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Inside the Mind of Cookie A: Sock Knitting Genius

Mar 23, 2009

Note from Sandi: I'm going to confess, right up front: I am a Cookie Addict. Not the chocolate-chip kind of cookie (although actually I rather do love oatmeal chocolate chippers something fierce), but the sock sort of Cookie. As in Cookie A., sock designer extraordinaire--if she designs it, I drool on it and add it to my queue quicker than you can say "gingersnap."

In fact... I literally bought a pair of shoes just to show off a pair of Cookie socks that I'm knitting. A whole new pair of shoes. Just. For. The. Socks.

Imagine my flat-out-glee (and the high-pitched squeals of delight) when Cookie's first sock book, Sock Innovations, arrived. (You can take a look inside, and pre-order Sock Innovations here--or buy it at your local yarn shop!) And imagine how pleased I am that Cookie agreed to be today's guest on Knitting Daily. Here's Cookie!

A lot of people ask me about how I design socks, and I'm never quite sure how to answer because there are so many different approaches! One focus in Sock Innovation is what I consider to be taking a standard sock and turning it into something special. What is a standard sock? It's one that uses a stitch pattern and tiles it around the leg and top of the foot. It can be fairly basic, or it can get complex with allover lace and cables.

First, taking an allover pattern and figuring out how to work it in the round can be more complicated than knitters often realize. Knitting in the round is actually a spiral, so sometimes the end of a round doesn't meet up with the beginning of the next round quite the way you want it to. This is why a lot of my patterns involve shifting stitches between needles. Moving where the end meets the beginning can make it appear seamless. So if I were to make Cookies Rules of Socks, on the list would be: Make the beginning of the round as invisible as possible.

Once that's all figured out, my second knitting mantra would be: Ribbing should flow into the pattern. Too often I see patterns (this isn't limited to socks) where the transition from ribbing into another stitch pattern looks a bit choppy. This can be because the gauge of the ribbing is different from the gauge of the other stitch pattern, so there is puckering. Or it can be because the ribbing simply doesn't flow well--for example one of the knit ribs simply stops into a sea of purls. Three examples of good ribbing transitions are below.








 Beyond that, placement can be key. I like to play with mirroring and staggering elements so that even a simple stitch pattern can look much more complex than it is. For example, in Kristi, the green sock pictured here, the basic stitch pattern isn't that big--but because I've staggered and mirrored it between repeats, it looks vastly more complex. The left and right socks are also mirror images of each other--another detail to consider when designing.

Other than that, I try not to leave a stitch pattern the way I've found it. I might re-size it, widen, narrow, enlarge, lengthen, you name it. Or I might substitute one texture for another--ribs in place of stockinette, reverse stockinette instead of crazy cables, lace for moss stitch. By practicing re-sizing existing stitch patterns and modifying them, I've learned how to create my own stitch patterns by taking bits and pieces and putting them together in a new way. You can make your own lines and shapes and fill them in. That's where the innovation starts to kick in. Bex, the white socks shown above, is one pattern that started off with diamonds, got filled in with Xs, and branched out from there.

And there you have it.

-- Cookie A



Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.


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PattiW wrote
on Mar 29, 2009 12:55 PM
I love knitting socks( my daughter loves me to knit her socks) and these look amazing. The only problem I have is allergies. I can't work with wool,silk,cashmere,alpaca,etc. It is really cramping what I want to do. I knitted the boot lace socks from interweave knits, but had to use baby yarn. Does anyone know if there is a fine yarn I could try- maybe bamboo or a blend? Even if I liked the baby yarn, I can't find it in the colors I want....
JamieJ wrote
on Mar 24, 2009 2:58 PM
Sandi- Cookie A.'s new book is like being left overnight in the Cookie factory. I just got my hands on a copy of her Sock Innovations. My fingers are itching to start a new sock pattern..NOW! The photos in this book are cause for heavy drooling, so readers should be warned to keep a towel handy.
marginnati wrote
on Mar 24, 2009 1:15 PM
Amen on the shoes. What kind of shoes do you wear to show off your socks?
TinaC@2 wrote
on Mar 24, 2009 5:26 AM
Sandi - Show us the shoes!
SarahY wrote
on Mar 23, 2009 6:27 PM
Oh my God. Cookie A has a BOOK? Joy and Gloating! I must go buy it at once. I fell in love with her designs on my first Monkey first socks ever actually. Her instructions are always so well explained, with no swearing and ESP and guesswork. Seriously, they're always beautiful and just fly off my needles. Can't wait! ~Jemima from
NinaT wrote
on Mar 23, 2009 5:35 PM
If the socks shown reflect all the socks in the book, I just might have to get it. They are beautiful socks.
laney72003 wrote
on Mar 23, 2009 5:08 PM
This book will be on my shelf faster than Sandi can say Snickerdoodle! I can't stop knitting socks. And, I too have bought shoes to show off socks I have knit--the shoes cost me $109, the sock yarn cost me $24, the clothes I wore with the shoes and socks?? Probably hand-me-downs!! I have my priorities.
TheresaK wrote
on Mar 23, 2009 4:21 PM
I am one of hundreds (thousands???) who are waiting with bated breath for this book. Thanks to Sandy, I know I am not alone in purchasing what I call "sock shoes". Yes, thanks to my need/wish/desire to show off Cookie A. sock patterns, I have bought shoes a size larger than I normally wear. And by shoes I mean more than one pair, LOL. For anyone reading this who is a member of we have a knitalong group based on the Sock Innovation group. It's called "Makin' Cookie's". Come join us. If you're not on Ravelry, join it, then join us. For the love of Cookie just do it! -thanks for the 'article', I enjoy seeing knittingdaily in my inbox all the time!
Pamela wrote
on Mar 23, 2009 2:02 PM
I love Cookie A patterns!!! I'm so happy to see a book now. What a great excuse for new shoes!
B.L wrote
on Mar 23, 2009 2:02 PM
The socks are beeyootiful. I just wish my hands would allow me to work with sock yarn, and skinny needles. (Big sigh.)
KarenM@3 wrote
on Mar 23, 2009 12:02 PM
Sandi, will you share they shoes you bought to show off your socks?
on Mar 23, 2009 10:48 AM
Sandi, I LOVE your website along with all the pattern and info that I have learned from you and your guests!! and I LOVE SOCKS!!! I am crazy about making them, these are beautiful.! I also have one ? not about socks though, I used to get the knitting daily emails and I waited everyday for them to see what was new and what I could learn, but this month of March I have not received any daily emails from the site. Can you please let me know why, I MISS THEM. Thankyou very much,
BarbaraF wrote
on Mar 23, 2009 10:35 AM
I just did what I frequently do when I read Sandi's newsletter - print it for later reference. And I'm thinking the cookie sock on her needles is chocolate chip, what else? Barbara