Knitty: little purls of wisdom
Open Road Media
beauty shot

To me, nothing says "happy" better than a cheerful pair of patterned socks.

I love to wear handknit socks in the fall, and I love to knit small pattern repeats; Solidago combines these two loves. I flipped through my own book 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory, to find a perfect 8-stitch pattern repeat. For color, I chose the hues of a fall meadow.

The colorwork looks more complex than it actually is, employing only 4 colors and never more than two in any round, ideal for those new to Fair Isle knitting and interesting enough for more experienced knitters. Half the fun is trying out different colorways and socks are the perfect vehicle for this.

I used beautiful Harrisville American Shetland yarn which comes in a million fabulous colors. Since the skeins are large, you'll have yarn left over, perfect for working another pair with a different color arrangement, see what you can come up with! Solidago is the Latin term for the goldenrod plant, whose name means, "to strengthen or make whole". May your new socks make you strong!

spacer photos: Erik Scott
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Adult S[M, L]

Ankle and foot circumference: 8[9, 10] inches
Leg length: 7.5 inches, or adjustable to fit
Foot length: 8[8.75, 9.25] inches, or adjustable to fit.



Harrisville American Shetland [100% Pure Virgin Wool; 217/m per 50g skein]
spacer [MC] gold: #61 Goldenrod; 1 [2, 2] skein(s)
spacer [CC1] maroon: #36 Garnet; 1 [1, 1, 1] skein
spacer [CC2] red: #63 Scarlet; 1 [1, 1, 1] skein
spacer [CC3] pale yellow:#6 Cornsilk; 1 [1, 1, 1] skein

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer 1 set US 2/2.75mm needles
spacer 1 set US 3/3.25mm needles

spacer stitch marker
spacer Yarn needle

28 sts/32 rounds = 4 inches in stockinette stitch on smaller needle
28 sts/26 rounds = 4 inches in Fair Isle pattern stitch on larger needle

[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

The cheerful pattern on these socks is worked in Fair Isle-style stranded colorwork, with only two colors in every round. Strand the color not in use loosely across the wrong side of the piece.

Stranded colorwork results in a tighter gauge than plain stockinette stitch, therefore the Fair Isle section of the socks is worked on the larger sized needles. The ribbing and plain stockinette stitch sections are worked on the smaller sized needles.

Instructions for grafting can be found here.

Directions and tips for stranded colorwork (Fair Isle) can be found here.

With MC and smaller needles, CO 48[56, 64] sts. Distribute sts as you prefer and join for working in the round, being careful not to twist. Note or mark start of round.

Ribbing round: [K1, p1] around.
Work ribbing as set for 1.5 inches.

Final cuff round, Sizes S & L only: [(K1, p1) 3[-, 4] times, m1] 8 times around. 56[-, 72] sts.

Final cuff round, Size M only: [(K1, p1) 3 times, k1, m1, (p1, k1) 3 times, p1, m1] 4 times around. 64 sts.

Change to larger needles.

Work 3 rnds in MC.

Work Rnds 1-13 of Fair Isle chart, joining and breaking colors as required.

Change to smaller needles and work 1 inch in MC.

Heel Flap
Turn so that WS is facing. Break MC. Join CC1 -- heel flap and turn are worked only in this color.

Row 1 [WS]: P28[32, 36], turn.
Row 2 [RS]: [Sl 1, k1] 14[16, 18] times, turn.
Row 3 [WS]: Sl 1, p27[31, 35], turn.
Work Rows 2-3 13[15, 17] more times.

Heel Turn
Row 1 [RS]: Sl 1, k14[16, 18] ssk, k1, turn.
Row 2 [WS]: Sl 1, p3, p2tog, p1, turn.
Note: There will be 6 center stitches and 10 (12, 14) sts on each end after each gap.

Row 3 [RS]: Sl 1, k4, ssk (1 st from each side of gap), k1, turn.
Row 4 [WS]: Sl 1, p5, p2tog (1 st from each side of gap), p1, turn.
Row 5 [RS]: Sl 1, k6, ssk, k1 turn.
Row 6 [RS]: Sl 1, p7, p2tog, p1, turn.
Row 7 [RS]: Sl 1, k8, ssk, k1 turn.
Row 8 [RS]: Sl 1, p9, p2tog, p1, turn.
Row 9 [RS]: Sl 1, k10, ssk, k1 turn.
Row 10 [RS]: Sl 1, p11, p2tog, p1, turn.
Row 11 [RS]: Sl 1, k12, ssk, k1 turn.
Row 12 [RS]: Sl 1, p13, p2tog, p1, turn.

Size M and L only:
Row 13 [RS]: Sl 1, k14, ssk, k1 turn.
Row 14 [RS]: Sl 1, p15, p2tog, p1, turn.

Size L only:
Row 15 [RS]: Sl 1, k16, ssk, k1 turn.
Row 16 [RS]: Sl 1, p17, p2tog, p1, turn.

16 [18, 20] sts rem. Break heel (CC1) yarn.

With RS facing, rejoin MC at start of heel sts.
Gusset setup round: K16[18, 20] heel sts; with RS facing, pick up and knit 14[16, 18] sts along first side of heel flap, using slipped sts as a guide. Knit across instep sts. Pick up and knit 14[16, 18] sts along second side of heel flap, using slipped sts as a guide. K8[9, 10] sts. You"re at the center of the heel -- this is the new start of round.

Gusset round 1: K to 3 sts before instep, k2tog, k1; knit across instep sts; k1, ssk, k to end of round. 2 sts decreased.
Gusset round 2: Knit.

Rep Gusset rounds 1-2 7[8, 9] more times. 56[64, 72] sts remain

Knit even until foot measures 6[6.5, 7] inches from back of heel, or 2[2.25, 2.25] inches less than desired total foot length.
Break MC.

Rejoin CC1. Sock is finished in CC1.

Toe round 1: K to 3 sts before instep, k2tog, k1; k1, ssk, k to 3 sts before end of instep, k2tog, k1; k1, ssk, k to end of round. 4 sts decreased.
Toe round 2: Knit.

Rep Toe rounds 1-2 5[7, 9] more times, until 32 sts remain. Work Toe round 1 4 more times. 16 sts rem.

Setup for Graft: Knit to start of instep.


Use Kitchener Stitch to graft the two sets of eight stitches together.

Weave in all loose ends. Snug up the stitches in the corners of the gusset, where the heel meets the leg of your sock, if you need to. Wash your pretty new socks in tepid water with a mild soap. Rinse thoroughly. Gently squeeze out moisture then carefully press between towels to absorb excess moisture. Dry on sock blockers, or press gently into shape and dry flat.


Mary Jane is the author of 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory (Interweave Press). Yes indeed, she did knit all 200 swatches, though she confesses that her wrists got a little bit tired. She had so much fun, she did it again -- Scandinavian style! 150 Scandinavian Motifs: The Knitter's Directory (Interweave Press) will be out August 2013. Also look for Fair Isle Style: 20 Fresh Designs for a Classic Technique (Interweave Press), a curated collection of Fair Isle inspired designs by 18 popular designers.

Be sure to visit Mary Jane at her website, and check out her class on Craftsy -- "The Fair Isle Vest: Stranded and Steeked" or find her teaching fun and informative classes at a knitting event near you!