First of all, I checked their ravelry page and it looks like it took me nearly a year to finish these socks. OOPS. I zipped right through the first one and then the second one stalled and stalled and stalled while I knit Christmas gifts, and then once I picked it up again I ran into some major problems. I'll go into greater detail on that in a bit.
These socks are knit in Nestucca Bay Yarns Superwash Merino, which is a lovely hand-painted sock yarn I picked up at Nestucca Bay Yarns in Lincoln City, OR (on the coast for those who aren't familiar), and although I don't normally love variagated yarns and I had to fight fight fight with the pooling throughout these socks, I *love* this yarn. It has a great sheen to it; it's soft; the colors are nice and bold and right up my alley. Sadly it doesn't seem they're producing it anymore, but I bet next time I'm on the coast I'll hit up the store again.
I mean, just look at how well they match these shoes! These shoes I didn't even own when I bought the yarn! Unbelievable.
To get a little bit more seriously here, I have some things to say in the way of pattern critique. There are some major pros to this pattern and some really major cons (that apply to the book more generally). The pattern is called Bartholemew's Tantalizing Socks and it's from Cat Bordhi's book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters. First, the pros: I have somewhat oddly shaped feet, and most hand-knit socks don't really fit me very well. See, my feet are completely flat:
Yeah, that's the inside of my foot you're looking at there. No arch whatsoever. So it makes sense that across the top of my foot your typical hand-knit sock would be kind of tight and the stitches would pull and look a little bit misshapen. Really, most people's feet probably need socks with more shaping around the arch than is usually allowed them, but mine really do. In New Pathways for Sock Knitters Bordhi is thinking about the structure of socks in some very new ways, and the reason this pattern fits me so well is that for once there is an area of arch expansion. In this next picture, you can see that as it descends over my "arch" that area of linen stitch is getting bigger, making more room for the top of my foot, above where there would be an arch (if I had one).
The socks feel great on my feet - better than any other socks I've ever made, actually, and I'm sure it has a lot to do with this arch expansion.
There are some serious cons to these socks, though, and the book overall. First, about this pattern in particular: the top of the sock is knit in linen stitch, working back and forth flat for a little bit before you join in the round, so that there's a slit in the top back of the sock. Linen stitch curls. I had to freaking iron these socks this morning, which I can absolutely guarantee you I'm never going to do again, and even after that they're still curling. I guess I could try wet blocking them, but it really feels like the curl would come right back, and I never wet block socks anyway and I'm not going to start now. Take a look at any of the pictures I posted above to see the curling.
I have a few issues with this book in general. Like I mentioned before, Bordhi is completely rethinking/reworking the structure of the hand-knit sock here, and it's great. That said, although she has some great ideas, I'm still going to use other sock books and patterns. But this book is organized around the rethinking so that you might conceive of each of the new elements or building blocks of socks separately and use them yourself in new and interesting contexts. It's meant to be more of a workbook that you progress through, page after page, reading and knitting along. And I was actually doing that for a while. I read the introduction, looked at the techniques she introduces, even knit the first few little practice socks, and this was the first real grown-up sock pattern I got to in the book. So using the book in the manner she intends, I should have all the tools I need to knit these socks (and then some, since I've knit a few other socks in my day and I'm familiar with a variety of techniques and approaches, and I'm not half bad at it). Trouble is, because of the way the book is designed, you have to flip between 4 or 5 entirely different sections just to knit yourself one sock. The heel for these socks was particularly problematic since I had to flip to the very back of the book to find the heel called for, and then one step within those instructions sent me to another heel entirely, and then back to the original heel, then when you've finished that it's back to the sock. This is irritating on a basic level because I just want to knit the damn sock, but it pretty much caused me to make huge mistakes on the heel the second time through that led to me tearing the thing out several times and eventually just putting in a lifeline for insurance, and then finally getting it right. Now I knit the heel fine on the first sock, but like I said, it had been a while since I did that, and so I was just following the directions as best I could. Clearly I'm human and I screw things up sometimes, but these could have been preventing by better editing. Here are some specific editing issues I noticed, besides the constant flipping of pages: there are a lot of diagrams, and the diagram that corresponds to a specific written direction may or may not be on the same page as the write-up. Instructions for simple decreases and increases are extremely wordy, and in my opinion it would be better to keep those things concise. There are places where she could have included stitch counts but did not. Finally, instead of referring to the different sizes in the way we normally see (numbers in parentheses 36(45,63,89,102) for example) she says things along the lines of "fourth size, knit this set-up row," so that I have to flip back to the beginning of the pattern to see where my size falls with respect to the others.
These editing issues are a major problem with this book, and once I started searching around online I say I wasn't the only one noticing them. Take a look at some of these reviews. Several of them mention the same problems I had. All this said though, I really love these socks. They're my favorite hand-knit socks, actually. They look great; they feel great. Now that I'm aware of the idiosyncrasies of this book I feel like I might do a little bit better with these patterns in the future. Are the patterns in this book worth the frustration of knitting them? Maybe, just maybe. Not necessarily yes, not necessarily no.