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.
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.
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.
Again, some really cool patterns came out of the event:
- FlintKnits’ Elinor’s Mittens
- KnitterlyThings’ Chevron Mittens
- Pepperknit’s Merion Mittens
- My Vespergyle Mittens
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?
- 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 Only previously unpublished, original patterns please.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
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!!!
Recently, several knitters – that is to say, people who should know better – noted to me the unnecessary hardship of asking a new mom (it’s always mom), and especially a non-knitter, to handwash woolens. This is such bunk. You know that, right? I have never found it much of a chore, but I knit, I like wool, and I use (and wash) cloth diapers; it’s quite possible my tolerance of laundering is high. However, upon further discussion with the let’s call them Begrudgingly Acrylic Knitters, I discovered they have no idea how quick and easy it is to wash a wool garment. I thought I would put together a brief tutorial on how to do it quickly and effectively. I promise that it is at least as easy as, and I think easier than, regular laundry.
First, always keep your dirty woolens in their own basket. This ensures they remain separate from the regular wash and protects them from accidental felting.
I wash my woolens either when I run out of socks or when my wool basket gets too full. I did a wash today because Odysseus is low on sweaters and he spit up all over his bunting this morning. He is a very leaky child. I will return to this point later (I know, you can’t wait).
Prepare your washing machine (yes) for a small load and allow it to fill with cold water. Add a capful of wool soap – not too much, just a small capful. I use Eucalan, but SOAK is nice too. Do not use Woolite – your knits deserve better. Stop the machine before the agitation cycle begins.
ETA: Without access to a washer, smaller items can be washed in this manner with a salad spinner. For that large, cabled, tunic-length sweater? You’re on your own!
Toss in your knits. Trust me, I won’t felt your woolens.
Your sweaters and socks will float on top of the water. The wool will eventually take up water and sink, but it is incredibly resilient. Help it out: push down your items to submerge them.
This is the variable stage. I often set this up before bed so they can soak overnight. Some people only soak an hour. I have been known to forget about wool washes and leave them for 36 hours. Don’t do that, but soak them for as long as you find convenient.
Be sure to tell everyone in the household that there is wool in the washing machine. Deliver this information in the same way you would share that the iron is hot, the gas burner is lit, or the car is running. Impress upon your cohabitants that under no circumstances are they permitted to so much as enter the laundry room. Oh wait, that’s the rule in my house… I encourage you to be as bossy as you like.
Done stewing? Turn the washing machine dial to spin-only. This is the end of the washing cycle in which the water is spun out of the clothes. I assure you, your washing machine has a spin-only cycle. Mine does, and it is the cheapest, most worthless machine money can buy (it has two cycles: on and off). Ask me about how we bought appliance insurance then cloth diapered now two children in an attempt to kill it. The stupid machine runs like a champ.
Right. You don’t care about my piece-of-junk washing machine. Sorry. Let the spin-only cycle go to completion. When you open the washing machine, you will find damp but by no means soaking wet woolens. If you find them too wet, run the spin cycle again.
Lay out garments on towels. Sometimes, I spread out a couple of towels on a bed. If I’m washing lots of socks, I string a clothesline and pin the socks to dry. That’s a lot of work. Do as you see fit, but know that depending on the fiber content, your garments will be dry in anywhere between a few hours and a day. If they take longer to dry, you did not spin out enough water.
I feel I need to make one final point about babies and wool. Babies leak. Odysseus has never met a surface he deemed unworthy of spit up. He is the messiest baby I have ever known. Yet, he wears the woolly bunting Sally made him every day and today is the first time it has been washed. And no, it hasn’t been gross and covered in baby goo all this time. Careful use of bibs (or in his case, large cloth diapers as bibs) has kept it plenty clean.
Don’t ever feel like you have to sacrifice quality for ease of use! Teach people how to wash woolens. It will prove useful long after their babies leave the house – after all, who survives without wool socks??? Babies can wear wool. New, sleep-deprived moms can wash wool. And you know what? Dads can too.
These mittens take their name from the Sesame Street counting sketch about a ladybug picnic. You know you know it. Don’t remember it? Click the link. I dare you. Here, I’ll share it again. You’ll be singing that goofy song for the rest of the day.
Once I got the idea to knit some ladybugs, it bounced around in my head just as relentlessly as that silly song will in yours. I swatched them on a white background on the way to Washington, D. C. a few weeks ago, but the dark floats really showed through. Unfortunately, I did not have any other appropriate yarn with me so the idea had to kick around my head for a few more days before I could actually do anything about it!
I made this pair of mittens for JulieFrick, who claims to be incapable of stranded knitting. I don’t believe it. Have you seen her knitting? It is categorically not the work of the knitting skill-challenged. Nevertheless, I thought the lady needed a pair of stranded mitts because I know she’s never going to make herself any!!
Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Limestone, Red Fox, and Pepper
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) and US 1 (2.5 mm)
I tried so hard to get this pattern to come out with only twelve ladybugs – like in the song – but in order to maintain uniform tension, the adult sizes required fifteen ladybugs. I made sure that the child-size mitten, the XS, only has twelve. After all, why call them Ladybug Picnic Mittens if there were not twelve ladybugs? That’s the entire point of the song! The mittens feature a picot cuff and red and black braid at the cuff, a peasant thumb, and a rounded top. The ladybugs are knitted into the mitten; however, the bugs’ spots and feet are duplicate stitched on afterwards.
I am especially pleased with the palm side. I did not really want to put ladybugs on the inside, but I needed a way to carry the yarn across. I love this effect. I might see about using the stitch pattern in other designs.
These started as a stashbuster but at the urging of several friends, I wrote up the pattern to contribute to the Help for Haiti effort on Ravelry. I will donate all proceeds of the mitten sales to Haitian relief efforts for as long as the pattern is available. To be honest, I feel conflicted about urging people to buy things because portions of pattern sales will go to charity. If the cause is compelling, we should not be goaded into supporting it with cheap or free items. Perhaps I sound cynical; I do not mean to be. All I’m saying is that the best way for any of us to help in the earthquake relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti is to give directly to reputable aid organizations doing good work. Buy my mitten pattern if you like the mittens, but if you really want to help, bypass me and give directly to aid organizations now. And, perhaps more importantly, give again in March. And in July. And in September. And in 2011 and 2012.
And of course, enjoy the mittens!
Reading a chart, knitting in the round, knitting with two colors, increasing, decreasing, picking up stitches.
S (M, L)
Model shown in size S.
Circumference: 7.25 (8.5, 9.75)”
Length: 8.5 (9.5, 10.5)”
Thumb top length: 2 (2.5, 3)”
26 stitches and 28 rounds = 4″ in stranded stitch pattern on US 6 (4 mm) needles
Berroco Ultra Alpaca [50% alpaca, 50% wool; 215 yd (197 m); 100 g skein]; color: #6289 Charcoal Mix (MC), #6201 Winter White (CC1), #6234 Cardinal (CC2), #6294 Turquoise Mix (CC3), 1 skein each.
US 6 (4 mm) circular needle, 32″ long or 1 set US 6 (4 mm) DPNs
I did say that I’ve been busy knitting, did I not? Let’s start with a major stashbust of winter accessories. I love knitting hats. That much is abundantly clear, is it not? I rarely make hats for members of my household because we have so many already. However, Beatrix outgrew her hat from last year so of course, she needed a new one.
I whipped up a child size Min Ulla because I wanted to have made all four versions of the hat by the end of the winter. This is Version C.
I love the 8-point star decrease, don’t you? I would use it in every hat if I could.
Mr. Frick, of Fricknits fame, received Version B of Min Ulla. When visiting the crafty Frick household a few weeks ago, I learned that Mr. Frick needed a warmer hat for his commute.
What an excellent excuse to make another one of these!
Better yet, the hat arrived in the DC Metro area with two feet of snow for the true Nordic experience! I hope it comes in handy during the great snowmageddon of 2010.
Kirsten Kapur published her Wood Hollow hat and mitten pattern just days before a dear friend lamented her inability to find a decent winter cap. I promised mittens too, but they will need to wait until spring because I’m back in the throes of deadline knitting until then.
And that was just hats! Just wait until I tell you about the mittens! I will have two new mitten patterns for you this week. I will publish them as soon as I’ve made the final revisions to my drafts and cleaned up the tutorial photos.