For years I have used the same sock pattern/recipe – David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook. It has a table for you to enter your measurements and every time I knit a sock I pull up the saved file on my phone and follow the well-trod ground. It fits me well, but as I have seen other knitters post about their different heels and gussets and toes I have wondered if maybe my one true sock was still out there waiting to be discovered. So this month I read Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet by Kate Atherley to see if I could find something better.
I was impressed from the first chapter, when the author revealed that she got 500 people to give her their detailed foot measurements. She analyzed the data to determine what an average foot looks like and how to write a pattern to fit it. There’s a section to enter your own foot measurements and then handy charts to see if there are any places your feet deviate from average and would benefit from pattern modification (which is covered later in the book!). One of the most valuable things about the chart is it makes it far easier to knit socks for someone else – if they give you a single measurement (shoe size, foot length, foot circumference), you can plug it into the chart and end up with a pretty well-fitting sock.
The next chapter is more sock knitting tips – the best way to measure gauge, yarn weight equivalents when holding multiple strands, avoiding ladders, and how and wear to reinforce your socks. By the third chapter you’re ready to learn how to make a sock – she talks through both top-down and bottom-up construction in theory and then in detail, section by section. There are tables to plug in your stitch count and find the numbers for each section as well as the formulas to get your own stitch counts if your feet don’t fit the standard dimensions.
My description of the book is pretty factual because that’s what the book is like. It isn’t about what it feels like to wear a well-fitting sock or the author’s journey to appropriately-sized knits. It is math and tables and charts to follow and end up with awesome socks. I know this will be a reference I return to year after year and I won’t have to dig to find the information I am after, it will be plainly available.
The final two chapters are mostly math and theory. First she covers how to add stitch patterns to socks – what and when to adjust and what can be kept the same. Finally she discusses adjustments for non-average feet. One thing I really liked about this section is that she presented the situation (longer and skinnier than average, for example) and then several solutions. It felt like she pulled out all the stops to give every foot a path to the socks they want.
Of course I had to measure all the adult feet in my household after I finished the book. My husband and I both have average feet, but even still I want to experiment with some of the suggestions for non-average feet. I think my husband would enjoy some of the toe shaping variations she suggests. Next month I am going to further my socks reading with The Knitters Book of Socks if you want to read along!