Sock it to them

A competition to warm hearts and feet. By John Stringer

he first socks were probably worn by prehistoric people, who wrapped animal skins around their legs and feet. The Egyptians wore the first knitted socks more than 1,500 years ago. Since then, socks have varied in length, colour, pattern and style - striped for sports teams, tabbed for wolf cubs and diamond-patterned for golfers; they have always done more than keep our feet warm.

Now your children have a chance to design their own socks as part of a national competition. This gives your pupils a design and technology project they can get their teeth (and feet) into and gives schools the chance to win a pound;500 prize while raising money for charity - so adding PSHE to the list of subjects that you've covered.

The Starlight Children's Foundation, which aims to make the dreams of children with serious and terminal illnesses come true, has challenged pupils to come up with an original sock design. Winning pupils will get pound;100 worth of art and design materials. The theme is "If I had one wish..." Textiles, tools and techniques all matter as much as pattern, and the design has to be attractive and practical.

So what makes a good sock? Fit and wearing properties are important, but socks are also a way for conservative dressers to express their individuality. The author Kingsley Amis frequently wore lilac, while Sinclair MacLeod, the Scottish primary science guru, always wears scarlet. Cartoon and other characters are popular, as are names and written messages. I have a pair that confidently state "left" and "right".

Entry to the competition is open to children aged three to seven, eight to 10, 11 to 14 and 15 to 18. Designs can be developed at home or at school, but a parent or teacher must guarantee the work is the child's own. A minimum donation of pound;1.00 is suggested with each entry. The competition, endorsed by the author and television presenter Adam Hart-Davis, is open until July 31st. The winning socks will be manufactured and sold by Sock Shop as part of their 2003 range, with 50p of each sale also going to the Starlight Foundation.

For a teacher pack and application forms contact Starlight Children's Foundation, 11-15 Emerald street, London, WC1N 3QL. Call 020 7430 1642. Fax 020 7430 1482. E-mail

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