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New Pathways…

Posted by Ali G on Wednesday, 29 August, 2007

A few people have asked what my initial thoughts are on Cat Bordhi’s latest book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters, so here they are. Please bear in mind that this is not meant to be a comprehensive book review, and is purely my personal opinion; nothing more, nothing less.

A little info:

  • The book is soft-bound, and 9.5″H x 10″W (24cm x 25.5cm) with 136 pages.
  • There is a master template for each of eight sock architectures, together with different designs for each style.
  • Patterns for several little “learning socks” are included.
  • A selection of cuffs, heels, and toes is can be found at the back of the book.
  • Information covering stitch mount, increases & decreases, how to slip a stitch correctly, wraps, and so on is located at the front.
  • Each master pattern is written in such a way to allow the use of whatever yarn and needles you fancy.

Here’s what I think:

It’s a pity the book doesn’t have a spiral binding to prevent it from flopping closed.

The content, however, is nicely laid out with thoughtful use of italics and font colour for clarity. The photos are clear, as are the plentiful diagrams showing stitch and marker placements for both circular and double-pointed needles.

[One thing that bugs me about publishers of knitting books is how many of them fill a third, or more, of the pages with basic techniques. πŸ‘Ώ I really begrudge shelling out money for the same regurgitated instructions of how to form a knit stitch, when all I really want are the patterns. I suspect it’s a cynical way to pad out a book without having to present anything new.]

Anyway, New Pathways… isn’t like that. The information covering everything you’ll need to knit the socks is there, but it’s presented in a concise way. Even though experienced knitters will most likely be familiar with the techniques, I like that they weren’t omitted. Their inclusion removes any ambiguity when the instructions call for a particular procedure.

The information is sound, with easy-to-understand diagrams, but the style of writing grates on me a bit. I don’t see what’s wrong with calling a stitch a stitch. It is, after all, a book on knitting! If it were to teach knitting to children, I daresay calling stitches corgis, and wraps diamond necklaces, would be appropriate, but really, youngsters aren’t the targeted readership, and the cutesy talk and imagery is just distracting. YMMV.

The book has a definite slant towards toe-up socks with 6 toe-up constructions, and 2 cuff-down. Now, I’m not a fan of toe-ups, but the first pattern I picked to try is just that. There isn’t a gusset or standard short-row heel in sight, and that’s what intrigued me in the first place.

The method of shaping is not dissimilar to the one used for my Freaky Socks, although the rest of the sock is obviously quite different. Bordhi primarily uses left and right lifted increases for shaping, which she has chosen to rename leaning-left and leaning-right increases.

The eight Master Socks each have their increases in different places, which is what creates the variety of styles. For people who like to follow directions, it’s all there for them. For those who prefer to experiment, it’ll be really simple to use the single underlying concept to come up with many more “master architectures” of their own. The patterns that accompany each Master, over twenty of them, are appealing and different from the usual, and the baby socks are just gorgeous!

Before starting, we’re instructed to gather a list of Master Sock Numbers consisting of tension (gauge) obtained with whatever needles and yarn will be used, along with various foot measurements. A little simple arithmetic, and use of the tables provided, produces the other key numbers that are needed. These are then slotted into the Master Pattern to create a custom sock.

When I put my figures together, I was disconcerted (and extremely sceptical) when I saw the huge number of stitches I’d be knitting on at some point. I hadn’t intended to start a new pair of socks until next month, but curiosity (and an overwhelming need for an excuse to get out of a tedious task) got the better of me! πŸ˜›

The sock I’ve chosen is primarily stocking stitch. I wanted the fact that there’s no gusset line to be clear, and stocking stitch shows that nicely. It also has the added bonus of knitting up really quickly. πŸ˜‰ The pattern is the Home & Hearth Anklet, and uses the Ridgeline Master template. It fits beautifully. What I had believed to be a ridiculous number of stitches (102 at one point!) turns out to have been spot on. I’m glad I trusted the numbers. (Well, kind of: I found a couple of errors in the instructions, one of which wasn’t listed with the errata I subsequently found.)

Despite not being a fan of the style of writing, I am a fan the book and the patterns. I love the fit of the sock I made, and I’m looking forward to making some of the others. That I’ve actually enjoyed knitting a toe-up sock tells me the book was worth the price! Still looking for a way to cast off that looks pretty….

Here’s how it came out.

Home & Hearth
Home & Hearth

The colour has rendered really poorly in this second photo, and is better represented in the other shots.

Home & Hearth
Look, Ma, no gusset line!
Home & Hearth
Close-up of Side

Its mate won’t be cast on until I’ve made reasonable progress on aforementioned Tedious Task, so the pair probably won’t make an appearance until sometime in September.


12 Responses to “New Pathways…”

  1. blueadt said

    Thanks for the review. It’s made me even more determined to find a copy. I need to measure a few feet this weekend for Christmas knitting. Where do you need to take measurements? Schurch just requires the width at the ball & the length.

  2. Monika said

    I agree with you. You should listen to her youtube video’s! At first I thought “huh?” because how she explains things, but then I though, she’s a story teller, she can’t help it. ;o) But I love her new book, not so gaga over her other books though.

  3. Kai said

    Excellent review. This has now been added to my wishlist. πŸ™‚

    Love the socks too!

  4. Piglottie said

    Thanks for the review! And your sock looks very lovely too. I am slightly heartened by the fact that you overcame the toe up aversion through this book, but I think I need a little more time to pass before I can step back into the toe up forray (or should that be fiasco?) πŸ™‚

  5. bellamoden said

    I hated her previous books, so that you actually knitted a sock and it worked as advertised is impressive! And it fit! And looks pretty! Definitely looking for this at the library, then. No gusset line? I have to see this. I do like toeups but I hate every toeup heel I’ve tried, so…

    But jeez, corgis and diamond necklaces?!?

  6. Cat Bordhi said

    Hello Ali-

    I appreciate your thoughtful and fair review and am pleased that you like the book. What you don’t like about it I’ll respond to in a moment – what made me write you is that you mention errata which I may not know about. Please send them to me right away so I can include them in the second printing. I have only until tomorrow do send these in.

    I’ve been teaching knitting workshops for years and over time discovered that if I added story to technique demonstrations, individual knitters learned ever so much more easily. Abstract instructions become concrete and memorable when the moves are paired with animal characteristics, for instance. When I teach the Moebius cast-on, I suggest the cable represents the horizon of the ocean, with water below and air above. Then I can say that the first move is made by a dolphin, who can travel through both water and air (both below and above the cable), and the second move by a hummingbird, who travels only in air (above the cable). The story has more details to support other elements of the cast-on, but perhaps you can imagine how the simple addition of two familiar animals and their ability to move above or below the cable takes the abstract movements and helpfully grounds them in the familiar. Incidentally, this story is not in the books because it emerged after they were published. When I receive emails from readers who cannot follow the unadorned instructions in the book, I send them the animal description and this usually clears things up right away.

    Now, not all knitters either need or appreciate my stories, and you, Ali, fall into that group. I woudl guess that you have a fine brain that accepts abstract instruction and easily translates it into kinesthetic understanding – and remembers it easily. In my workshops an overwhelming majority of students love the stories and the ease of learning they provide. And a minority asks me to “just give it to them straight.” In a workshop setting I always take a few moments to do just that.

    I choose to both teach and write in a way that is most effective for the majority. Hopefully you are able to exract the bare bones instructions from the overlay of story, in those places where I have added story. My apologies for annoying you and many others – I wish it didn’t, but I know it does.

    Your Freaky Socks are very cool, by the way. I admire your wilingness to work intarsia in the round and it appears to be perfectly done.

    There was an error in the Home & Hearth Anklet patttern which you knit – and the error is posted on my web site at http://www.catbordhi.com/NP1.html (was added a few days ago). PLEASE send me any errors you know about that are not posted there so I can include them in the second printing. I need them right away – anything I receive after tomorrow will wait for the third printing, although it will go up on my web site right away.

    Thank you again for such a thoughtful review. I did not know about your blog before (I have time to read so few) but Google Blogs Alert sent me your review and so that is how I have come to be here writing you now. I’ll be adding it to my list of blogs to look at.

    Thanks for adding to the intelligence in the sock knitting world,


  7. Terri said

    I’ll have to keep a look out for the book. I have a bit of a fear of toe up socks too, and mainly because I need really good instructions to visualise what should be happening! The socks with no gussett line are brilliant!

  8. CJ said

    I love your socks, and the spiral ones too!! Up to now, I’ve been way too scared to try toe ups too, but I may have to get the book now – will add it to my christmas list πŸ˜‰

  9. Barbara said

    Looks like I will have to get this after such a glowing report. Can’t find it in the UK yet, so it will go on the wishlist.

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  11. Suzann said

    Cat is a wonderful woman I am sure. But until she tones down the cutesy talk I will skip the book. Her style of writing is like chalk on a blackboard to me.
    I like things to have their proper name, even when teaching children. I teach tatting. As a teacher I think it is important that after a student leaves me, they can follow patterns, without translating things I have told them.

  12. Jennifer said

    Cat’s New Pathways is the best knitting book I have bought in years…and let’s not tell my husband just how many knitting books to equates to. The book is very easy to follow with step by step diagrams and if your one of those people who is genius knitter, well, skip the diagrams:) This book is for the knitter who is sick of making the same old sock with just a different stitch pattern. Cat’s sock technique reminds me of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket. It just gives knitting a whole new meaning. A must have for every knitters library.

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