Review: Sock Innovation by Cookie A

This months book, Sock Innovation: Knitting Techniques & Patterns for One-of-a-Kind Socks by Cookie A, is one of the first knitting books I ever bought, and one that I love and continue to use to this day (hence the slightly battered appearance).

Sock Innovation by Cookie A

Sock Innovation by Cookie A ©Rachel Gibbs

Background

I started really getting into knitting when I started Uni in 2007 (studying Electronic Engineering). I knit my first pair of socks a year later, from a Knitty pattern (this was in the very early days of Ravelry). They were not a beginners pattern but despite multiple mistakes and poor yarn/needle choice, I finished them on my 20th birthday (and IIRC was late to lectures because I was redoing a too tight cast off).

In October 2009 I bought my first sock book, Sock Innovation by Cookie A. I was attracted to the complex designs, but it’s the technique section that has made it one of my favourites.

The Patterns

Cookie A is famous for her patterned socks (although I seem to be the only person who has never made a pair of Monkeys) and this book has 15 socks full of lace, cables and texture. They are all named after people and I like the stories of how the socks were inspired by the people they’re named after.

Kai-Mei Socks by Cookie A

Kai-Mei Socks by Cookie A ©Rachel Gibbs

Some of my favourites are Vilai, which combines twisted stitches and lace into a very structural design, Cauchy, named after the famous mathematician (and a cat along the way) with a textured zigzag pattern and Kai-Mei with an iconic angled lace panel.

My Socks

The only socks I’ve ever made from Sock Innovation, however, are probably the most complicated: Bex. I love the three different sections of the pattern, and how they fit together into tessellating hexagons. Then, of course, there is the fact that they’re covered in cables and we know I have a thing for cables.

My Bex socks

My Bex socks ©Rachel Gibbs

I made my Bex between February and November 2010 (thanks, Ravelry project page). I used Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4 Ply, as I was still relying on what was sold in John Lewis, a British department store which has never been particularly good for sock yarn, especially if you don’t want multicoloured Regia. It’s a bit fuzzy for cables, really, and produced quite an inflexible fabric. I had progressed to 2.25mm Knit Pro Symphonie DPNs, though, which was a vast improvement over the remnants of my Mum and Grandma’s metal and casein (did you know they used to make needles out of milk?) mismatched UK Size 14 (2mm) DPN collection which I started on.

I really enjoyed knitting them, though. The charts were complicated but clear, and I really liked the transitions between different parts of the pattern, such as leg to heel flap, something that has inspired my designing.

The Techniques

Sock Innovation is a very unusual book, in that as well as giving you patterns to knit, it shows you how to develop your own sock patterns. It has three sections – sock techniques, stitch techniques and sock design.

Contents page of Sock Innovation

Contents page of Sock Innovation ©Rachel Gibbs

It starts by describing the basic structure of a sock. All the patterns in the book are top down and most feature a flap and gusset heel, so this is what is focused on, although the book does include information on other heel types. One of the most useful things I’ve found is the chart of heel turn numbers for a large range of different stitch counts. Clear photos are included to show the different options. The art of placement is also discussed – how the same pattern can be placed in different ways on a sock for different effects.

Stitch techniques covers inverting stitches (going from knit to purl) and mirroring stitches. how to chart stitch patterns to include repeats and converting from working flat to in the round. It also covers how stitches affect the knitted fabric, which ones tend to be wider, or narrower and how elasticity is affected by stitch choice. It then covers adapting stitch patterns and transitioning between different patterns.

These techniques are then all pulled together into the final sock design section. This covers the important of gauge swatches (spoilers: very important) and how to put everything together to get a sock you like.

Conclusions

I have learnt so much from this book when it comes to what to think about when designing socks, as well as practical tips on how to do it. These are the things that can make a good sock pattern into a great one.

I love the patterns, there are some really attractive ones and while the instructions are concise, they give you all the necessary information. There is only one size option (usually 8″ leg circumference) given for each sock, which is a disadvantage, however, some include tips on how to change the sizing yourself.

If you like knitting complicated socks, and especially if you’ve ever thought of trying to design your own I would definitely recommend this book.

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New Pattern: Gray Code Socks

I think my latest pattern might be my geekiest yet. Gray Code Socks have a cabled pattern based on a sequence in binary code and the pattern is available free if you sign up to my newsletter.

Gray Code Socks

Gray Code Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

With four binary bits, there are sixteen unique combinations that you can make. A Gray code, named after Frank Gray, cycles through each possibility only once and each binary word is only one bit different from the previous one. It has many uses in electronics, as well as making cool socks. The most common Gray code is a reflected binary code where each column of bits has a number of zeros followed by the same number of ones, and then repeats the sequence in reverse.

Binary code is normally formed from zeroes and ones, in Gray Code Socks I’ve used left and right cables instead. This makes the bit change between rounds visible as a cable changing direction. The full 16 combination cycle fits well onto the leg of the sock.

Gray code in cables

Gray code in cables ©Rachel Gibbs

The socks are top down with a flap and gusset heel. The pattern contains three sizes, to fit 7.5 (8.5, 9.5)”/19 (21.5, 24) cm circumference, and has written and charted instructions, whichever you find easier to use. The cable pattern is subtle enough that people who normally insist on plain and boring to knit socks might be persuaded to try it, especially if they have a geeky background.

If you have particularly short feet, you may find that you cannot fit the whole cable sequence on the foot. Because they are made top down, you can measure how long the cable pattern is on the leg and make a decision at the heel as to what to do. If it will bother you, you could just make the foot ribbed.

Gray Code Socks side view

Gray Code Socks side view ©Rachel Gibbs

The socks are available from Ravelry, where you can find more information, or if you sign up to my newsletter you will get a code to download the pattern for free. You can choose whether you want to receive my monthly roundup of what I’ve been up to, interesting things I’ve found in the knitterly community or the wider world, a knitting tip and my pattern of the month; or you can just get a newsletter when I have a new pattern or special deal available.

 

Review: Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor

This is the second post in my knitting book review series, last month I reviewed Lazy Sunday Socks by Jane Burns. I’ve decided to alternate between sock specific books and more general knitting books (which can often be applied to sock knitting). Today I’m looking at Cast On, Bind Off: 54 Step-by-Step Methods by Leslie Ann Bestor.

Cast On Bind Off

Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor ©Rachel Gibbs

Most people when they learn to knit start with either the long tail cast on, or the cable cast on and the traditional chained bind off. These are simple and can be used for a variety of projects but sometimes there are better options out there. There are 33 cast ons and 21 bind offs in this book, separated into categories such as basic, stretchy, decorative and provisional. It also includes specialist cast ons, such as double-sided, most often used to start toe up socks, and möbius.

Stretchy Cast Ons

Stretchy Cast Ons ©Rachel Gibbs

I really like that each entry has a characteristics and “good for” section, to help you choose the most appropriate tool for the job. With so many to choose from it can be easy to become overwhelmed but this helps make decisions easy. It also gives alternative names where applicable as often things are known differently across the world, which can be useful if a pattern specifies a particular method that is unfamiliar.

There are clear photo tutorials for each method, showing what the finished cast on/bind off looks like, as well as every step in the process. While the position of the yarn and needles is always very clear, sometimes I wish there was a close up of how the stitches are supposed to look on the needle, so you know you’re doing it right. Being spiral bound means you don’t have to fight to keep the book open and can have it open on your lap while your knitting needles are in your hands.

Double Start Cast On

Double Start Cast On as seen on my Opal Sweet and Spicy socks ©Rachel Gibbs

My favourite cast on for 2×2 ribbing is the Double Start Cast On, I first learned this from a video Nancy Bush made years ago. This is included in the stretchy section (rightly so, this is why I like it for ribbing) and under “good for” is “tops of socks”, which is precisely how I use it, as without a stretchy cast on for top down socks it can be hard to get the sock over the heel.

I really like this book, I find it clear and easy to use. I think it’s perfect for any level of knitter: those who are just starting out and have only just realised there’s more than one cast on and those who have been knitting forever and appreciate having a reminder of things they know exist but can’t always remember how to do (yes, it includes Kitchener instructions), or want to learn new things.

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Review: Lazy Sunday Socks by Jane Burns

This is the start of a series of new monthly blog posts reviewing some of my favourite knitting books. I’m going to begin by looking at Lazy Sunday Socks by Jane Burns. This is a book of five elegant beaded socks, all worked in Eden Cottage yarns.

The Book

Lazy Sunday Socks

Lazy Sunday Socks by Jane Burns ©Rachel Gibbs

I hadn’t made beaded socks before but I like the concept of socks for lazing around in. So often we worry about how our socks will wear and hide them away in shoes and boots. These socks are meant to be seen, and without the friction of rubbing against shoes and being walked around in all day they can use less practical but very pretty beaded designs and luxuriant yarn.

The book is an A5 sized paperback which comes complete with a code for the digital version, which is always a bonus. I prefer to read paper books but, especially for travel knitting, having the digital copy can be really helpful.

The Patterns

The five designs range in complexity – from Sitting in a Rainbow which is mainly stocking stitch with only 16 beads, No Room for Ravers which is simpler than it looks and up to No Mind to Worry. You could choose to make all of them without beads and still have lovely socks, but Jane Burns has placed the beads to accent the design very skillfully. All feature lace and some have cables too.

All the Lazy Sunday Socks patterns

All the Lazy Sunday Socks patterns ©Rachel Gibbs

The patterns are all cuff down, with a flap and gusset heel, which is also my preferred construction. The patterns have very clear charts, but if you prefer written instructions this may not be the book for you. The socks come in at least four sizes and both the finished sock size, and the to fit size are included.

The Yarn

I’ve been a fan of Eden Cottage yarns for a while. In fact, my Falling Petals Socks are made in their BFL Sock. Victoria makes beautiful muted colours in a range of bases, several of which are suitable for sock knitting. They complement the designs in Lazy Sunday Socks very well. Semi solid colours are well suited to the lace knitting and the colours match the feminine feel (I’m sure there are a few men who would like lacy beaded socks but if any type of sock pattern is primarily female, that would be it).

One pattern uses a typical Wool/Nylon sock mix, but the others are either MCN or Merino/Silk. While these yarns would not be recommended for socks that would be worn in work boots or to hike through a rain storm, for the eponymous lazing around they should stand up fine and feel wonderful on your feet. The socks probably shouldn’t be machine washed though, with the delicate yarn and beads. Jane includes tips on choosing yarn and beads to help you get good results.

My Socks

My favourite was the No Mind To Worry Socks and I decided to cast these on last Autumn. I used WooSheeps Doug in Serendipity and Debbie Abrahams size 6 beads in colour 606, both of which I bought at Fibre East in July. The colours work very well together, I love the complex blue/grey of the beads.

My sock

My sock in WooSheeps Doug ©Rachel Gibbs

I had knitted with beads once before, but it was quite some time ago and I appreciated that a guide to using beads was included in the book.  I used the crochet hook method to place the beads, and while using a 0.6mm crochet hook sounds terrifying it wasn’t  too bad apart from when it poked holes in my project bag. The beads are only placed every four rounds and only four beads at a time, which is quite manageable.

It bothered me slightly that the pattern wasn’t completely symmetrical on the foot, but that’s probably just me. Also, be aware that there is a minor errata for the chart.

My first No Mind to Worry Sock

My first No Mind to Worry Sock ©Rachel Gibbs

I’ve only made one sock so far. As much as I enjoyed beaded knitting, I wanted a break (especially as I got distracted by my own designs).  I’m looking forward to getting back to it some day when I’m in the mood to create something pretty and just go with the flow.

Conclusion

I really like Lazy Sunday Socks. The patterns are well thought out and Jane has included some good tips. The photography is beautiful, as are the socks. The book is even the perfect size to fit in my project bag. If you want to give beaded knitting a try I would recommend this book.

FO: Funyin Hat

I recently needed a project to knit while travelling to and from Sheffield for my Grandparents’ Diamond Wedding Anniversary. All of my WIPs were at boring stages so I decided to cast on something new. I got a kit of two shades of Buachaille yarn to make a Funyin hat at Edinburgh Yarn Festival and this seemed like the perfect option.

Funyin hat selfie

Funyin hat selfie ©Rachel Gibbs

I love the combination of colourwork and cables in this pattern, it makes for a very interesting knit, although not a particularly fast one. The corrugated rib was particularly slow to work.

Funyin hat

Funyin hat ©Rachel Gibbs

The Buachaille yarn was designed by Kate Davies, the designer of the pattern, and so they work really well together. All the colours are based on the scottish landscape and I used haar (the pale grey), a cold sea fog, and macallum (the pinky red), which is apparently a scottish ice cream with raspberry sauce. The pattern was designed with the lighter colour as the background, but I decided to swap this and I really like how it looks. The yarn is very woolly and smells gorgeous.

Funyin hat, back view

Funyin hat, back view ©Rachel Gibbs

I made the large size as I prefer my hats to cover my ears and I’ve found previous Kate Davies patterns aren’t quite long enough for me. However, if I were to make it again I would skip the extra length rounds as the slouchy top is quite stiff and has a habit of standing up. Nevertheless, I’m sure it’ll come in handy now the weather has turned rather cold and I’m really pleased with it.

New Pattern: Time Stream Socks

Almost a year ago I was contacted to see if I would design a pattern for the UK Sock Knitters group on Ravelry. They have an annual KAL and for 2016 the theme was British Actors and Actresses. I’m not normally very good at designing to a theme as my ideas tend to be quite abstract but tell me I can design a sock based on David Tennant and this Whovian’s brain lights up.

Doctor Who Experience

My trip to the Doctor Who Experience last month ©Rachel Gibbs

I was really chuffed to be asked, especially in the company of Fiona Hamilton McLaren, who has tech edited most of my patterns, and Louise Tilbrook, who is another cables fan. Fiona designed a very elegant beaded sock called Majesty, inspired by Helen Mirren’s role as various Queens, and Louise designed a beautiful cabled sock called Malala Socks, inspired by Malala’s work with Emma Watson.

Time Stream Socks

Time Stream Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

My sock is the featured pattern for October, and I’m pleased to finally be able to introduce Time Stream Socks, inspired by David Tennant’s role as The Doctor, travelling through the time-space vortex and meeting people in a non-linear timey-wimey way. The undulating cables move together and apart, each following their own path like the Time Lord and his companions.

The socks are top down with a flap and gusset heel and come in four sizes: to fit 8/S (8.5/M, 9/L, 9.5/XL)”/20 (21.5, 23, 24)cm circumference. The instructions are both written and charted, whichever is easiest for you, and the digital file has bookmarks to help you navigate between sections.

Tardis

TARDIS! (although not the 10th Doctor’s) ©Rachel Gibbs

The sample is made in Sparkleduck Galaxy in the Relative Dimensions colourway. This is
perfect for a Doctor Who inspired pattern, being TARDIS coloured and the sparkle makes it
extra celestial. The smooth structure of the yarn shows off the cables really well and most
people should be able to get a pair of socks out of one ball (unless you have particularly
long feet).

The sample is size M, knitted on 2.25mm needles. The pattern is very stretchy, due to all the purls between the cables, so is designed to be worn with 1.5″(3-4)cm negative ease.

Time Stream Socks, side view

Time Stream Socks, side view ©Rachel Gibbs

Thanks to Jacqui Gouldbourn, the moderator of the UK Sock Knitters group and the tech editor for this pattern. I also had some amazing test knitters, without whom this pattern would be a lot harder to follow. Hopefully they made all the mistakes so you don’t have to.

I hope you come and join in the KAL (not just for UK knitters). You can cast on anytime during October and socks must be finished by 31st January 2017 to qualify for the prize draw, so even the slowest knitter (or people who are really bad at sticking to one project like me) should be able to finish.

Make these socks or be Exterma-knitted!

Make these socks or be Extermi-knitted! ©Rachel Gibbs

If you are going to Yarndale this weekend, or the Bakewell Wool Gathering on 22-23 October (unfortunately I’m not), make sure to stop by the sparkleduck stall to see the yarn in all its glory.

Visit the Ravelry pattern page here for more information and buy the pattern for £3.50+VAT directly here. Until 1st October get 20% off automatically.

If you like this design and want to be notified of future pattern releases, KALs and discounts sign up to my newsletter in the sidebar.

The Diamond Collection

New eBook: The Diamond Collection

I’m pleased to announce my new three sock eBook The Diamond Collection is now available on ravelry. This is a collection of top-down socks with diamond shaped cable motifs. All the patterns have both written and charted instructions and navigation options to make using the digital version as easy as possible.

Corundum Socks

Corundum Socks

Corundum Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

Corundum is the mineral that sapphires are made from. This sock is covered in tiny cables that form a diamond shaped lattice, with more cables inside the diamonds. At the toe the cabled lattice gives way gracefully to stocking stitch.

This sock comes in sizes to fit 7/S (8.5/M, 10/L)”/18 (21.5, 25.5)cm circumference. The sample is the 8.5″ size, made using 2.25mm needles and Artesano Definition Sock in the Denim colourway, a yarn that is sadly no longer available. A good substitute would be West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply, or any similar smooth sock yarn.

Visit the Ravelry pattern page here for more information

Antwerp Socks

Antwerp Socks

Antwerp Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

The city of Antwerp has a long association with diamonds. Most of the world’s rough diamonds pass through there before being transformed into something beautiful. This sock features a cascade of diamonds down the front and individual diamonds on the side in a sea of seed stitch.

This sock comes in sizes to fit 8/S (9/M, 10/L)”/20 (23, 25.5)cm circumference. The sample is the 9″ size, made using 2.25mm needles and SweetGeorgia Tough Love Sock in the English Ivy colourway. This is a hard wearing yarn with excellent stitch definition.

Visit the Ravelry pattern page here for more information

Multifaceted Socks

Multifaceted Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

Multifaceted Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

These socks have big diamonds and small diamonds and several different sections. The diamonds grow out of the ribbed cuff, fade back into ribbing at the toe and one of the diamonds even creeps into the heel flap.

This sock comes in sizes to fit 8/S (9/M, 10/L)”/20 (23, 25.5)cm circumference. The sample is the 9″ size, made using 2.25mm needles and Triskelion Elen Sock in the Affallon colourway. This sock yarn has no nylon, but the high twist and long staple of the BFL fibre will help it wear well.

Visit the Ravelry pattern page here for more information

This collection would not have been possible without the help of my wonderful tech editor, my fantastic test knitters or my lovely model. I’m dedicating the eBook to my grandparents who are about to celebrate their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

View all the patterns on Ravelry here and buy the collection for £8.50+VAT directly here.

If you like these designs and want to be notified of future pattern releases, sign up to my newsletter in the sidebar.

P/hop stall at Fibre East

P/hop at Fibre East 2016

I love Fibre East, it’s my local show and always has great vendors, real sheep and lovely ice cream. This year I ended up manning the p/hop shawl all Sunday. P/hop is a knitting fundraiser for Médecins Sans Frontier: designers (including me) have donated patterns which are then sold in exchange for a donation of the customer’s choice online and at shows all over the UK.

Oscillating Socks

Oscillating Socks, my p/hop pattern ©Rachel Gibbs

I’ve helped out for a few hours before and found it really fun, getting to chat to people about knitting and making money for charity. Heidi, the current p/hop coordinator, asked for people to run the stall as she would be unable to be there due to an inconveniently timed pregnancy (she ended up giving birth on Sunday morning, so good call not to try and be there). I volunteered to be there for one day and three other volunteers also stepped up, so we were able to split the weekend between us.

I spent the day with Julie, who was great company, especially when we weren’t entirely sure what we were doing. All the stallholders we talked to said that Sunday was quieter than Saturday but we still had quite a few visitors to the stall and hopefully made a lot of money for p/hop.

The p/hop sock tree

The p/hop sock tree ©Rachel Gibbs

I did get the chance to look around and buy a few things. Sock blanks seem to be all the rage at the moment and I’ve never used one, so I bought a gorgeous sparkly gradient one from Sara’s Texture Craft. I also bought some deep blue/purple sock yarn from WooSheeps, which is a new brand to me and I’m excited to try it.

I’ve talked about my love of 9″ circulars for vanilla socks before, and I want to see how metal tips compare to bamboo, which I usually prefer. It should also reduce the number of times I end up juggling needles when I’m working on three things at once! The only other thing I picked up was some Debbie Abrahams beads, since so many people are bringing out beautiful beaded sock patterns at the moment.

A very modest Fibre East haul

A very modest Fibre East haul ©Rachel Gibbs

I had some great conversations with people, including Fiona, my tech editor, from alittlebitsheepish, who I’ve never met in person before but was lovely, as well as being great at finding issues with my patterns. One of my favourite things about knitting events is all the people I get to meet.

By the end of the day I was absolutely exhausted, I nearly fell asleep on the coach home. I don’t know how people do two days in a row, although my stamina is pretty terrible anyway. I’ve just about recovered now, and looking forward to next year.

That Heel Girl

I needed a vanilla sock to help me through a difficult meeting, and not having one on the needles I chose a fun self striping by Unbelieva-wool from my stash. Ruth of rockandpurl had just done a series of blog posts on her perfect heel, known affectionately as That Heel Girl, and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to test it out.

Unbelieva-wool socks

Unbelieva-wool socks ©Rachel Gibbs

This heel has several factors: an unusual heel flap, a unique pick up method and gusset decreases placed on the bottom of the foot causing it to hug the foot in a pleasing manner. According to Ruth, this is a winning combination.

The only issue I found was that because the heel flap requires an odd number of stitches and I started with a multiple of 4 (my favourite 64 stitch cast on), the foot ended up with 33 stitches on the instep and 31 on the sole. This was fairly easy to accommodate when it came to the toe, however, and would be solved completely a round or star toe was used.

That Heel Girl

That Heel Girl ©Rachel Gibbs

I like the cushiness of the heel flap and the pick up method is very neat, although with self striping yarn you do get a flash of the wrong colour of yarn at the edges of the heel flap. I’m not sure the moved decreases are always worth the extra brainpower required to keep track but it does fit very well.

I love the wool, the colours are lovely and vibrant and it makes a great, smooth fabric. I think these socks are going to give me a little boost every time I wear them, and we all have days when that would help.

Watercolours and Lace bag

Rachel’s Got a Brand New Bag

I’m working on a mini sock collection and I’m currently knitting the second sample out of Triskelion Elen Sock that I got at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I always like to co-ordinate my knitting with its project bag and stitch markers and I knew the best bag for these socks was one that hadn’t been made yet. I bought a kit from Watercolours and Lace at Festiwool last year with a lovely green sheepy print that I knew would be perfect, so it was time to exercise my rusty sewing skills and try to put it together.

Festiwool purchases ©Rachel Gibbs

The kit, along with my other Festiwool purchases ©Rachel Gibbs

I found the instructions mainly very clear, although there were a few things I had to look up (including which way to iron interfacing). I learnt how to sew on patch pockets, how to bring thread to the back to tie off and how to top stitch. My Mum is very into patchwork and taught me the basics of sewing when I was a kid but it’s been a long time since I tried anything on my own. I did have to ask her for a little help with the assembly as I was struggling to get the lining to fit into the bag (my seam allowance wasn’t always perfectly to size) but apart from that I managed everything.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out and my sock has already moved in. By the time the bag was complete I had started on the second sock, which I’m hoping to finish for the Joeli Create’s No Nylon Sock KAL, but I finished the bag before the socks so I’m counting that as a win.