There is a pain I have lived with all my life that I have never shared with you before:
I have big feet. Yes, big feet. I've never been able to enjoy shoe shopping the way other women do, having to content myself with men's shoes for much of my life. Even as a 5-year-old at the Buster Brown Shoe Store, hoping desperately to get my new school shoes there so I could have the special gift they gave out with the purchase of a pair, I had to leave disappointed, the salesman's words ringing in my ears: "She has fat feet, doesn't she?"
So one particular pleasure of being a knitter for me is that I can make colorful, pretty socks to fit my feet! Until recently, however, I've contented myself with simple socks knit out of self-striping yarns. Fun, yes, and fast (enough). No need for anything fancy.
But I now have in my hands a copy of Janel Laidman's new book The Enchanted Sole, and I think I am ready to branch out. Janel has designed 20 intriguing pairs of socks. Not your ordinary socks, no sir: these are, as the subtitle says, "legendary socks for adventurous knitters," each inspired by a legendary character or place. Top down, toe up, side to side, and several types of heels. Several of the socks (6) are lacey and others (6) have intricate cables. Some are also decorated with beads (and there's a good, illustrated glossary about knitting with beads as well as numerous other techniques). They are all charming and interesting--the Traveler's sock has a little pocket, the Galadriel sock laces up the back!
But of course what interested me were the absolutely wonderful stranded colorwork socks: Labyrinth, Mirror Mirror, Alchemist, Firebird and Tree of Life.
Mirror Mirror--isn't that clever!
Tree of Life
I'm really impressed with these stranded designs--having graphed my own motifs I know that it's not a simple endeavor. And Janel keeps the interest going to the toes! (I'm hard pressed to say which is my favorite--I've been designing a jacket called Feather & Wings that would look great with the Firebird socks.... )
Janel takes advantage of painted yarns paired with solids to provide color interest, although a color control freek could easily create their own Fair Isle-type color sequencing. She states specifically which yarns and which colorways she used, but she also gives the WPI (wraps per inch, a way of measuring how many times a yarn wraps around an inch measure, just touching--a good way to find substitutions). I like that each pattern includes calf shaping, correcting for the non-stretchy characteristic of the technique. Each pattern has specific information about the foot sizing and suggestions for changing length and circumference (so helpful to those of us who are not "normal").
I have admired Janel's dyeing and spinning work for a long time (she wrote a great article in Spin-Off magazine on using painted rovings, for example), so I am pleased that she offered me this opportunity to review her book. It is not often that a sock book catches my interest the way The Enchanted Sole has! Unlike many other self-published titles, the photographs are very good, the layout quite user friendly, and the charts clear.
Available from your local yarn shop or directly from Janel at Rustling Leaf Press. $25.95, paperback, 128 pages.