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Silk Road Socks: Review & Interview

Silk Road Socks by Hunter Hammersen, Cooperative Press, 2011, 97pp.  Available in digital, print & E-Reader format from Cooperative Press.

I was very excited to see this book for a variety of reasons.  First, it’s one of the new books published by Shannon Okey’s Cooperative Press.  I really like Shannon’s Guide to Professional Knitwear Design (review here), and I was very interested in seeing what her company would do with a pattern collection.  Second, I love the idea:  using  gorgeous rugs as an inspiration for the pattern collection of  lovely socks.   Finally, I’ve been a fan of Hunter’s sock patterns for several years.

Usak Sock. Photo © Cooperative Press

This book includes, as stated by the subtitle, 14 sock patterns.  All are cuff down, with the stitch patterns charted, and one size. The first 19 pages or so of the book include the introduction and a detailed description of rug construction, dyes used, etc.  The next 10 pages cover the general directions for all the patterns, including reading charts and information on resizing by substituting yarns of various weights (as opposed to simply changing needle size).  Kudos to Hunter for stressing that you need a tightly knit fabric for socks (if you want them to wear well). The patterns fill the remainder of the book.

Each pattern includes several photos, an introduction discussing the rug that inspired the sock, a colored pencil (?)  illustration of the rug type, instructions and charts.  It’s all very clearly organized.  The charts are large and easy to read.  The pattern is easy to read & navigate as a PDF;  I’ve not seen the E-Reader version so can’t comment on that.

The patterns range from easy to more detailed.  I think, if you’ve knitted socks before, none of these will give you any problems.  All of the stitch patterns, whether lace, traveling stitches, or textured, seem straightforward, though some may require more attention than others.  There’s enough variety here to maintain interest — this is one of those pattern collections that I can see people working their way through, eventually knitting most if not all of the patterns.

Mood sock. Photo © Cooperative Press

Yarn choice is key for these patterns.  Hunter chose wonderful, small production yarns for her patterns that both evoke the rugs and show off the stitch patterns.  Most of these patterns will look best in semi-solid or very, very subtle variegated yarns.  An exception, Mood, looks gorgeous in the Unique Sheep Gradience yarn — the subtle progression of the lace pattern is highlighted by the color gradient of the yarn.  The only (small) problem I can foresee with the yarn choice is simply that some of the yarns may be difficult to obtain in the same colorway;  most of the yarn come from indie dyers who may not always have a particular colorway in stock.

Joshaqan sock. Photo © Cooperative Press

I received a digital copy for review.  I like the convenience of having a copy on my computer and the fact I’m saving on paper.  However, I do have to say that, with the wonderful illustrations and photography, this book would be a fine addition to your non-virtual library.

At $16.95 for the digital or E-Reader copy, each pattern is little more than $1, which is an incredible per-pattern price.  You can order the print edition, with or without the digital edition, for $26.95 — still less than $2/pattern.   Hunter is also selling the patterns as individual patterns, at normal individual pattern prices ($5.50 each), in conjunction with the Silk Roads Socks KAL on Ravelry.

Thank you to Hunter for agreeing to answer some questions!

Steph:  How long did this project take, start to finish?  It seems like such a labor of love!

Hunter:  The book took a bit under a year from first conversations with a publisher to physical book in my hands.  I’ve been assured that this is actually very quick, though I have to admit that it *felt* like a long process from my end.  The actual writing and editing process didn’t seem to take all that long.  It was getting the photography and layout and all the technical bits of printing taken care of that left me bouncing up and down chanting ‘are we there yet’ like a car bound four year old.

I think under a year is pretty darn fast, too. You put out other patterns  as well during that time frame, right?

Yup, lots of other patterns (plus more or less keeping on top of that pesky real life stuff that keeps eating into my knitting time)!

Just how long does it take you to knit a pair of socks (not design, just knit)?

I’m not a very fast knitter.  It takes me somewhere around 20 hours to knit a pair.  I have big feet (U.S. ladies size 11), so that space between the end of the gusset and the toes can sort of drag a bit.  To compensate, I’ve convinced myself I like shorter legs on my socks.

Good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee when I read this, it would’ve gone up my nose. I have big feet too! US size 10, and I have also convinced myself I like shorter legs.

Hah, a woman after my own heart (or feet, as the case may be)!

Gordes sock. Photo © Cooperative Press

Did you knit every pair, or just one sock? or have sample knitters?

I didn’t knit all the socks myself.  I had a host of absolutely genius stunt knitters who made the samples (and caught the inevitable errors that creep into the patterns and charts when I’m not looking).  I could *never* have done it without their help.  I am still absolutely stunned by how generous they all were with their time and energy.  This book wouldn’t exist without them!

The socks are done is such a variety of lovely yarns. How did you choose the yarn support for the book?

I was really excited to be able to use independent and small-scale yarn companies in the book.  I love working with small companies.  In my experience, the quality is phenomenal and the customer service superb.

Do you have a personal favorite of the patterns?  Which & why?  Does it coincide with your favorite rug type?

I can’t really pick a favorite sock.  I sort of tend to love whichever one I’m holding at the moment best.  It’s the same with the rugs.  I love them all (many of the rugs in the book are from my house), and have plans to get a new one to celebrate the book’s release.

Who came up with the fantastic idea of the KAL?

The Knit Along was Shannon’s clever idea.  It’s been great fun to watch everyone make them in all sorts of different colors.  It still thrills me every time I find another new project from one of my patterns.

What’s next in the works?

Book 2 (cough, and um, 3 and 4) is underway too.  Because apparently sleep is overrated!  I don’t want to say too much about them, but you could say that there is a historical theme!

7 comments… add one
  • Ruth February 8, 2011, 9:59 am

    looks like a great book. Thanks for the review.

  • StephCat February 8, 2011, 10:02 am

    It is! I think Gordes is my favorite.

  • Anne February 8, 2011, 10:51 am

    Oh FANTASTIC! I love the concept of this book, and the designs look stellar!! Thanks for the heads’ up!

  • StephCat February 8, 2011, 11:13 am

    These are definitely right up your alley, Anne!

  • Ellen February 8, 2011, 4:32 pm

    Thanks for reviewing this book, Steph! I enjoyed reading your perspective!

  • Liz E. February 11, 2011, 4:39 pm

    I’m looking forward to knitting Mood. Well, one of these days when I’m not buried in my own designs and writing my dissertation.

    Oh and I suppose I should knit my other Kazak (I have a lovely lone sock that needs a mate as a result of being a proud member of Hunter’s group of stunt knitters).

  • StephCat February 11, 2011, 6:57 pm

    I have many single mitts right now….I know what that’s like to just do up the one!!!

    I think Gordes is my favorite, but I’m really intrigued by the Gradience & how Hunter tied the shifting lace pattern to the shifting yarn color.

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