More Sensational Knitted Socks - first impressions. By Charlene Schurch, of course.
I'm going to start off with my impressions of Sensational Knitted Socks, to better highlight the similarities and differences between SKS and MSKS. SKS is like a class workbook: if you knit each one sock from each stitch pattern number, you will encounter toe-up and toe-down socks, and quite a few different heels and toes. Each section is self-contained, all three example socks have the same construction with only the stitch pattern changing, and the stitch patterns are with each section. Also, in general the stitch patterns are based on k2 p2 ribbing, or are symmetrical, which are easier to divide up between the instep and sole.
In contrast, in MSKS the three socks at the start of each section have different construction. Instructions for top-down in short-row heel and heel flap and toe-up in heel flap are included for most of the stitch counts. (The exceptions: shallow and wide heels using heel flaps are top down only, as are all colorwork patterns). As in SKS, the patterns have instructions for 4-needle, 5-needle, and 2-circs. However, most of the options in construction are at the back of the book: 7 castons; 7 bindoffs; 5 different heel flaps (including continuing the pattern); generalized short row heel; four toes in addition to the "standard toe." Of course, one could learn any one of these techniques with a little book or blog research. Where MSKS shines, and is a true delight to behold, is the sheer variety of socks - 33 designs, with each one detailing stitch pattern, heel, toe, and other important design elements. This is a decoder ring to go from viewing pretty patterns to being able to recognize sock elements (without a lot of prior experience) and to really designing a sock rather than slapping a stitch pattern into a template.
The stitch patterns themselves are a bit more complex to place into socks. Many are based on k1 p1 ribbing, or have an asymmetry that makes dividing the instep and sole require a bit more thought (or more careful following of the pattern, of course!). These patterns often have a complementary ribbing at the top that is more complex than k1 p1 or k2 p2 ribbing. All of the stitch patterns are at the back of the book, which at first I did not like one bit. But since many of the sock construction mix-and-match is back there, I suppose it makes sense for the stitches to be back there too, so now I am neutral on the subject. Stitches patterns are organized by stitch repeat and then subdivided into complementary ribbing types. MSKS excels in complex colorwork, offering two "flavors" of stranded knitting (two color and tesselations) and slip-stitch mosaic patterns. There are no real lace or cabled socks.
Although MSKS covers a lot more ground more quickly than SKS, it definitely can be a stand-alone book rather than only purchased and used after SKS. The helpful hints from SKS are repeated, such as picking up gusset stitches; the handy sizing and other charts are included and expanded on. Particularly useful is the approximate sock yardage necessary for Sm Child, Med Child, Women, and Men's socks. I used to think if you were only going to own one sock book, it should be SKS. Now that recommendation has been supplanted by MSKS.
The only things missing from MSKS are more options for starting/ending the cuff (it uses ribbing almost exclusively) and lace. Side cables are not included either, but are available in SKS. My favorite book for interesting cuffs is Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet. I think a good stitch dictionary would be a good first step towards designing lace socks. However, it would have been nice to have at least one sock pattern in either SKS or MSKS dedicated to discussing any issues in designing a lace sock (other than more negative ease). Given the huge popularity in lace knitting, this is really the only major flaw in MSKS.