Many knitters knit socks to experiment with lace or cable stitches, doing complicated textured or filigree patterns. Others use the small scale to play with color, doing elaborate intarsia or even simpler patterns (skulls, kitties, celtic knots) that you won’t necessarily see in store-purchased footwear.
Me, I just like to have a small project I can keep in my purse, to pull out when I’m chatting with a friend over coffee, or when the book I have with me on the train isn’t holding my attention. I therefore do not want to muck around with anything that requires much counting, let alone following intricate patterns. Yay for all the gorgeous variegated yarns out there, that make pretty socks without requiring actual thought!
Of course, the only think knitters like buying as much as yarn is buying knitting books, like Carol Sulcoski’s Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn. This is a must-buy for sock fanatics.
I made the Escher Sock by Lorna Miser with Auracania Itala Multy (70 percent superwash wool, 15 percent silk, 15 percent bamboo). The cabling is more fidgety than complicated — every fifth row you move the in lines out and the out lines in. I had the directions on my lap for the first few switches, but then the sense behind it clicked and I was fine.
Another great pattern from that book is the Spot Check Sock by Beth Parrott. Her pattern basically checkerboards a variegated yarn with a solid. (Row 1: K1 var, K1 solid, repeat; row 2: K1 solid, K1 var, repeat.) I ended up doing a variation:
I’m not going to write up a detailed set of instructions — anyone who’s comfortable making socks can figure out what I did by looking, and anyone who’s thinking of this for their first pair ever, shouldn’t.
I used almost every inch of a 50-gram skein of Stroll Duchess Heather from KnitPicks.com and about half of a 100-gram skein of Stroll Make Believe hand-painted. If your feet are much smaller than mine (my shoe size is 10C), you could easily get away with 50 grams of each; if larger, or if you want the socks to go higher up your calf, I’d get a second skein of the solid just to be safe.
These are significantly less stretchy than single-yarn socks, so you should cast on 8 stitches more than your usual multiple-of four-number (mine is 72, so I should have done these at 80).
Do an inch or so of K2P2 ribbing in the solid color (S), then add the variegated (V) and begin the pattern:
R1: K2 V, *K1 S, K3 V,* repeat to last two stitches, K1S, K1 V. [place marker]
R2: K1 V, K1 S, repeat.
Repeat these two rows.
When you get to the heel flap — which should probably be a little taller than usual, because, again, these aren’t super stretchy — do that, and turn the heel, in the solid color.
Pick up the stitches along the side as normal, staying with the solid color till you get back to where the variegated is hanging out waiting for you. Place a marker on each side at the top of the heel flap to indicate where you’ll be doing the reductions for the gusset, and also to mark the line between the top and the bottom of the foot — the markers will stay in even after you’ve completed the gussets.
Get to where you’ll start reducing for the toe, and switch to the solid for that.
This pattern gives a nice Fair Isle effect, but is really easy. It’s also perfect for a purse project that you do in little bits of time; you can stop whenever, even in the middle of a row, because you can tell by looking where you are in the pattern when you pick them up again.