Reviving Socks: A Design Contest


Have you noticed the absence of socks here at Exercise Before Knitting? In 2007, I made 13 pairs of socks. In 2008, I made 10 pairs. In 2009? Zero. Truth be told, I am over socks. Or was, at least. I have been darning socks like mad lately. If I do not knit a couple of pairs of socks this year, I might have to resort to store-bought socks next winter.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Store-bought socks.

Clearly, it is time for a knitterly intervention. While there are many excellent sock patterns out there, I am looking for something special to lure me back to knitting socks. Please allow me to elaborate.

Back in the day, when the KBC crew first met in Philadelphia, we decided to swap cowls.

(Photo by Caro Sheridan)

Several of us designed our own cowls for the swap and later published the designs for public consumption:

The next fall, we met in Boston and swapped mittens.
Mitten wheel
Again, some really cool patterns came out of the event:

I really enjoy seeing these patterns, born of knitterly friendship, still queued up and knitted! I love that commanding a dozen people to make the same accessory resulted in such a wide variety of colors, patterns, and styles. I think this combination of creative spirit and crafty fellowship would bring back my interest in sock knitting.

This is where you come in.

I am proposing a sock pattern design contest to reinvigorate wayward sock knitters like me. Design and publish your own pattern, enter the contest, and inspire away! You retain all the rights to the patterns you design. Offer your work for free or for purchase, I just ask that you make it available online somewhere. How does that sound?

The Rules

  • One entry per person.
  • The aim of this contest is to encourage new work. Only previously unpublished, original patterns please. For the sake of clarity, let’s say this means patterns should be published between March 1st and May 21st of this year.
  • All patterns must be available (for free or for charge) on the internet.
  • Each pattern must include at least two adult sizes.
  • Stitch gauge must be between 7 and 10 stitches per inch.
  • Yarn must be sport, fingering, or lace- weight.
  • Fiber content must not be more than 30% acrylic. Entries with higher acrylic content will be disqualified for exceptionally poor taste.

How to enter

  • Fill out all required fields of the entry form and submit. Entries will be accepted until 8 p.m. EST on **Friday, May 21st**. Although designs may be submitted at any time during these six weeks, designers will be allowed to edit entries up until the closing date and time of the contest.
  • Add at least one (but not more than two) photos of your finished socks to the public Flickr pool by the contest deadline. Instructions on how to do this can be found on the entry form.

Entries without either a completed form or photos in the pool will not be considered. Many thanks to Aaron, the resident programmer at Exercise Before Knitting, for writing the entry/voting software to make this contest both easy to enter and painless to manage.


Prize baskets will be given to the top five pattern designers. Each basket will include some sock yarn, needles, a yarn shop gift certificate, and some baked goods made by yours truly (and I take requests). However, because there are so many wonderful sponsors, no prize basket will be the same. Just as this contest involves many designers and knit bloggers as judges, the awards also reflect a diverse community of yarn shops, needle and yarn companies, independent dyers and craftsters. There will be gift certificates from Simply Socks Yarn Company, sock knitting-sized Addi Natura DPNs and Addi Turbo and Addi Lace circular needles from Skacel, a sock project box bag and purse from Splityarn, and sock yarn from Dream in Color, Fleece Artist, Hazel Knits, Mama Blue Knitting Goods, North Loop Yarn, The Plucky Knitter, Spud & Chloë, and Sundara Yarn.

What You Get

  • A chance to win great yarn.
  • A copy of the sock pattern I will design for the contest.
  • A kick in the pants to publish that cool pattern that has been kicking around in your head for years.
  • Free advertising here at Exercise Before Knitting, in the Flickr pool, and in the Socks Revived group on Ravelry.

What I Get

  • New, inspiring sock patterns for my Ravelry queue.
  • A kick in the pants to publish a sock pattern of my own for all of the entrants.


All entries will be judged by a large panel of knit bloggers and designers. Voting will take place online in two rounds of anonymous balloting. The five winners will be announced Monday, May 23, 2010.

Meet the Judges

The contest judges come from all parts of the internet and hold widely varied opinions on socks. Here are some of them:

Adrian: “I like a sock with lots of visual interest and interesting knitting, but not at the expense of comfort, fit, and warmth.  My favorites either elevate a plain yarn to extraordinary heights of beauty or use a complicated yarn ingeniously.”
Ashley: “I have big feet! So I’m always looking for sock patterns that are either written to accommodate feet bigger than a size 8, or easy to resize. Biggest pet peeve: sock patterns that use “women’s” and men’s” sizes rather than “small” and “large”. My personal preference is for nothing too lacy, but I sure do love cables.”
Caro: “Since my feet are always too hot to wear socks myself, any sock pattern has to keep my interest as a knitter, but not be so challenging that I can’t drink manybeers while I’m working on it.”
Christy: “What I look for in socks is a combination of practicality with an interesting or creative element. I wear my socks a lot, so any design element has to be able to cope with that.”
Diana: “While I don’t knit many socks (stoopid wool allergy), I love seeing interesting knee-hi socks. If they’re made from non-animal fiber, all the better!”
Elinor: “I am on a quest to find The Perfect Sock. I’m not sure what perfection looks like, but I’ll know it when I see it.”
Heather: “I am currently experiencing a severe sock lull and am thus on the lookout for a pattern that will tempt me back into the sock fold. A winning pattern to me is one that is easy to pick up and put down and still know where you are, is not too busy and yet remains mentally engaging. If trip hop were a sock pattern, what would it be?”
Julia: “I may not knit many socks, but I do know what I like in a handknit sock.  Functionality is one thing- don’t make me imagine trying to shove bobbles into my boots.  I like my socks tall and semi-solid, and loathe pooling.”
Kirsten: “Good design is good design whether it’s cables or lace or colorwork. The most important things to me are a balanced design and a comfortable fit.”
Maritza: “I love elegant designs that are simple yet attractive and socks that are inventive in their shaping and use of textures.”
Mary-Heather: “I tend to be very drawn to tradition and history in knitting in general, and I love how beautiful a non-glamorous item like a sock can be; in particular, traditional stranded colorwork makes me swoon!”
Mary Jane: “I love to knit socks,and have enjoyed years of obsessive sock knitting. I like a sock to be fun and inventive, colorful and comfortable. That said, there is something especially enticing about a plain, demure little sock with just a hint of a challenge.”
Meg: “Living in deep in the heart of Texas means I only knit socks for family and friends in colder climates. While I occasionally long for hours of stockinette in the round, I need something to impress the recipients without too much effort on my part. A pattern with personality, but no drama will top my queue.”
Megan: “For me, there is nothing more perfect than a sock pattern you can knit on auto-pilot but comes off the needles looking like it took a mastermind to create it.”
Minty: “Sock designing was my first love. I love intricate patterns and clever construction, but when it comes right down to it, I only wear my stockinette socks. There’s got to be a happy medium out there.”
Nova: “I have, decidedly, fallen out of love with sock knitting and would relish a sock pattern that makes me enthusiastic about knitting socks again.  When I knit socks, I preferred to knit them with solid, semi-solid or tonal yarns that allow intricate patterns (be it cable or lace) to really pop.”
Pam: “On one hand, I love to see something complicated and dramatic in a sock pattern: bold colorwork, elaborate stitch patterns, unique construction–things that are fun to look at and fun to knit. On the other hand, feet come in a shocking range of shapes and sizes, so wearability and flexibility are key. If a sock pattern combines those two things? Big win in my book.”
Sarah: “I appreciate intricate patterns and beautifully dyed or spun yarn, but I definitely prefer simple patterns and basic colors. I’ll pick a basic, black sock over a technicolor, lacey stocking any day.”
Staci: “Sock knitting is a huge part of my life. Even though I live in Texas, my whole family is in Alaska, and they are spoiled beyond store-bought socks. I am especially fond of toe-up designs, because I like to use every last bit of yarn with no leftovers.”

Quick reference links

Generous sponsors

It would be difficult for me to host a contest with such awesome prizes without the generous support of the following sponsors, listed in alphabetical order:

Doesn’t this sound like fun??? Start knitting socks!!!

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49 comments so far

  1. emily on

    LOVE this! I have had some ideas brewing for a while and this is just the thing I need to get them into reality. I have never designed anything before, so I’d be starting from scratch. Do I need the pattern test knit before publishing?


  2. Kathryn on

    Uh-oh. I think I need to knit some socks out of my queue before mid-April, because I suspect I’ll be adding a number from your contest! What a wonderful idea!

  3. Melanie on

    Love the idea! I’m not ready yet to design socks, but I look forward to seeing everyone’s results. Fabulous group of judges! This sounds like so much fun. Yay!

  4. Lindsay on

    I thought this sounded interesting… until your snide comment about poor taste using acrylic. While it is nice to use something else, some of us don’t have all the money in the world to throw at unnecessarily lush and expensive yarns. May you know how lucky you are that you are in the number of elite that have turned knitting from a poor man’s necessity into a rich snob’s past time.

  5. Heather on

    This is going to be such a great contest, so exciting! Lindsay luckily there are places like Knitpicks that carry yarns that aren’t expensive at all but are fantastic nonetheless:)

  6. Jacey on

    That’s an awesome idea. Sadly, I’ve never designed a pattern, and I’m rather intimidated by the concept. I look forward to checking out the nominees, though!

  7. Caro on

    Lindsay, I’m sure Elinor didn’t put the acrylic stipulation in there to be a yarn snob. Knitpicks has plenty of sock yarn that’s mostly wool and very economical. If she’s anything like me, she might just prefer wool and natural fibres over man-made petroleum products.

    I’m so stoked about this contest!

  8. JulieFrick on

    Lindsay, you took snide to a whole new level here. It’s Elinor’s contest, Elinor’s rules, and Elinor’s joke about acrylic that you decided to turn an opportunity to call people names. There are PLENTY of very affordable non-acrylic yarns out there. (Knitpicks, for instance.) Elinor generously spent quite a bit of time putting together a contest and arranging prizes and judges for it. Calling her an elite, snide snob is rude and unnecessary. Hope she blocks you.

  9. Bertha on

    Dude, what a pool of judges! I dislike both designing & knitting socks, so I’ll be watching from the sidelines, but I can’t wait to see what comes out of this!

  10. Pam on

    This is a fantastic idea, Elinor–I can’t wait to see the designs come flooding in!

  11. Minty on

    I’m starting to regret my judge status–suddenly sock ideas are swirling in my head!!

  12. Specs on

    I can’t wait to see the patterns this brings in! Thanks for putting this together, E!

  13. earthchick on

    Wish I had the chops to design something, but I’ll enjoy seeing what others come up with. What fun!

  14. gleek on

    what an excellent idea!! i wish i had the extra time to join in but i will definitely be watching this one closely!

    lindsay, high acrylic content sock yarn is gross because IT MAKES YOUR FEET SWEAT AND STINK. yes, it’s true. go wool!

  15. diana on

    Elinor, this is so fantastic. I cannot wait to see the entries. And for those of us who can’t knit in wool, Panda Cotton and Kollage Luscious are wonderful (acrylic free!) sock yarns.

  16. Danielle on

    Yo, I’m in. If I can scrape together enough hours to write something up. You know how it goes … but I’m inspired!

  17. Glenna C on


    (As if I didn’t need more to do. ::ponders::)

  18. Val on

    I’m with Danielle…if I can scrape up the time! I kind of need/want the challenge, though…and I’ve never designed anything before, so we’ll see.

    As far as yarns go, I prefer non-acrylic, but I wouldn’t consider myself an “elitist” by any means. I’m single and am living on a teacher’s salary in an Eskimo village in accessible-by-only-bush-plane Alaska. I’m paying off student loans and working on a master’s degree. But knitting with more natural fibers is something I’ve decided is important to me, so I budget accordingly and often receive “luxurious” yarn as gifts or in swaps. In reality, I don’t end up spending much on yarn per year at all…although it does help that the nearest LYS is at least 500 miles away :)

  19. Kelly on

    Well, I am not quite ready to start designing socks yet since I am only now making my second pair. But I can’t wait to see the creative ideas that are generated!

  20. Kristy on

    I hear you, Elinor! I’ve been knitting socks, but they’ve only been stockinette recently. I probably won’t have time to compete (hello, I’m an intern teacher), but it will be fun to see the competitors!

  21. Lisa Reeve on

    Excellent–I have a few patterns knocking around in my head that need an excuse and a deadline to become reality. With so many varied tastes on the judging panel, I bet there will be socks to suit everyone’s tastes.

  22. lauren on

    Elinor, this is a great idea and thank you for putting it all together. I think your specifications about fiber are perfectly reasonable and I hope you’re not giving a second thought to the rude comment above.

  23. Amy on

    You rock, lady.

  24. Laura on

    Oooh, Elinor, what an awesome idea! I too have kind of lost my love for socks. I may have to noodle this a bit … April 19th, huh?

  25. Laura on

    Also, I’d like to say that perhaps even more than the VERY generous prizes you are offering what may prompt me to give this a go is Heather’s query: “If trip-hop were a sock pattern, what would it be?” I’m going to dig out my Portishead CDs.

  26. Kathy on

    This is awesome, Elinor!! I’ve lost my sock mojo too, so this is totally timely!!

  27. Hannahbelle on

    I’ve never been one for designing socks but I might give it a go for this contest – if simply to see if I can do it!

  28. Jackie on

    Damn, Elinor. I’m waaay behind on my blog reading (as in, like 15 months, ahem) and holy god I have obviously missed a lot over here. You have been churning out the knits! I am super impressed. Also inspired. I’ve never given much thought to my own sock designs, but your contest is the perfect reason to give it a go.

  29. Karen on

    Wow! What a great idea. I’m up to my eyes in knitting right now but would love to lurk. Are non-designers allowed to join the ravelry group and peek at the Flickr group? I sure hope so!

  30. nova on

    I can’t wait to see the creativity that contest produces. It’s going to be tons of fun!

  31. [...] discuss just about anything else in the comments. If you need some guidance, how about discussing Elinor Brown’s sock design contest? That’s pretty spiffy. [...]

  32. Ann on

    Sounds like fun. Can an Australian knitter enter the contest?

  33. brittschmiesing on

    sound like a cool idea. i am soooo not that original though.

    i will be checking the action though because i need to be making my mom some more socks and soon!!!

  34. AmyKnitty on

    Okay, so say there were some brand-new indie-designed socks coming out in the new Knitty (mid-March). Would they be eligible? They haven’t been seen anywhere and will be available free on the internet within the dates of the contest.


  35. inglesidebelle on

    Could I submit a pattern that is based on socks I designed and knit prior to 3/1/10? The pattern doesn’t exist now, just a chart that I created and used to knit the socks.

  36. [...] sign-up details on Elinor’s blog and watch the finished designs as they crop up on [...]

  37. [...] I admit it, knitting socks isn’t my favourite thing. Oh sure, I always have one in my purse in progress, but I don’t usually get startitis for socks the way I do for sweaters. The sock WIP in my bag right now has been in progress for over a year. Yikes. Enter the genius of Elinor. [...]

  38. [...] some reason, I just got the urge to enter my Waffles for Wellies sock pattern into the brand spankin new sock contest over at Exercise Before Knitting. I know it’s a childish lark of sorts, since I won’t even come close to winning, but it [...]

  39. [...] 2) one of two socks I knit for Christine (“make me a pair of grey cabled socks, please?”), pattern forthcoming & intended for this contest. [...]

  40. [...] Elinor’s Socks Revived Sock Contest (rules here). I saw the post and signed up once the contest was open. I’m almost done writing up a [...]

  41. [...] 21, 2010 Remember Elinor’s sock design contest? I’m designing some socks and looking for between 2 and 4 test knitters who are able to [...]

  42. [...] I admit it, knitting socks isn’t my favourite thing. Oh sure, I always have one in my purse in progress, but I don’t usually get startitis for socks the way I do for sweaters. The sock WIP in my bag right now has been in progress for over a year. Yikes. Enter the genius of Elinor. [...]

  43. [...] original plan was for this to be March’s design, but it got bumped a bit by my entry for the Socks Revived design contest. The sweater will be released mid-April, I expect. It’s my hope that [...]

  44. [...] came up with (the one involving this sock yarn) when Elinor announced her most awesome, excellent contest. The “cutevil” owls adorning Hootenanny are the result of a gmail chat conversation [...]

  45. [...] was going to unveil my sock design for Elinor’s Contest but because the pattern is not quite done and the contest date has been extended I will just show a [...]

  46. [...] Anna I have a new pattern (for sale.)  I have been working on these socks for Elinor’s Sock’s Revived contest.  I have know about the contest for a while, but it closes tomorrow so I am cutting it a [...]

  47. [...] Elinor‘s sock design contest? I’m designing some socks and looking for between 2 and 4 test knitters who are able to [...]

  48. [...] sign-up details on Elinor’s blog and watch the finished designs as they crop up on [...]

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