Design process

I'm making a pair of socks for a friend, and I wanted her to have a say in the design.  The yarn had to be wool-free, which means Crystal Palace Panda Cotton or Panda Soy.  The design came down to picking between various components.

There are four types of cuff I like to make: plain hemmed, picot hemmed, rolled top, and ribbed top.  The hemmed tops require a top-down sock, the others can go either way.  All my BFL socks have a rolled top, my first rolled top was the Boudica socks from MimKnits which I loved until a moth got them.  The sock recipient  eliminated the hemmed tops which means I can do a toe-up sock.  I prefer doing toe-up, but I do love the plain hemmed top.

There are two choices for the heel: the short row heel, and the heel flap.  Both can be done toe-up or top-down.  For this pair, she chose a heel flap with eye of partridge stitch for reinforcement.  I've been using a toe-up heel flap pattern (PDF link), but following it can leave a small gap on the side at the top of the decreases that I'm working on eliminating.

Main pattern
The final design decision was left in my hands: some kind of cable pattern.  There is such a thing as too much choice and my Barbara Walker book has at least eight that would work for what I have in mind.  I like symmetry and mirrored patterns, and the yarn would benefit from some ribbing.  I used the toe as my swatch, since I'm using true US1 needles (2.5mm) for the first time, and I need some extra stitches to account for the pulling-in from a cable pattern. I chose an off-centre Twin Waves cable.  The book has instructions for a reversed version which I'll use on the other sock.  The rest of the sock will be in 2x2 ribbing, so I'll knit a rolled top for the cuff.  The cable is a tangled three-strand braid that contrasts with the straight ribbing, this is how it looks with two repeats complete:

Zen Waves socks.

Once I have a few inches of the foot done, there will be a fitting session to make sure the sock isn't too loose or too tight.  I keep notes in a design notebook so a second sock, or a second pair, will be easy.

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