Knitty: little purls of wisdom
The Loopy Ewe
beauty shot


Winter is coming, and depending on where you live, you may need a pair of really warm socks to keep your lower limbs cozy and root you in a sense of well-being. These socks are warm, mysterious, and can use up lots of leftover sock yarn, gathering up happy sock memories. A separate diamond-shaped shield with a duplicate-stitched image is sewn to the leg and tied in the back. You can use the infinity symbol I chose, or anything that sparks your heart.

You can knit these stockinette, ribbed-cuff socks using any basic sock pattern—toe-up, top-down, sideways (for sideways try Janel Laidman’s The Eclectic Sole, or her new book, The Enchanted Sole).

The bronze-colored sample shown at left uses the extremely simple method I present in my latest book, Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters.

This new method allows socks to be worked 100% in the round (not a purl in sight, unless used as a design element!) which, along with the ease of knitting and perfect fit, makes this method unique.

For those who prefer a traditional-style top-down heel-flap sock, I've provided a pattern below [the cream-colored sock] with a few unique twists that improve the fine points of a sock: one is an ssp decrease instead of a p2tog in the heel turn, which I introduced in Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles, but which so far as I can tell has not been widely adopted in the general sock world. It creates a smooth surface on the heel turn which is a lovely thing to behold, instead of the cross-hatched version everyone else uses (and it probably wears better too). The other improvement is the ssk line on the gusset. The pattern instructions below ask you to knit the former ssk through the back loop on "plain" rounds, which takes the wobble out of this line. If you'd like to also snug up your ssk line to match your sleek, smooth k2tog line perfectly, watch my YouTube video to learn a technique I call "Hungry Stitch". This common-sense technique can be used any time you need to snug up loose stitches, and works like a charm.

Synergy Shield socks may be knit of any yarn, in any gauge. For extra warmth and durability I’ve double-stranded several sock yarns—one main color (Bronze) is occasionally joined by leftovers in another colorway (Mombasa). To make the color changes gradual, work several rounds with 1 strand of each colorway, then switch to both strands of the new colorway. Part of the charm is the synergy between the colorways and the intentional different placement of colors in the two socks. Only human beings want everything in matching pairs, and the truth is that if you allow spontaneous variation in the designs of two socks, an energy arises which is more than the sum of its parts (the definition of synergy).

spacer photos: Amy Singer

Sock measures 6.5 [7.5, 8.5] inches around foot.

The Shield is 7 inches tall and 9 inches wide when worn. Unstretched, it is 6 inches wide and 8.5 inches long. All measurements indicate diamond tip to tip.


The Shield is 7 inches tall and 9 inches wide when worn. Unstretched, it is 6 inches wide and 8.5 inches long. All measurements indicate diamond tip to tip.


Yarn used for both the socks and the shield:
Dark version
shown above
spacer Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 [100% merino; 355yd/ per 115g skein]; color: Bronze; 2 skeins, and partial skeins of colors Mombasa and Ivory (I darkened the ivory a bit with some tea after knitting).

Light version shown below
spacer Fleece Artist Sea Wool [70% wool, 30% seacell; 382yd per 115g skein]; color: Ivory; 2 skeins.

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 #3/3.25 mm double-point needles
spacer 1 long US #3/3.25 mm circular needle for magic loop method
spacer 2 US #3/3.25 mm circular needles, 24 inches or longer

spacer Yarn needle


26 sts/34 rounds = 4 inches in stockinette stitch in the round

These socks are meant for winter, so to make them warmer, I knit with a double strand of fingering-weight yarn. You could substitute a single strand of sport-weight yarn if it works up well at the same gauge.


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


I chose the infinity sign after much musing about what to use as an image. I considered words, stars, trees, a sliver of moon—you could use anything that will fit. The infinity sign is beautiful, ancient, and reflects the endless variety of sock designs, strategies, and architectures that are possible. The finer your gauge, the more detailed your design can be.

You must start with the Synergy Shield itself, because its vertical height lets you know how tall to make the leg of your socks. You’ll knit about 5 inches of three-stitch-I-cord, and then begin increasing a few stitches in from each edge, working in garter stitch. After about an inch, you’ll begin the stockinette oval that fills shield’s center, keeping the edges in garter stitch. This oval becomes your duplicate stitch canvas. Alternatively, you could work an image in intarsia. To find images, browse stitch dictionaries, convert cross stitch designs, or draw images on graph paper. Because of the way the shield stretches around the leg, when worn your stitches are pulled nearly square, like graph paper, so what you draw will closely resemble your stitching.

Work shield increases as instructed until you can hold the needle holding the stitches along the center front of your leg and pull the corner with the I-cord tie to the center of the back. This half diamond should stretch from center front to center back. Write down the number you increased to so you’ll remember to make the second shield the same size. Then begin decreasing as instructed.


(Worked in Bronze, double-stranded like the socks)

Cast on 3 sts and knit 5 inches of I-Cord, ensuring that when you’re done you’re in position to work the RS.

As you’re working, slip all sts with yarn in front, as if to purl. Then move yarn to back to begin knitting.

Row 1 [RS]: Sl1, kfb twice, k1. (5 sts)

Row 2 and all WS rows: Sl1, k to end.

Row 3 [RS]: Sl1, kfb twice, k to end. (7 sts)

Row 5 [RS]: Sl1, k1, kfb twice, k to end. (9 sts)

Row 7 [RS]: Sl1, k1, kfb, k until only 4 sts rem, kfb, k3.

Repeat Rows 6 and 7 until st total reaches 21, ending with a completed RS Row 7.

Next part:
Row 1 [WS]: Sl1, k8, p3, k9. (21 sts)

Row 2 and all RS rows: Sl1, k1, kfb, k until only 4 sts rem, kfb, k3. (23 sts)

Row 3 [WS]: Sl1, k7, p7, k8.

Row 5 [WS]: Sl1, k6, p11, k7. (25 sts)

Row 7 [WS]: Sl1, k6, p13, k7. (27 sts)

Row 9 [WS]: Sl1, k6, p until only 7 sts rem, k7. (31 sts)

Row 10 [RS]: Sl1, k1, kfb, k until only 4 sts rem, kfb, k3. (33 sts)

Repeat Rows 9 and 10 until desired shield width is achieved.

Make sure to measure it by pulling it around half of your leg at the tension you wish to wear it, making sure that the sts are held at the center front of the leg and the corner with the I-Cord reaches the center back. The width will compress as you stretch it this way, so measure the compressed width.

Next part:
Row 1 [WS]: Sl1, k6, p until only 7 sts rem, k7.

Row 2 [RS]: Sl1, k2, k2tog, k until only 5 sts rem, ssk, k3. (2 fewer sts)

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until only 23 sts rem, ending with a completed RS row.

Row 1 [WS]: Sl1, k7, p7, k8. (23 sts)
Rows 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 [RS]: Sl1, k2, k2tog, k until only 5 sts rem, ssk, k3. (2 fewer sts)
Row 3 [WS]: Sl1, k8, p3, k9. (21 sts)
Rows 5 and all following WS rows: Sl1, k to end.
Row 16 [RS]: Sl1, k1, k2tog, k1, ssk, k2. (7 sts)
Row 18 [RS]: Sl1, k2tog, k1, ssk, k1. (5 sts)
Row 20 [RS]: Sl1, k2tog twice. Do not turn. (3 sts)
Slide 3 sts back to left needle and begin working I-cord same length as first I-cord.
Duplicate stitch your image on the shields, following the chart, using a contrasting color of yarn. Or use your own design!
Knit the socks:
The bronze socks shown above use the method taught in Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters. The cream socks shown below use the pattern that follows. No matter what sock pattern you use, remember to read leg instructions below to be sure your sock leg is the right length for your shield.

Cat's Simple-but-elegant top-down socks

Cast on 42[48, 54] sts. Join in the round, taking care not to twist cast-on edge, repeat [k1, p1, k1] to end of round.
Repeat this round until cuff measures about 2 inches.

Knit all stitches until leg measures about 1 inch taller than the vertical height of the synergy shield (to measure, first tie completed shield around leg and smooth shield out vertically, so it matches the size it will be when worn).

Heel flap:
Isolate 22[24, 26] stitches on one needle or cable section if you’re working on circulars (letting the remaining stitches rest on another needle(s) or cable section) and work in rows on this needle or cable section alone:
Row 1 [RS]: Repeat [slip 1 pwise wyib, k1] 11[12, 13] times, turn.
Row 2 [WS]: Slip 1 pwise wyib, p21[23, 25], turn.
Repeat Rows 1 and 2 another 10 [12, 14] times—11 [13, 15] chain selvedge stitches.

Heel turn:
Continue to work in rows on this needle or cable section alone.

Note: the SSP decrease (instead of the traditional p2tog) creates a significantly smoother heel turn, quite possibly resolving a mystery you have been wondering about for years. To work an SSP, with yarn in front, slip 2 sts 1 at a time knitwise to right needle. Replace sts on left needle, sliding them from right tip to left tip. Insert right needle from left to right (through second st, then first st) through back loops of both sts and purl them together.

Row 1 [RS]: Knit 13[14, 15], k2tog, k1, turn.
Row 2 [WS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, p5, SSP, p1, turn.
Row 3 [RS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, k6, k2tog, k1, turn.
Row 4 [WS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, p7, SSP, p1, turn.
Row 5 [RS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, k8, k2tog, k1, turn.
Row 6 [WS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, p9, SSP, p1, turn.
Row 7 [RS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, k10, k2tog, k1, turn.
Row 8 [WS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, p11, SSP, p1, turn.

Small size only: 14 sts remain.
Row 9 [RS]: Knit 7, place marker to indicate new start of round, k7. Go on to gusset.

Medium size only:
Row 9 [RS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, k12, k2tog, turn.
Row 10 [WS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, p12, SSP, turn—14 sts remain.
Row 11 [RS]: Knit 7, place marker to indicate new start of round, k7 . Go on to gusset.

Large size only:
Row 11 [RS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, k12, k2tog, k1, turn.
Row 12 [WS]: Slip 1 pwise wyif, p13, SSP, p1, turn—16 sts remain.
Row 13 [WS]: Knit 8, plac
e marker to indicate new start of round, k8. Gusset
Pick up and knit 1 st in each loop along adjacent heel flap edge, then 1 st tbl in intersection—12[14, 16] sts total along edge—place first marker, k 20[24, 28], place second marker, pick up and knit 1 st tbl in intersection and then 1 in each loop along adjacent heel flap edge—12[14, 16] sts total along edge—knit to start of round marker. Total sts—58[66, 76].

Round 1: Knit to 2 sts before first marker, k2tog, k to second marker, ssk, k to end of rnd—2 sts decreased.

Round 2: Note: knitting the ssk (which was worked in round 1) through the back loop will take the wobble out of your ssk line. If you’d like to also know how to tighten up your ssk’s using the Hungry Stitch, watch my Youtube video.

Knit to second marker, k1tbl, k to end of Round.

Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until stitch total is reduced to 42[48, 54].

Work even until when you try sock on -- it needs only another 1.25 [1.6, 2] inches to reach desired foot length.

Divide sts into 6 equal groups by placing markers or needle/cable intersections every 7 [8, 9] stitches.

Round 1: Repeat 6 times: k until 2 sts remain before next marker, k2tog—6 sts decreased.

Rounds 2-3: Knit.

Repeat Rounds 1-3 until stitch total is reduced to 36.

Repeat Rounds 1-2 another 3 times—18 sts remain.

Repeat Round 1 twice more—6 sts remain.

Cut 12 inch tail, thread through tapestry needle and weave through remaining 6 sts.
Pull tight and weave end in securely.

Put the socks on and tie the shields in place. Center and smooth shields to your satisfaction, then use safety pins to attach just the top and bottom corners to the sock. Remove socks from your feet and sew these corners (only the corners) to sock. Weave in all ends.


Cat Bordhi’s bed has foot-shaped indentations because she keeps standing up and jumping out of bed in the middle of the night with new knitting ideas. That, and a love of getting lost and making mistakes account for most of her original ideas.

Her latest book, Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters, can be found at your local yarn shop.