Monthly Archives: March 2017

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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Price: Check on Amazon

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.