Saturday, February 21, 2015

Occupied with Sockupied

All photos (c) Sockupied/Harper Point
When Amy Palmer, Editor of Knitscene and Sockupied, put out a call for people to review the latest issue of Sockupied (Spring 2015), I jumped at the chance. Here was a e-magazine I'd tried out when it debuted in Summer 2010, but hadn't really paid much attention to since. Partly because of the eMag format which I found unwieldy and partly because I have a backlog of sock patterns queued up already.

I was eager to see how things had evolved over the last 5 years.

I remember being amazed when Sockupied debuted 5 years ago. Here was the perfect magazine for me: all about socks; even then I was an avid sock knitter. Conventional knitting magazines, which were great learning resources as I moved from beginner to intermediate knitter, just didn't seem to have enough content geared specifically toward my main love: socks.

Laith Socks, Rachel Coopey

Spoiler Alert!

For those of you with limited time, I'll cut to the chase. I love the new Sockupied format of being PDF only. It saves space on your computer. It's easier to download and start using. The content is very focused. The patterns and photography are beautiful. If Sockupied had been offered in PDF format from the start, I would own more issues of it. I'll definitely be paying more attention to Sockupied from now on.

The Details

Sockupied 2015 is the first time the magazine has been released in PDF only format. I love this new format. It's straight forward. You can email a copy of the PDF to yourself to access on other devices (and as an easy backup method). And it takes up very little disk space on your computer: 3.75 MB. Download the PDF and you're ready to check out the delicious patterns. There's 1 file with all the pattern information you need.

Previously you had to download and install the file onto your hard drive. It's not an onerous task, but it does take up disk space (546MB for one issue I downloaded for the .exe, plus more for the installed magazine).

The eMag format was both interesting and frustrating. Because of my day job, I'm very much at home on a computer. I spend my working hours, along with many leisure hours, glued to a laptop. So it was fun to have something interactive to click through. But from a usability perspective, I didn't always know where to click. Or how to get the pattern for the sock I wanted to knit from the pattern, including how to find it again after I've closed it.

The Magazine

Mill End Sock, MK Nance
One of the first things that struck me, aside from the beautiful photography, was the cozy and 'real' feel of the magazine. This isn't a magazine where the designs might have artistic merit but are clearly not intended for everyday, real wear. I can see myself knitting and wearing every one of these designs. The techniques described sound completely do-able, the finished products cover a range of skill levels, and the yarns used are accessible, affordable and easy to swap out for something in your own stash or LYS.

I love that the table of contents clearly states whether the pattern is toe up or top down - one of the first questions I have about a pattern. Plus, there's a short description of the key highlights of the pattern. This tells us that in  MK Nance's Mill End Sock pattern "Swirling stitches cover the legs" and cable lovers might like Kate Atherley's Washington State Knee socks in which "Simple small cables are worked in a sport weight yarn." This makes it easy to pick out what's unique in each pattern.
Washington State Knee Socks, Kate Atherley

Sockupied's design aesthetic has really streamlined itself too, for the better in my opinion. Sure, it was fun to have lots of things to click in the interactive eMag, but that didn't necessarily improve the content or the reading experience.

Now, the magazine has a laser focus on what it does best - presenting beautiful sock patterns in a beautiful and consumable way. There are 5 patterns, a featured designer interview and an article on how to customize your knee-high socks - the perfect how-to article to answer questions that might be raised by readers when they explore Kate Atherley's knee-high sock pattern.

Another I noticed with much appreciation, is that there are no advertisements in Sockupied. I understand that advertising usually pays for magazine production costs, not subscriptions. But I like this streamlined approach. Sockupied is offering readers what we want: beautiful sock patterns at an affordable and fair price.

The Spring 2015 PDF is $11.99 on the Interweave site. You can also explore the patterns on Ravelry. That's a meager $2.40 per pattern - cheaper than any professional pattern I've seen. Plus, Kate's article on customizing socks is invaluable. Truly, any sock knitter should have the know-how to make their socks custom fit their own foot and leg shape. Factor that great advice into the purchase price and it's a steal at $2/pattern and article.

The featured designer article is a fun little feature too. Although it's just a page long, it's a fun way to learn a bit more about the designer as a person, her key design elements, and offers some handy sock knitting tips. In fact, I'm looking forward to trying out her Kitchener stitch tip on my next pair of socks!

The Patterns

Karner Butterfly Socks, Jennifer Raymond
I won't spend too much time on the details of each pattern. You can check those out for yourself on Ravelry. But what does deserve mention is that editor Amy Palmer has chosen a nice balance of techniques and skill levels. There's something for toe up vs. top down knitters. There's different heel turn techniques. There's something for the adventurous (Karner Butterfly socks, by Jennifer Raymond), which have you knit the leg of the sock around and then pick up stitches for the foot. And they don't shy away from the fact that, hey knee-high socks are a lot of knitting, so here some using sport weight yarn! It's quicker!

Chain Socks, Mone Dräger 
The One Sock Two Ways feature is another nice touch. I personally prefer knitting with solid or semi-solid sock yarn. But we've all been seduced by that colorway which looks great curled up in the skein but when knit up turns into a muddle of colors. One Sock Two Ways shows you how the pattern looks knit up in both a semi-solid and a variegated/hand painted yarn. And Chains Socks
by Mone Dräger looks like a great pattern to use that hand painted skein we all have but don't know what to do with.

Another great thing about the patterns is that they offer multiple sizes. Rachel Coopey's socks come in only 2 sizes. But the rest of the patterns offer from 3 to 6 (6!) sizes to choose from. The instructions are concise and clear. 

My only 'issue' (in quotes because it's more of a personal preference) is that due to the format, the instructions tend to run together in longer paragraphs. I like a bit more white space and visual separation between my instructions. Here's an example of what I mean.

Next rnd Sl 1 pwise wyb, k19 (21), pick up and knit
16 sts along side of heel flap, work 32 (36) instep sts
as foll: k1, [p2, k2] 1 (2) time(s), p2, work Chart E over
24 sts, k1, pm, pick up and knit 16 sts along side of
heel flap, k36 (38)—84 (90) sts: 32 (36) instep sts, 52
(54) sole sts. Pm and join in the rnd. Dec rnd Work in
patt to m, sl m, ssk, knit to last 2 sts, k2tog—2 sole sts
dec’d. Next rnd Work even. Rep last 2 rnds 9 (8) more
times—64 (72) sts rem: 32 (36) sts each for instep and
If I were writing up the pattern (or even just following along), I'd prefer to see it like this:

Next rnd Sl 1 pwise wyb, k19 (21), pick up and knit 16 sts along side of heel flap, work 32 (36) instep sts as foll:

Rnd 1: k1, [p2, k2] 1 (2) time(s), p2, work Chart E over 24 sts, k1, pm, pick up and knit 16 sts along side of heel flap, k36 (38)—84 (90) sts: 32 (36) instep sts, 52 (54) sole sts. Pm and join in the rnd.
Dec rnd:  Work in patt to m, sl m, ssk, knit to last 2 sts, k2tog—2 sole sts dec’d.
Next rnd Work even.

Rep last 2 rnds 9 (8) more times—64 (72) sts rem: 32 (36) sts each for instep and sole.

That white space and use of new lines for new rounds add visual cues that help me separate out chunks of information. But, I understand that this is a personal preference and that different magazines have different layout and style requirements. But since this is a PDF, I can easily highlight text using the PDF tools to help me focus on the steps, line by line.

Full disclosure: I was given a review copy of the Sockupied Spring 2015 PDF, but otherwise received no compensation. Amy Palmer, Editor of Sockupied was clear that what I said about it was up to me. She encouraged honest feedback, both good and bad. And frankly, I was going into the review with the opinion that Sockupied had disappointed me after its debut in 2010. But I really like what Amy & team have done and the direction they're taking with the PDF. By focusing on the content and not the bells and whistles of how it's delivered, I think they've really come up with a winner.

1 comment :

  1. I took Jennifer Raymond's sock class at Rhinebeck 2014.