In my yarncrafting life, socks are my passion. They’re the perfect project: utterly portable, and workable whether it’s freezing or boiling outside. I started crocheting in 2006 and tried to make my first pair of crocheted socks in early 2009. I was so jealous of all my Ravelry friends’ handmade socks, and was desperate to make a pair. I chose black sock yarn, so I’m sure you can imagine how well that first effort went. We took a trip to the frog pond with that project. My second effort was marginally more successful. I finished the socks, but had a heck of a time wearing them because they were worked all in single crochet, and were about as flexible as Teflon coated steel mesh.
I scoured Ravelry and crochet pattern magazines for more sock patterns, but couldn’t find many that had an aesthetic that I liked. By 2017, I had grown in my chosen craft to the point of winning blue ribbons and a Best In Show rosette at the Ohio State Fair, and I had started teaching crochet at a LYS - 614 Knit Studio in Columbus, OH - owned by a friend. As part of that new role I realized that to design a class about making crocheted socks, it might be best to start to design my own patterns. I launched Figpox Farms Designs in 2017, and published my first sock pattern in 2018.
I incorporated the look and feel of Arts and Crafts design into my logo, which is heavily influenced by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. I find historical architecture fascinating, and the Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts period that formed both Mackintosh and Wright’s design aesthetics have inspired me in all areas of my life. When it came to designing patterns for crochet, I tried to take a key bit of design philosophy from them as well. You may be familiar with the quote “Form follows function.” This was said by Louis Sullivan, a prominent American architect at the end of the 1800’s. His employee Frank Lloyd Wright learned that lesson and expanded on it, saying “’Form follows function’ – this has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” As we know, every job is easier with the right tool…this is ‘form follows function’ as the tool was designed specifically for use in that specific function. But Wright wants us to take it a step further and make the form and the function so deeply interwoven that we simply cannot imagine doing the job without that specific tool. A lighthearted example of this is how my silicone “spoonula” from Williams & Sonoma does a much better job of scraping and scooping cookie dough from the bowl and into my mouth than a traditional spatula does.
As I started designing crochet patterns, I tried to carefully craft them with this ideal in mind, ensuring that the stitches I chose helped to make the garment project more useful and effective in addition to being beautiful things to wear. Where socks are concerned, that meant finding a way to create a crocheted fabric that was stretchy enough to be forgiving enough to help get your heel through the curve, but also help the sock to be wearable and warm whilst looking fantastic propped up in front of a roaring fire. Oh, and still be sturdy enough to hold up to lots of wear whilst encased in cold-weather shoes and boots.
Fast forward to 2020, and I was searching for inspiration to create the sock pattern featured in KnitCrate’s January 2021 Sock Crate. I swatched and stitched and nothing seemed to come together in that magical alchemy explosion for me that I normally experience when I hit on exactly what I’m striving to create. Believe it or not, Frank Lloyd Wright saved me here, too. I turned 50 in 2020 along with one of my best friends, and one of the few trips I took this year was a visit to Buffalo to tour a Wright-designed home that has been turned into a museum. I went with my newly-50 friend and another one that will join the 50-club in March 2021. I swatched for the Sock Crate project on the whole drive there with no joy. And then…EUREKA!!! Something our tour docent said about the way Wright instructed the bricklayers and masons to mortar the bricks so they would create horizontal shadows sparked the inspiration I was hoping for, and the Wright’s Shadow sock pattern is the result.
Me and the other newly-50-year-old at the Darwin D. Martin House museum in Buffalo, NY. It was snowing in October; par for the course in Buffalo on the North Coast of America.
Settling on the name “Wright’s Shadow Socks” as the final name of the pattern lets me make a double play-on-words that focuses both on the January 2021 KnitCrate theme of Shadows as well as the role and importance that Wright holds in the inspiration for this design and in all kinds of elevated design in the 20th Century and beyond. I hope you enjoy making the Wright’s Shadow Socks, and that the story behind the pattern inspires you to look for inspired design in the world around you – whether in the historic buildings in your city or in the curve of the spoonula under your tongue as you scarf down the last bit of cookie dough. Hook and poke on, my fellow yarncrafters!
Guest blog post from Jessica Smith Hettrick of Figpox Farms Designs. Check out Jessica’s featured Wright’s Shadow Shocks crochet pattern in our January 2021 Shadows crate in our Sock Crate Membership.