Sock Workshop

This workshop was originally presented the week of October 1, 2006. The following is a collection of three posts that introduced the workshop:

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

The appearance of a lot of complicated-looking things is an illusion. In hand knitting, you can only work one stitch at a time. One stitch builds upon another so that the end product appears complicated or simple depending upon what you did with each stitch. Those of us who let ourselves be stopped because something looks complicated miss out on a lot of fun. Many knitters will see this sock as fairly simple, but some have the words, “I can’t do that” running through the back of their minds. Yes you can. If you can work a knit stitch you can do it.

This sock workshop will lead you through this pattern in small steps. You can ask questions and share ideas by selecting the responses link. You may print the pattern found at this LINK. If you are a “can’t” person, don’t look any farther than the yarn and needle specifications. Then find two balls of yarn in your stash or at a local store.

A word about yarn weight — socks need to be firmer than other garments so that they wear well and don’t migrate in your shoe. That is why the needle size is smaller than you would expect to use with the yarn weight that is specified. Any yarn that wears well will do — you don’t necessarily need to see the word “sock” on the label. Also, If you prefer using two circular needles or the magic loop method instead of a 5-needle sock set, those will work just as well.

In addition to knitting a sock during this workshop, you will have the opportunity to learn (if you don’t already know these things) features of gansey knitting, pattern reading, chart reading, and maybe some new techniques.

Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.
Mark Twain

If you’ve printed the PDF file for this pattern, you will see a paragraph about my inspiration for this sock design. In her book, Knitting Ganseys, Beth Brown-Reinsel discusses the details that makes sweater construction identifiably Gansey — welts, plain area, definition welt, patterning, seam stitches, gusset. This sock design displays those features including the split in the welt. The gusset for the heel is worked like an underarm gusset, then turned with a short-row technique. This allows ample ease for heel shaping. An enterprising knitter may even choose to include initials in the plain area near the top. By the time you get to the heel turn on this sock, you will have mastered all of the aspects of knitting a gansey.

Knitting Traditions is Beth’s web site and you might enjoy browsing her patterns.

The most damaging phrase in the language is:
“It’s always been done that way.”

[Grace Hopper]

Admiral Grace Hopper (today’s quote) would be 100 years old this year. A most remarkable woman, she was in the Navy after most people would have retired since she had essential skills. Among her many accomplishments, she programmed the first modern computers. I admire her attitude. When someone says, “It’s always been done that way,” I ask, “Why?” If the answer is valid, I do it that way too. If not, I experiment with other ways.

Since knitting can be considered a folk art, people can do it any way they choose as long as they are satisfied with the end results. I knit a garment recently using the method taught by Andrea Wong. It is completely different than I’ve done before and I enjoy knitting textured patterns that way. I usually carry my yarn over my right index finger—when knitting two colors, I carry two yarns over my right index finger. I’ve tried continental technique and my tension isn’t consistantly smooth. I taught myself to knit with a smooth tension by using acrylic yarn. What you see with acrylic yarn as you knit, is what you are usually going to get when you are finished blocking the piece.

There are only a couple of things I feel strongly about with knitting. The first is teaching a left-handed person to knit left-handed (meaning, teaching them to do everything the opposite direction). Please don’t. It isn’t that it is wrong to do it that way—it is because it makes it difficult to follow most patterns. They have to be able to transpose the instructions like transposing to another key when reading music. I’m left-handed and see knitting as a two-handed skill like crocheting or playing the piano. When people learn a new skill, they are likely to feel awkward no matter which hand they use. The awkwardness will pass if they are fascinated enough to persevere.

My other opinion has to do with reading patterns. I’ve read discussions about standardizing abbreviations and chart symbols. K is knit and P is purl in English so they are standardized to a certain extent but, as long as there is a key to tell us what things mean, it doesn’t really matter. Here is the key for the abbreviations used in the pattern for our workshop sock:

st(s) – stitch(s)
sl – slip stitch
k – knit
kb – knit in back of stitch
p – purl
ssk – slip, slip, knit 2 together
k2tog – knit 2 together
p2tog – purl 2 together
ytf – yarn to front
ytb – yarn to back

For most knitters, the only one that might need explaination is the slip stitch. In this pattern, it means slip as if to knit (so that the left leg of the slipped stitch falls in front of the needle).

We will discuss chart symbols when we get to them. I know that some people strongly dislike using charts but I use them for two reasons. First, I like to visualize where I’m going and charts help me do that. For me, it is like reading a map. The other reason has to do with languages. I only read English. My son brought me yarn and a pattern from Norway. I was able to knit the garment by looking at the photograph and following the chart. I had the same experience with a set of Japanese lace patterns. The chart key was also in Japanese but the symbols depicted the stitch maneuvers so well that I was able to knit the piece of lace just using the chart.

14 thoughts on “Sock Workshop”

  1. Thank you, Katherine for this workshop. It’s my goal to work on socks this fall. I have been intimidated by them up to now, but I got a set of double pointed needles and some sock yarn – two skeins of blueish and two skeins of reddish yarns. I’m hoping that the variations in the yarn color will not obscure your wonderful pattern. Because I wear socks everyday, I want to learn how to make beautiful and long wearing socks. Thank you again. Sonja

  2. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging
    on websites I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be interesting to read through articles
    from other writers and practice something from other sites.

  3. Angela Childress said:

    I want to thank you so much for the wonderful online workshop and the pictures and your pattern. I just finished my first ever sock, and about to finish the second one to complete the pair. I love your gusset. I was really intimidated about knitting socks, and your workshop made it so easy.

    Thank you!

  4. Thank you for your comment.

    Actually, I use two heels that are similar in theory. Both increase for heel ease before the heel turn instead of making a flap and picking up stitches. Here is a link to two sock patterns that use the heel I usually use (I call it a “non-stop heel”). I usually use the “gusset-style” (that puts the heel ease at the back of the sock) on textured socks that are reminiscent of Gansey sweaters.

    My name is so difficult for most people. I simply enjoy sharing the technique with other knitters and don’t need credit for it unless someone wants to mention it. I wanted a heel technique that would make a sharp turn but not be fiddley to work like a peasant heel or a flap heel. I experimented until I got to working heels like this.

    Do have fun knitting,

  5. thetexturedknitter said:


    If I read the above correctly, the gusset style of this sock is your own invention, adapted from gansey sweater underarm construction? If so, have you named this construction, or should it be called “the Misegades heel” like we now have “the Fleegle heel” for toe-up socks?

    I first encountered it in a pattern by Anne Campbell, who said she got it from r Tongue River Farm Sock Collection. They’re the best-fitting socks I’ve ever made! I’m going to substitute this heel into other patterns whenever possible, and want to give proper credit for it.

  6. Hello! great idea of color of this siyte!

  7. Nice information on your blog…good job.

  8. I was surprised to see that you wrote about Grace Hopper without mentioning that she was an avid knitter. She was, indeed a great mathematician and the first female navy admiral. She is known to have carried her knitting everywhere, ticking off male colleagues at every turn.


    This web page has videos and everything. See if it will help.

  10. Hi Katherine,
    I’m really hoping you can give me a explanation on how to “knit in the front and back of a stitch”. I’m working on a sock pattern, and I just can’t seem to figure it out. If you have any diagrams to help me, that would be great, as I’m a visual learner! I don’t want to give up a pattern over one crazy stitch instruction!!!
    Many thanks!
    ps. I think my next step will be your sock workshop online! What a great idea!

  11. There is a workshop for this sock pattern — the links to each lesson is at the bottom of the left column on my blog. It includes the following information for the join which is on the 8th row (at the end of the row):

    Row 8—k52 (distribute to 4 needles), Join to work in the round: overlap last 3 sts on right needle behind first 3 sts on left needle then k2tog three times (1 st from front needle with 1 st from back needle each time).

    Distributing the stitches to the four needles makes the strip of knitting flexible so you can make the start of the round meet the end of the round. You will be overlapping the three sts at the beginning of the row (on the first needle) in front of the three sts at the end of the row (on the 4th needle). Another way to do it would be to use an extra needle as follows (slip as if to purl):

    • Slip the last 3 sts of the row onto the 4th (needle without knitting them).
    • Slip the first 2 sts of the row off of the first needle onto the extra needle.
    • Holding the welt so that the first needle meets the last needle, slip the last stitch of the row (it is unknit and at the left end of the fourth needle) onto the first needle.
    • Then slip the closest of the 2 sts that are on the extra needle back on to the first needle.
    • Slip the next stitch off of the 4th needle onto the first needle.
    • Then slip the remaining stitch from the extra needle next to that.
    • Slip the next stitch off of the 4th needle onto the first needle.

    You will have rearranged the stitches so that every-other one is from the last (4th) needle. Work k2tog three times.

    I hope this helps. Do let me know if it is still not clear.

  12. Hi,
    I got your beautiful gansey sock pattern from the 2007 knitting pattern calendar, and I don’t see how you join the top of the sock (the first 7 rounds) into a circle. (Do you join it after you join the sock together at the 8th row? And if so, how?) I studied the pattern in the calendar and on:, and read your instructions, and even asked a knitting instructor for help. Can you please provide some more help? Either words or a detailed photo of the back of the top of the sock would greatly be appreciated. Thank you.

  13. Hi Katherine. I printed the pattern from page 7 backwards and needless to say it made no sense . I think that I read in there that you cast on 52,55,56,72 stitches I’m going to reprint thanks a millionI guess thats my ambidextrous brain from knitting both handed Barbara.

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