Category Archives: designing

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.

These are affiliate links, I get a small commission if you buy using these links.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

New Pattern: Out of Phase Socks

Out of Phase Socks

Out of Phase Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

I studied Electronic Engineering at university and that involved spending a lot of time thinking about sine waves. I like to incorporate the curving patterns into cables and Out of Phase Socks take this one step further. In signal processing phase is the offset between two waves. Being out of phase means the waves are always going in opposite directions.

Two sine waves out of phase

Two sine waves out of phase

These socks feature lots of curves, with the two large waves being mirrored and the small cables being two overlapping cables in opposite directions, forming open and closed spaces. Due to the fact that all the cables are moving in different directions, the cables are worked on alternate rounds, meaning there are no rest rounds. However, the repeat is small and so not too difficult.

Out of Phase Socks

Out of Phase Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

This is a top down, cabled sock pattern with a flap and gusset heel. The pattern has written and charted instructions and comes in three sizes – 7 (8.5, 10)”/17.5 (21.5, 25.5)cm.

I used Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock in Dorian Grey which is a very smooth and rounded yarn and gives good stitch definition. The colour is somewhere between grey and blue and very hard to photograph accurately! The sample is size 8.5″/21.5cm and knit on 2.25mm needles. I’m quite a loose knitter so you may need to use a larger needle size.

Out of Phase Socks

Out of Phase Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

Thanks again to my tech editor, Fiona, and my lovely test knitters. I always love watching the finished pictures come in. You can see their great work at my bundle (we’ll not mention the banana incident).

Visit the Ravelry pattern page here for more information and buy the pattern for £3.00+VAT directly here.

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

New Pattern: Regency Socks

Regency Socks were first published in Knit Now issue 17 and I’ve now got around to republishing. They are available on Ravelry and shortly on LoveKnitting.

Regency Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

Regency Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

The inspiration for these socks came from damask wallpaper popular in the Regency era with motifs encased in a diagonal grid. This is a top down, cabled sock pattern with a flap and gusset heel. It has an allover cabled grid with a small twisted design in each space. The pattern flows into the heel and toe smoothly through the use of transition charts.

Back view of Regency Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

Back view of Regency Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

The pattern has written and charted instructions and comes in four sizes – 6.75 (8, 9.25, 10.5)”/17 (20, 23.5, 26.5)cm. This is one more size than the original magazine pattern.

The sample was made in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Chino and 2.25mm needles. This is a nice smooth yarn which gives a good stitch definition to the cables while also being soft. Due to the extensively cabled nature of the design more than 100g may be required for larger sizes.

The Ravelry pattern page is here for more information and you can buy the pattern for £3.00+VAT directly here.

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

New Pattern: Falling Petals Socks

It may have been 2 years in the making but Falling Petals Socks is finally available to purchase on Ravelry.

Falling Petals Socks

Falling Petals Socks ©Rachel Gibbs

This is a top down, cabled sock pattern with a flap and gusset heel. It has an allover pattern of diamonds travelling down twisted cables and a patterned heel flap. The pattern has written and charted instructions and comes in three sizes – 7 (8.5, 10)”/17.5 (21.5, 25.5)cm.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of cabled socks and I like the way this simple idea has turned into an attractive pattern, even if it did give some challenges in the design stages. The large motif size means that while the medium size is symmetrical about the foot, the other two sizes have motifs on alternating sides.

Falling Petals Front

Falling Petals full frontal view ©Rachel Gibbs

I would recommend cabling without a cable needle for this pattern as it only uses two stitch cables and there are a lot of them! If you haven’t tried this technique before, I like this tutorial from Ysolda.

The sample is made in size 8.5″/21.5cm using Eden Cottage BFL Sock in Antique Rose. I really like this yarn as it has the delicate look I wanted for this design but should still be hard-wearing. It is on the thin side for a sock yarn, with 436yds/400m to 100g, and the pattern is knit on 2mm needles accordingly. The largest size may require more than 100g, especially if the wearer has long feet. Eden Cottage is currently having a New Year’s Sale until January 8th, so if you are thinking of buying, now is a good time to do so.

The pattern needs a yarn with good stitch definition, and a solidish colour helps the cables to stand out as well. My testers had success with Regia and Artesano Definition after a few false starts. Several also went up a needle size, so make sure to check gauge and pick needles to suit.

The Ravelry pattern page is here for more information and you can buy the pattern for £3.00+VAT directly here.

Massive thanks to Joeli’s Kitchen, without her bootcamp this design would still be languishing waiting for me to find the courage and the motivation and the final product would not be nearly as polished. I also had great support from my tech editor, Fiona from alittlebitsheepish, and my intrepid test knitters: woollenwords, jraltonsmith, Turtleback, herrlene, ButFirstCoffee and Olga25.

Joeli is holding a knit-a-long of all the bootcamp designs in her ravelry group in the new year. I featured some of my favourites in the previous post and would love to see some Falling Petals being included.

I have several more designs in the works (with lots of cables, of course), and have started a newsletter you can sign up to in the sidebar to be the first to know about new pattern releases.

WIP Wednesday

I’ve mainly been working on my GB Socks Away KAL socks for the past few weeks. I’m making my own design, Falling Petals, in Eden Cottage BFL Sock. It’s going well so far and I’m almost ready to start the toe. I really like the colour of the yarn, a greyish dusky pink called Antique Rose, although it seems to come out too blue when I take photos.

Falling Petals WIP

Falling Petals socks ©Rachel Gibbs

I’m hoping to get this published sometime vaguely soon. Joeli is running a Designer Bootcamp, to help people who want to self publish but need some extra support and motivation, which I’m really enjoying. She’s giving lots of great advice, and the bootcamp is really flexible, e.g. I’m skipping the suggested stitch pattern as I have several designs I want to try and get sorted. It’s managing to keep things the right side of stretching me without pushing me too far, so I’m quite positive that this might be what I need to stop prevaricating and get things done.

I’ve also been working on my Mahy shawl in Nude Ewe Wes. After getting half way through Chart B I realised that the central spine of decreases was in the wrong place for half of the repeats – I had 2 eyelets one side of the centre and 4 the other. Ripping back about 20 rows of lace ensued, after retroactively inserting a lifeline. This wasn’t too painful, if time consuming, although it took a while to work out which was the right side after I had removed the marker in the ripped section, the problem with garter stitch shawls as I am rapidly discovering.

Mahy close up

Mahy Shawl, part way through chart B ©Rachel Gibbs

I’m almost back to where I was before, with the help of plenty of stitch markers. I’ve decided to use lockable stitch markers to mark a stitch, rather than the space between stitches, as normal stitch markers easily get lost on the wrong side of a yarn over and can cause problems by getting in the way of decreases. So far it seems to be working and hopefully I will soon be seeing what pitfalls lay ahead in Chart C.

15(ish) in 15

My blog posting frequency is definitely correlated to my mood. I started last year quite well and it went downhill which pretty much sums up last year. I’m hoping 2015 will end in a better place but it’s going to take a lot of effort to get there.

Several people have suggested goals for the year instead of resolutions, which I think will work better for me as I’m terrible at sticking to resolutions. So, to join in with various people in the knitting world, I’ve been trying to come up with a 15 in 15 list. This is how it currently stands although it is open to change.

1 garment sewn: probably a pencil skirt as I found a nice grey pinstripe wool blend on sale and it’s one of the simplest things to make that I might actually wear.

2 Jumpers/cardigans finished: I’m part way through two cardigans and one jumper, and have been in that state for most of the year. I seem to keep casting things on and never finishing them. If only people wouldn’t keep realising patterns that I love, like most of the ones in Yokes by Kate Davies which I got for Christmas (kidding, please don’t stop).

3 designs released: while I had some design ideas that even made it to a finished sample last year, none of them were written down or published as my brain wasn’t really up to it. Now that VATMESS is a little bit less horribly complicated with the Ravelry/LoveKnitting collaboration that might help, or then again it might not.

4 project bags sewn: I’ve been accumulating pretty fat quarters for a while in the intent of making some project bags (although that will probably only increase the WIP collection which isn’t a great idea).

5 cross stitch projects: also including blackwork, hardanger and anything else embroidery related. I’m doing quite well at finishing bookmarks and cards but I would like to try some more challenging things (and maybe find the blue thread I need to finish the badger I was working on last year which has gone walkabout).

6 letters written: I am atrocious at keeping up correspondence and I really want to try and be better at replying in particular. My Grandma has sent me quite a lot of letters of the past year and it has really helped when I’m in a low point to know that someone is thinking of me (and to receive post that isn’t a bill or a medical appointment).

7 social gatherings: as a sufferer of depression and anxiety it’s really easy to turn down opportunities to see people, especially if they aren’t local. I know I usually feel better once I’m there but that doesn’t help when the thought of leaving the house and having to interact with the outside world causes a panic attack.

8 goals met: I’m sure I won’t meet all of these, so this one is a bit tongue-in-cheek and a bit of a reminder to myself to focus on the ones I do achieve, not the ones I don’t.

9 recipes tried: I have quite a few recipes books but tend to stick to things I know how to cook. They may not work out very well, or even be very edible but it can’t hurt to try (strange allergic reactions aside).

10 blog posts written: I managed 17 last year which is more than one a month on average so I’m happy with that. I’m never going to be someone who posts every day because I just don’t have that much to say, especially when I’m finding life difficult, but 10 I might manage.

11 projects made from stash: There’s a new Ravelry group called Stash-Heap Challenge which is encouraging me to first work out exactly what I have in my stash and then to try and use it instead of buying more. This is especially important as due to being on long-term sick leave my disposable income is very reduced and food is more important than yarn, probably.

12 new books read: I know I’m not the only with a pile of books I keep meaning to read but don’t get around to. This is not helped by volunteering in the book section of a charity shop. I’m also including audio books in this, I often listen to books while knitting, especially if it’s something complicated so I don’t want to be splitting my focus between the knitting/pattern and the TV.

13: unlucky for some and uninspired for me. Any suggestions welcome.

14 lbs lost: a side effect of many anti-depressants is increased appetite and weight gain. I wouldn’t mind so much but I just had to get rid of half my clothes because they weren’t going to fit any time soon.

15 pairs of socks finished: an ambitious target but I have a lot of sock in my stash that needs using and I’m including WIPs that have fallen foul of Second Sock Syndrome. I’m working on converting my sister to the hand knit sock appreciation society so there may be several pairs on their way to her in her recently purchased old and rather draughty cottage.

I’m going to pretend that I posted this on the 15th of the month on purpose and that it has nothing to do with me being indecisive and disorganised. I’ll try to keep you posted on how progress is going (or not as the case may be) so be warned of the likelihood of lots of sock pictures (not necessarily in pairs).