understand what they were saying. Lucy makes the incomprehensible crystal clear. I began with her basic sock on page one and I instantly made the pattern my own. Now I'm not the kind of woman who writes in her books but I found myself scribbling notes in the margins, circling my size options, adding technical data for the changes I found myself making spontaneously and -- to my amazement -- with great success.

What can I say? Some books are simply perfect: the way they look, they way they smell, the way they sit in your hand, the way the photos leap out at you and practically dance on the table top. For me, this is one of those books. I don't know how she did it, but somehow Lucy Neatby reached out from those pages, squeezed my hand, and said, "You can do it! You can knit a pair of socks."

And she was right.

You can find Lucy at her Tradewind Knits website.

But beware. Once you start knitting socks, there's no turning back.

Barbara Bretton

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