Inside the Mind of Cookie A: Sock Knitting Genius
Note from Sandi: I'm going to confess, right up front: I am a Cookie Addict. Not the chocolate-chip kind of cookie (although actually I rather do love oatmeal chocolate chippers something fierce), but the sock sort of Cookie. As in Cookie A., sock designer extraordinaire–if she designs it, I drool on it and add it to my queue quicker than you can say "gingersnap."
In fact… I literally bought a pair of shoes just to show off a pair of Cookie socks that I'm knitting. A whole new pair of shoes. Just. For. The. Socks.
Imagine my flat-out-glee (and the high-pitched squeals of delight) when Cookie's first sock book, Sock Innovations, arrived. (You can take a look inside, and pre-order Sock Innovations here–or buy it at your local yarn shop!) And imagine how pleased I am that Cookie agreed to be today's guest on Knitting Daily. Here's Cookie!
A lot of people ask me about how I design socks, and I'm never quite sure how to answer because there are so many different approaches! One focus in Sock Innovation is what I consider to be taking a standard sock and turning it into something special. What is a standard sock? It's one that uses a stitch pattern and tiles it around the leg and top of the foot. It can be fairly basic, or it can get complex with allover lace and cables.
First, taking an allover pattern and figuring out how to work it in the round can be more complicated than knitters often realize. Knitting in the round is actually a spiral, so sometimes the end of a round doesn't meet up with the beginning of the next round quite the way you want it to. This is why a lot of my patterns involve shifting stitches between needles. Moving where the end meets the beginning can make it appear seamless. So if I were to make Cookies Rules of Socks, on the list would be: Make the beginning of the round as invisible as possible.
Once that's all figured out, my second knitting mantra would be: Ribbing should flow into the pattern. Too often I see patterns (this isn't limited to socks) where the transition from ribbing into another stitch pattern looks a bit choppy. This can be because the gauge of the ribbing is different from the gauge of the other stitch pattern, so there is puckering. Or it can be because the ribbing simply doesn't flow well–for example one of the knit ribs simply stops into a sea of purls. Three examples of good ribbing transitions are below.
Beyond that, placement can be key. I like to play with mirroring and staggering elements so that even a simple stitch pattern can look much more complex than it is. For example, in Kristi, the green sock pictured here, the basic stitch pattern isn't that big–but because I've staggered and mirrored it between repeats, it looks vastly more complex. The left and right socks are also mirror images of each other–another detail to consider when designing.
Other than that, I try not to leave a stitch pattern the way I've found it. I might re-size it, widen, narrow, enlarge, lengthen, you name it. Or I might substitute one texture for another–ribs in place of stockinette, reverse stockinette instead of crazy cables, lace for moss stitch. By practicing re-sizing existing stitch patterns and modifying them, I've learned how to create my own stitch patterns by taking bits and pieces and putting them together in a new way. You can make your own lines and shapes and fill them in. That's where the innovation starts to kick in. Bex, the white socks shown above, is one pattern that started off with diamonds, got filled in with Xs, and branched out from there.
And there you have it.
— Cookie A
Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.
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