FO: Toe-Up Gentleman’s Socks

As Easter approaches, April seems as good a time as any to finally post the wintry Christmas gifts I gave my family this past year, right?

Back in 2010, I knit my father a pair of socks for Christmas in this beautiful green and brown variegated yarn (you can see the yarn here, but alas, I have not photographed the socks yet). He loved them, and he frequently told me how much they meant to him, but he kept them pristinely folded in his sock drawer unworn because he “didn’t want to mess them up.” I always said, “I made them for you to use,” then reminded him how much I love knitting, should they ever need replacing.

This winter, on one of those particularly bitter cold and damp days, my father was outdoors and no matter what he did, couldn’t get his feet warm. He and my brother stopped home for lunch and he looked in his sock drawer, dismayed, hoping maybe he would find another warm pair he could layer in his boots. As he tells it, his eyes went to the handknit socks and he heard my voice echoing, “I made them for you to use!” He slipped them on and said his feet were properly warm for the first time in decades. “They are absolutely the answer,” he said enthusiastically when he called me that night, “I can’t believe I waited so many years to realize it!”



Pattern: based on Gentleman’s Sock with Lozenge Pattern by Nancy Bush, published in Knitting Vintage Socks: New Twists on Classic Patterns (ebook here). My project page is here.
Size: Men’s size 10 (US) approximately (made to measure)
Yarn: Regia 4-fädig Color, fingering weight, 75% wool / 25% nylon, in 535; I used every last inch of 2 skeins, 100 grams, 460 yards/ 420.6 meters, plus I tipped the ribbing with a few rounds of Knit Picks Stroll Solids, fingering weight, 75% merino / 25% nylon in Fawn.
Needles: Size 1 (2.25 mm) DPNs (Susan Bates Silvalume)
Modifications: Converted to toe-up with a short-row heel, changed the ribbing to simple 1×1 rib.

Started: January 1, 2017
Finished: February 13, 2017



A few days later, after wearing his handknit socks outside every day with delight, my father called to ask how he should wash them, and I talked him through it. He said now that they were his new “secret weapon” in keeping his feet warm, he didn’t want to risk running them through the wash. “The only downside,” he said cheerfully, “is that I have no idea what I’ll wear while they dry.” I immediately ducked into my stash and pulled out this great dark green Regia superwash, wrapped it, and presented it to him on Christmas as A Second Pair of Socks, Some Assembly Required.



I wanted to knit his second pair in a slightly finer gauge, now that I was sure of the measurements and that he’d actually wear them, but I hadn’t brought needles or the pattern with me. I had a pair of socks that I’d been keeping at my parents’ house for months as my “away” project, and as I finished them next to the Christmas tree, I realized I could cast on for my father’s second pair right then. I figured I would get the toe started and consult the pattern when I got home, but I came down with the first of several terrible colds I’ve had this year (with bonus bronchitis!) and while I malingered at my parents’ house, decided to improvise the pattern by looking at photos of finished socks on Ravelry.



By the time I got home, I’d knit through the heel and worked out how to keep the pattern continuous around the ankle, so I decided (with apologies to the genius Nancy Bush) that I’d just wing it, and my socks would be knit in my “house style,” which I know fits incredibly comfortably. I knit the leg of the sock as long as I could before I started running low on yarn, then started the ribbing. I was dismayed to run out of yarn sooner than I expected, so I tipped the ribbing in a bit of light brown Merino superwash from my stash. My father likes that detail as a design choice and noticed that the Merino is slightly softer than the Regia wool, so it’s extra cushy where it touches his shin.



My father loves these socks and has raved about how they are even warmer than the first pair I knit him. Beyond the tighter gauge, he also noted that the diamond pattern traps little pockets of air around his feet inside his boots, so they are both breathable and extra warm. He likes the color and style so much that he said he’d wear them with work or dress shoes the next time it gets super cold in the winter.

I’m so happy he loves his socks so much – he was telling everyone at our St. Patrick’s Day party how great they were. I’m also delighted he has discovered the joys of custom-sized handknit socks, as I have quite a few more colors of yarn with his name on them. He also promises we’ll take some modeled shots soon.

Knitting all the time

I think that being a knitter is similar to being an artist, or a scientist, or a chef, in that as you go about the day, you don’t really ever stop being what you are, yet it’s not the only thing that defines your existence. As I ride the ferry, I always notice the knit items people are wearing, examining their construction, the fit, the lace or cable pattern, and in the same way that I look at paintings as if I had a brush in my hand, I wonder how I would make this thing, what I might change about it, and so on.

But mentally knitting, obviously, isn’t the same thing as physically taking needles and yarn and producing something, which is why I’m so delighted to have stolen moments here and there to make progress on a bunch of projects, old and new.

First, look what’s off the needles and awaiting blocking…

This is my Upstairs shawl/wrap/scarf, with which I am utterly enamored. I will go on (and on) about this project in its own FO post, but I will say that the thought of blocking it and having raggedly, pointy, stretched-out edges broke me down, and I bought blocking wires. I look forward to seeing how they work out.

I stayed with my family in New Jersey through Hurricane Irene, and the several days we were without power gave me quite a head of steam on a project I haven’t mentioned before.

This is a summery laceweight shrug knit in seafoam stitch, and even though it will probably be a while (like, the next three seasons) before I get to wear it, I’m pretty enthused with what I think it will become.

I pretty much always have socks on the go (I will do a whole sock catch-up soon), but these had been abandoned a while ago in my knitting basket. I can’t really remember why, save for the tedium of working with bamboo needles, but once I started them back up again, I whipped through a heel and have been moving up the leg.

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I love this snowflake lace pattern, and I keep thinking about where else I might like to use it (probably a cardigan or shrug?) since it is that perfect blend of organic and geometric, deceptively simple, and really quite lovely when stretched and worn (saving that for the FO post, again, soon).

Now I didn’t knit this, but this is a spectacular alpaca hat my parents picked up for me during their vacation to Peru in August.

I am so smitten with its colors, style, and decadent, soft warmth that I’m actually willing the weather to get colder so I can wear it outside of my apartment. My father bought my mother an insanely gorgeous alpaca cardigan, which I have to remember to photograph the next time I visit.

Mmmm, alpaca….

And saving perhaps the best for last, I have finally started a new sweater for my mother, which is technically her Christmas gift from ohh… 2008? This is not her gift this year, but rather something I’m going to try to get done soon because I feel bad promising people knits and not following through (I’ve done this with both parents and my brother, so yeah, bad habit of mine).

You may recognize it as the Cable-Down Raglan, a pattern I’ve admired for a long, long while. And yes, I have the yarn (and now the skills) to make one for myself too.

I had started a different cabled sweater for my mom years ago, but the more FO photos I’ve seen on Ravelry, the less I think that sweater will be particularly flattering for her, and it would make us both feel terrible to spend all this time knitting some elaborate cabled sweater that she never wears it because it looks bad. I admitted that this hesitation was most of why I’d stalled out on her super-belated Christmas gift, and she was relieved that I didn’t plug ahead on a feckless project. When I showed her the Cable-Down Raglan and photos of women with similar shapes and how wonderful they looked in it, she became enthusiastic and encouraged me to go forward with this one instead.

True to form, she picked out another heathered purple yarn, and I must say, I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s coming along. I really hope she likes it!

So these are but a few of the projects keeping my hands busy lately. I often think that if I focused on just one project at a time, I could whip out the FOs left and right, and this may be a strategy I can employ once I get some of the long-hibernating WIPs out of my basket and off my needles. But in the meantime, we’re coming into autumn, or Knitter’s Paradise, and I’m happy to have my hands full of wool again.

The Afterthought Heel

For the most part, I’ve got a tried-and-true system for sock knitting: figure-8 cast-on, kf&b increases set in one stitch from the edges on every other row, short-row heel, 1×1 or 2×2 ribbing with stretchy bind-off. It makes satisfying, wonderfully-fitting socks that I can knit effortlessly.

I had a nagging feeling like I wanted to try other toes and heels, just to broaden my sock vocabulary, as it were, but any time I planned such a deviation from my formula, laziness or inconvenience would prevail, and I’d revert to what I knew.

A pair of rainbow stripe socks (heeee!!!) finally gave occasion for learning a new heel technique, as I didn’t want to interrupt the delightful, cheery striping sequence to do the toe-up short row heel I typically favor.

I found the most wonderful, incredible afterthought heel tutorial on Jobo Designs, which explained not only the technique, but the overall progress of working an afterthought heel.

I used the waste-yarn method described. I was knitting toe-up (as usual), so I knit the foot until I reached the point on my ankle where I would ordinarily begin my short-row heel. I then worked half the stitches (two needles’ worth when I was working on four) using waste yarn.

You then drop the waste yarn, move back to the beginning of that portion and knit the waste yarn with your working yarn (my rainbow). It made a happy little zip across the back of my sock, which looked like this on the inside:

(Bonus: I could clearly visualize how knitting forms fabrics from loops – magic!)

I knit up the leg and cuff to my desired length, bound off, and then came back to the heel. I think if I were a newer knitter, I might not have had the nerve to pull out my waste yarn zip, but it was really no trouble to gently remove it and pick up the stitches on each side of the gap it created.

Once again, I got to see the structure of knitted fabric from one row’s point of view, which kind of fascinated me.

After picking up all the stitches, I essentially worked a sock toe, but located on the heel. I fumbled for a second about how one works a top-down toe, since I almost never do them, when I remembered that it is literally the reverse of a toe-up toe: decrease stitches set in one stitch from each edge on every other row, until you have about 40% of your stitches (in my case I went to 12) in the middle. Then graft it shut with Kitchener stitch.

Is it the easiest, most awesome heel I’ve knit? Well no, not exactly, but it was still vastly more enjoyable than any top-down flapped heel I’ve worked. More to the point, the afterthought heel let me preserve my striping pattern on the body of the sock and choose the colors I wanted to insert at the heel.

Oh did you think I was going to give away how great it looks now?? No, no, I’m saving that for the FO pics!

Forgotten FO: Oh So Nikki Socks

I was cruising by my own blog, wondering how long it had been since I’d posted (much too long again, as expected), and I realized, with quite some embarrassment, that there was a pair of socks I finished nigh on a year ago but neglected to ever post here!

Please allow me to present my Oh So Nikki Socks, a wonderfully enjoyable, fast pattern, which I knit in a delightfully happy self-striping yarn.

Pattern: Oh So Nikki Socks by Judy Sumner, a free pattern available as a PDF on Ravelry. My project page is here.
Size: US women’s 9
Yarn: Knit Picks Felici 4-ply fingering weight, in Aurora, 75% Merino wool / 25% nylon; I used less than 2 balls, approximately 80 grams, which was roughly 350 yards/ 320 meters
Needles: Knit Picks size 1.5 (2.5 mm) DPNs, set of 5
Modifications: worked toe-up with a short-row heel

Started: February 20, 2010
Finished: March 21, 2010

These socks were a second entry into the Sock Knitters Anonymous February 2010 challenge, featuring under-appreciated patterns. To qualify, patterns were required to have less than 15 projects in Ravelry, and at the time I started these, I believe I was project #3. I was surprised more knitters hadn’t tried this pattern out, since it was so fast and enjoyable, with high-impact results.

I thought the short floats of slipped stitches which comprise the bar-like stitch pattern on every other row would add a bit of texture and visual interest to a self-striping sock yarn, without competing with the striping pattern.

I like the somewhat staccato rhythm the alternating sets of threes gives to the columns of stripes.

Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t obsessively match the stripes. I know self-striping yarns aren’t for everyone, but to me, they are endlessly amusing. I find the colors of Felici uniquely special, and I think it is a lovely yarn all around. After the utter joy of knitting these socks, I made sure to treat myself to a few more balls.

I was tickled that I was able to start the toes and heels on the colors I did, and I knew I wanted to end on the teal, so that worked out perfectly.

As I’ve said several times now, the stitch pattern was crazy fast, in part because it was so delightfully addictive. I whipped through these in a very short amount of time, which always adds to my satisfaction with a project. It was important to me that these socks be absolutely stress-free, since I was working on them while taking breaks from my art history master’s thesis, and I had zero brainpower or energy to spare for knitting complications.

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To make them toe-up, I did a figure-8 cast-on and, of course, my favorite short-row heel. Obviously, the stitch pattern inverted effortlessly.

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As I related in my first post about these socks, the pattern was initially conceived for the designer’s granddaughter, and I wanted to keep that spirit of youth and playfulness to them. The yarn was just delightful to work with, and I think the end product was sufficiently charming and a burst of joy in my knitting life last spring.

If you are looking for a fun, fast, enjoyable project, I definitely recommend this pattern in a bright, colorful yarn. I hope your socks will make you as instantly cheerful as these make me.

Previous Entries on this Project:
Two new cast-ons

FO – Fern Pattern Socks (Farnmustersocken)

When I photographed the last five pairs of socks I’d knit in one session, my father apparently asked my mother, “Just how many pairs of socks has she knit while procrastinating her thesis??” While I clarified that those were socks spread out over the past year or more, I also had to sheepishly admit that yes, there were two more pairs.

As my love of green lace is extensive and well-documented, I have to say, I really don’t see myself getting tired of it.

Pattern: Fern Pattern Socks (Farnmustersocken) by Diana Harrison, from the German magazine Wollke7; my project is here on Ravelry
Size: US women’s 9
Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss Sock 4-ply fingering weight, in Jade, 70% wool / 30% silk; I used 83.7 grams, which was approximately 367.4 yards/ 336 meters
Needles: Knit Picks size 2 (2.75 mm) DPNs, set of 5
Modifications: worked toe-up with a short-row heel

Started: February 7, 2010
Finished: March 14, 2010

I knit these as part of the Under-appreciated Patterns challenge for Sock Knitters Anonymous on Ravelry. The criteria for this challenge included that there must be less than 15 projects at the time of cast-on for a pattern to be considered under-appreciated, and in this instance, my project was the third.

I figured the reason it was obscure was because it was written in German, though I’m surprised more German-speaking sock knitters hadn’t picked up on it. Because the lace pattern was charted out, I found a very helpful German to English Symbol Knitting site that made quick sense of it, which combined with Google Translator helped me sort out all the relevant details. No longer will I be put off by patterns written in another language, with the internet here to help me!

This pattern has a lot of pluses for my personal preferences. The repeats are simple and short, yet long enough that you only need to work a few over each round. The fern shapes are built by two 8-row sequences of essentially the same pattern, shifted left or right, so the stitches and sequence of working them are almost the same. The only even remotely tricky part is that at the start of the 15th row on the chart, a stitch must be moved from the previous needle to make the pattern work. I wondered how that was going to work out, then just did what it said, and I had my answer: effortlessly.

In addition to being great fun to knit, this type of lace also has a strong visual impact and dimensionality without getting too distracting. I enjoyed working it in a solid color so that from a distance, they’d be sort of sedate, but up close you could really see the stitches, unobscured.

Working on larger than my usual needles, with the somewhat beefier Gloss yarn, made these socks move pretty quickly. I knit most of them while I was in bed sick with bronchitis (yuck), but even through a codeine haze I could tell I was going to be happy with the finished product.

I worked my standard toe starting with a figure-8 cast-on, then a short-row heel. I have to say I really love the way this yarn works at this gauge, as it makes for really neat structural elements that feel great on the feet.

I look forward to wearing these often and continuing to spread the love for green lace socks.

Previous Entries on this Project:
Neue Socken