Andi Smith, the author of the new book Big Foot Knits, has taken a few moments to share with us more about her knitting, her book, how all knitters can benefit from custom making socks, and some helpful tips for measuring.
Better yet, she's offering an exclusive giveaway of her book to Craftsy readers!
But first, let's learn more about Andi and her new book.
Photos via Kristen Caldwell Photography for Big Foot Knits ©Cooperative Press 2013
Hi Andi! Can you start by telling us about your knitting background. How did you learn to knit, how long have you been doing it, and how did you come into designing?
I grew up in a small mining village in Yorkshire. All the women in the family knitted, crocheted and sewed, and I honestly think I picked it up through osmosis. From knitting a few stitches on my mum’s row, to working my own swatches. I’m not quite sure when I progressed from swatches and squares to clothing, but we always knitted school sweaters each year. I loved taking the uniform blue raglan cardigan and sneaking in a subtle stitch pattern, a cabled welt or pockets - anything to make it a little different from everyone else's.
About 10 years ago, I met Shannon Okey (knitgrrl) and did some sample knitting for her, then worked on some collaborative designs before starting to release my own.
How is Big Foot Knits different from other sock knitting books out there?
Unlike most other knitting books, this one’s sole purpose is to encourage you to become the designer! Much like working through a tutorial or knitting class, the first half of this book takes you through everything you need to first create a good, plain vanilla sock that fits your individual shape. Using worksheets and tutorials, and making step-by-step decisions on your shape and fit, by the end of the first half of the book, you have all the tools you need to knit comfortable, well-fitting socks.
The second half of the book gives you a dozen patterns that were specifically designed for you to manipulate and easily customize to create the best fitting sock possible. From custom toe and heel boxes to shaping cuffs, legs and feet, the book covers it all!
What kind of knitter would benefit from the information in Big Foot Knits?
It’s funny, even though the book is called Big Foot Knits, it’s a great resource for "small foots" too. Pretty much anyone who wants to create a sock that fits their actual shape rather than a generic tube will benefit from the book.
My hope is that once you’ve worked through the chapters, you’ll have the know-how and confidence to make those socks you’ve always longed for.
What is your advice to knitters who may be intimidated by sock knitting?
My advice is to dive in and do it -- don’t worry about it being perfect, don’t worry about making mistakes -- it’s only knitting! Find a local knitting guild or SnB, or local LYS that has a class. Oftentimes, knitting with others gives you the confidence you need to be successful.
But really, my best advice is to dive in and see what happens! Your first sock may not be perfect, nor your second, but that’s OK! Just keep practicing, and pretty soon, your confidence level will grow.
Do you have a favorite pattern in the book?
I love Marama. I’m knitting my third pair right now, and just love working this sock. Not only are the cables seriously pretty, but the swath of stockinette that surrounds them is the perfect place to make those shaping changes I need to get a great fitting sock.
Photo via ©Andi Smith 2013
Where does your design inspiration come from?
Tough question! It’s difficult to pin down one specific thing, so I’ll answer in two parts.
1. Yarn. I’m crazy about the way different yarns lend themselves to a stitch pattern. I’ve been known to completely change a pattern design once I’ve started working with a yarn because the fiber or color works better with a different stitch.
When I was designing the Queen Street Cardigan, seen below, I changed the lace pattern about four times until I hit upon the perfect combination that flowed into each other in a seamless and visually pleasing way.
2. Stitch patterns. I thoroughly enjoy working a stitch pattern and then seeing where I can take it, how it can be manipulated and taken one step further, or added to. As I design, I find that the right stitch pattern can not only add visual interest to a garment, but also define how it is shaped, where it is shaped and what comes next.
For example, on the Chartres Jacket, seen below, that I worked in Lorna’s Laces Haymarket, the stitch pattern on the bodice created a zigzag pattern, rather than try and constrain that within a straight edge by working a half diamond, I chose to keep the zigzag and created a wonderful bodice treatment.
I’m in awe of Brooke Nico and Anna Dalvi. The way they manipulate stitch patterns seems so incredibly effortless and intuitive. They are each masters at their game. I don’t think either of them have published a design I haven’t coveted.
Some knitting tips from Andi Smith
Before you embark on custom sock knitting adventures, it's vital that you have a measure of your foot and leg. I talk about this at length in the book, but here's a quick guide to the best way to measure.
Did you know that your feet grow an average of a half size every 10 years? Pregnancy aging, weight gain or loss, and health issues in general can also have an impact on the size and shape of your feet. However, most of us just keep knitting away at the same vanilla sock with 64/72 sts.
If you know what your measurements are, and what your gauge is, then you're a big step forward in creating a custom sock that fits, skims your curves, is more visually pleasing and generally awesome!
What you'll need:
- Paper and pencil
- Flexible tape measure
- A measuring partner
When to measure:
Get your feet at their grandest -- late in the day, when you've been standing for a while. This way, you won't end up knitting socks that are too tight for you.
Stand in bare feet with your feet about a shoulders' width apart. Relax your calf muscles, and take your measure.
Why work in pairs?
Firstly, everything is more fun with friends, right? But more importantly, you really do need someone else to do the measuring to get an accurate reading while standing upright.
And reciprocate! Don't forget to measure your friend! I'm sure you'll both be surprised at how many variances there are!
Now you have your measurements, you're one step closer to creating that well-fitting sock!
Update: We've randomly selected a winner. Congrats to Mags Murray from Hertfordshire, England!
Click here to enter the giveaway and then answer Andi's question below in the comments for a chance to win!