Monday, November 7, 2011

Sockupy Oakland!

Last night, my friend Clara Parkes was the star of a talk and book signing at A Verb for Keeping Warm. (Just Verb to its friends). The event was a dual celebration – Verb’s one year anniversary in their lovely, light-filled retail space near the Oakland-Berkeley border, and the publication of Clara’s new book, The Knitter’s Book of Socks.

First, let me brag a little – see the colorful sock on the cover? The one on the far left? That is Hummingbird, my humble contribution to Clara’s fabulous book. (Hummingbird also appears on the spine of the dust jacket, so I’ll be able to see it when the book joins it siblings on the shelf – how cool is that?)

These socks were specifically designed to use wildly variegated or stripey sock yarns. The arrangement of yarn overs and decreases breaks the surface of the fabric into chunks which can tilt and rotate (like tectonic plates). This lets the rows, and the stripes of color contained therein, swoop and bend. I made two versions of this pattern.

This one is knit in Step from Skacel, a commercial dyed yarn with a subtle stripe.

This one is knit in Crazyfoot from Mountain Colors, a variegated hand-painted yarn.

Go on. You know you want to knit a pair.

Of course, the book is about far more than my socks. Clara, the publisher of Knitter's, and the uber-geek of all yarny goodness, explains the qualities a yarn needs to make excellent socks. She discusses twist, ply, moisture management and abrasion resistance in a way that is technically thorough, but never boring. After reading this book, you will understand why your favorite socks are your favorites, why some have let you down by wearing out prematurely, and why some end up sitting in the drawer because something about them just isn’t right.

And then there are the patterns. This book contains designs from Cookie A, Kathryn Alexander, Karen Alfke, Marlaina Bird, Cat Bordhi, Ann Budd, Nancy Bush, Jane Cochran, Jared Flood, Norah Gaughan, Jennifer Hagan, Anne Hanson, Sivia Harding, Stephen Houghton, Melissa Morgan-Oakes, Lucy Neatby, Cirilia Rose and Jayme Stahl. Also me, and Clara herself. Cables, lace, colorwork, twisted stitches, double knitting – it’s all here.

If you haven’t already done so, buy this book or put it on your list for Santa. Check your local yarn store or independent bookseller first, but if you can’t find it there this link will take you to Amazon.

Clara is always superb company, funny and intelligent whether one on one or in front of a large crowd. The knitters who gathered last night had the pleasure of hearing Clara tell about her journey as a knitting writer. I was pleased to be able to spend some time with my buddies WonderMike and Carson Demers, and to meet Rachel Herron, Maureen Hefti and Brenda Patipa.

If you find yourself within 50 miles of Verb, it is worth a side trip. They have a lovely collection of natural fiber yarns and spinning fiber, much of it hand-dyed, including their own beautiful line of yarns. There is also a corner of the store devoted to fabrics, mostly printed cotton. Verb offers a full schedule of knitting, spinning and sewing classes as well. Check them out.

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