Saturday, November 14, 2009

Frontiers of Sock Construction 2: Personal Footprints

I was vaguely looking forward to Cat Bordhi's latest book Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters, but when I saw the video overview she posted on YouTube, I got obsessed. I couldn't wait for my copy to arrive from Amazon; the week the book was launched, I called every yarn shop and bookstore in town, hoping they had a copy in.

So perhaps my expectations were a little too elevated.

The Personal Footprint sock is another of those simple and genius discoveries that Bordhi has become relatively famous for: socks on 2 circs, the Moebius cast-on, and the elegant math and "No Rules" gussets of the New Pathways sock. In "Personal Footprints," Bordhi presents us with the "afterthought cuff." As I said in my last post, this is a brilliant departure from common sense -- knitting the foot of the sock as a closed tube which is then cut open to knit the ankle portion of the sock.

This innovation let's Bordhi focus on customizing the fit of the sock to the individual owner. In a nutshell here's what you do:
  • Cut out a tracing of the foot to serve as your guide. This is the eponymous "footprint."
  • Knit a toe-up sock, trying it on as you go and increasing as needed to fit the wearer's foot. Along the way, make notes on your footprint (toe/heel length, arch increases, ankle point, etc.)
  • After marking on your knitting where the leg will be, close off your tube by knitting a round heel.
  • Thread needles through your knitting at the cuff point, snip the yarn, unravel, and proceed with your cuff.
Intriguing sock construction philosophy, but I’m not a convert.

My biggest problem is that you have to keep trying on the sock -- over and over and over and over. Inevitably, this means you have to keep ripping back and adjusting, because until knitted fabric has about an inch extra to give the stitches some integrity, you can't reliably check the fit.

I prefer to plan ahead: know my gauge, know my targets for making the sock fit.

So I turned to science; I measured my foot and marked the intervals where the circumference is 3/4 inch bigger (6 sts in my gauge), planning my increases for those points. That alleviated the need to keep ripping when I would later discover that I needed to increase an inch or so back.

In the end, round toes and heels don’t fit my foot well, and I wasn't happy enough with my Discovery Sock to finish it and make more. Maybe over the holidays I'll get some members of my family drunk, put pen marks all over their feet, and try making Personal Footprints for them. But ultimately I don't see this ever becoming more than a novelty side trip in my sock knitting career.

The book is a good production. The instructions are clear, and Bordhi's videos supplement the book well. There's a nice assortment of specific sock patterns included, although only a couple of them really grabbed my attention. Personally, I would have been much happier if the book had dispensed with the patterns altogether, focused on the technique, included better notes to improve fit, and retailed for half the price. But I'm glad I have it, and I expect I'll return to the technique a couple times when looking for departure from the routine.


Diane in Chico said...

Thanks for the review. I'm a little skeptical about the heel/arch area, but I have the book and will give it a try. Your hint about measuring feet and planning ahead is good.

yarmando said...

Your skepticism is warranted. Page 22 is pretty weak, in my opinion. "You made a mistake; go try it again." But measuring and planning in advance does make the rest of the sock better.

knittingbrow said...

Thank you for this review. What you said about planning and the annoying aspect of putting the sock on multiple times would make me crazy. I haven't done any of the knitting from the first book and think I need to work on those before I feel ready to work on the second book patterns.
The after thought cuff is an interesting idea.

Anonymous said...

"Footprints" is an interesting exercise but in no way is it a practical way to knit a garment. The incessant trying on . . . the need to construct a new footprint for any new yarn gauge . . . as with many curious exercises the result does not justify the complex effort.
In its defence, though, the exercise of thinking outside the box often results in new methods that do have staying power. Not this time . . . maybe next time