Kate Atherley's new, fabulous book that will become THE guide to making socks that fit your feet (and the feet of anyone you wish to knit for).
I have been waiting for her book since I had the privilege of reading a very early draft a few years back. Kate knew that I've had some troubles making socks to fit the growing-boy in my life and her advice has made me a better sock knitter and ensures Xander will have the hand-knit socks he loves.
Full disclosure: Kate is a personal friend--we share a love of good beers, spreadsheets and general geekery.
I know I sound a bit fan-girl about this book, but I can't help it--it has DATA (and I love data).
For this book, Kate conducted an online survey of sorts, asking knitters of the internet to provide foot measurements--lots of measurements from lots of feet. She used this information and her clever math skills to determine the dimensions of an "average" foot. Kate noticed that a lot of feet had similar proportions: foot length to foot circumference, heel diagonal to foot circumference etc. Using this information she was able to provide both a standard sock construction (in a bunch of sizes and gauges) and could also provide instructions for "outlier" feet to customize the fit.
Her research is outlined in the book and it's the basis for what amounts to about 100 standard socks patterns fitting children through to adults (with large feet like Xander's) in a range of gauges in both top-down and toe-up configurations AND a guide to knitting the socks that work for any foot you can measure.
Like all of Kate's books, measuring and planning is everything. Custom Socks provides detailed instructions on how to measure a foot and determine where the not-so-average parts are. She takes a gentle approach for the measuring- and math-shy, walking the reader through her method in an easy-to-read fashion with good visuals. Knowing the foot you are knitting for makes all the difference and by following her guide you can plan for the problem spots and knit a sock that fits. The book has lots of advice that isn't measurement dependent including where to add reinforced stitches to prevent premature wear, how to choose the right yarn and how to break the rules when needed (e.g. if your feet aren't the same size, knit two different socks!)
There are also chapters on Yarn, Needles and Gauge and Adding Stitch Patterns which is where Kate starts showing her beautiful designs--plain socks are great, but sometimes a knitter wants to have some fun and these patterns don't disappoint.
Patterns for lace, cables, stitch patterns, fair isle and the most amazing knee socks are in this book (I've already purchase my yarn to make these).
Makes your knitting heart sing...right?
The final portion of the book is all about customization. Kate takes some of the more common non-average situations and provides expert advice on how to customize a sock to fit: skinny and shapely legs, larger and smaller ankles, low and high arches (my sock nemesis, we meet again) and toe shaping (bet you haven't considered that one before--I certainly didn't). Again, the book takes a guided approach to the measuring and math, walking the knitter through the steps to determine a solution to the sock knitting issue.
Kate's approach can be a bit of tough medicine: you have to measure, and swatch and plan before jumping into a project (even the simple sock) but the payoff is worth it--you make beautiful socks that fit, you rip less and you become a better knitter.
Want some proof? Kate has been tutoring me on how to make a sock to fit Xander. He has size 12 feet thin legs and an enormous instep (seriously, that's a 7.5" dpn), and he has socks that fit!
I've already measured Emma's foot for her next pair of socks and was almost disappointed to find out her feet and absolutely average--I wanted to take Custom Socks through the full method for this review. Then I realized, knowing this was just as good. I can knit the standard sock for her foot and be confident it'll fit and I'll have a happy kid in Spock Socks (yarn is Live Long and Prosper by Turtlepurl).
Custom Socks is an excellent addition to any sock-knitter's library. And a great guide for a new-to-socks-knitter or the sock-knitting wary. I highly recommend it.