Reviving Socks: A Design Contest

by exercisebeforeknitting


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 Only previously unpublished, original patterns please.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!!!