The Tech of Knitting Socks

Did you know that behind every publication that Interweave produces, there's a team of technical editors who deconstruct each pattern? They make sure the math works and that what the directions say is actually what the knitter is supposed to do.

Houndstooth by Stephanie Van Der Linden

I'm terrible at math, and I always have been. I don't know why; I'm not scared of it, like many people are. I limp through life knowing just what I need to know to get through my daily activities. So, I know a little "knitting math," such as how to calculate gauge well enough to make changes in patterns. At my old publishing job, I arranged for all of our books to be printed, so I always said that I knew "printing math." See—I can get by, but I'm no mathematician. Not even close!

Many knitting designers' day jobs are in the STEM world (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This makes sense to me, because knitting is full of mathy stuff like charts, angles, gauge calculations, and size calculations. Not to mention the geometrical way of thinking that's required to make knitting turn into 3D shapes such as globes, stars, and even stuffies.

The new issue of Sockupied is here, and it highlights the STEM of sock design and knitting socks. Here's Editor Anne Merrow to tell you all about it.

The Science of Socks

Constant Cables Socks by Kate Atherley

This issue of Sockupied celebrates the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics of knitting socks—but you don't need a degree in math to enjoy the designs, techniques, and ideas in the issue.

We're lucky that our amazing technical editor, Karen Frisa, relishes the relationship between sock knitting and science. An applied math major until she discovered computer science, she worked as a software engineer for a decade before beginning her present career. "Turns out that knitting patterns have a surprising amount in common with computer programs," she says.

Socks are the perfect canvas for all kinds of design explorations: cables, colorwork, structural engineering, complex math concepts. . . . Even if you don't think about the science involved in your socks, your warm feet appreciate the geometry and physics in every stitch and round.

—Anne Merrow, Editor, Sockupied

I'm not sure which socks I like more; the Houndstooth pattern (shown above left) is amazing, with its op-art style of interlocking squares and triangles. This design is a type of tessellation , a pattern of shares that fit together with no overlapping or gaps. The sole is worked in the houndstooth pattern, a famous example of optical illusion—as you view it, everything appears to rotate clockwise.

Automata Socks by Lana Holden

I love cables, so the Constant Cables Socks are so tempting! They feature four cable styles, representing four mathematical constants. The cables encode these constants in the number of stitches in the cable and the number of plain rounds between crosses. The resulting non-repeating nature of the cables is really appealing.

Then there's the Automata Socks, with their super-textural traveling stitches. This patterns follows the advanced mathematical concept of automata. Knitting the traveling stitches through the back loop makes them really stand out against the reverse stockinette background. And I love the twisted rib toes on these socks, too.

Check out the new issue of Sockupied and you'll find a new appreciation for math skills.


P.S. Have you ever used your math skills to design or alter a knitting pattern? Tell us about it!

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