When it comes to socks, I like the simplest ones best. Yes, like you, I’m attracted to beautiful designs with colorwork, lace, cables, and unusual heel and toe shapes. I knit all of these socks for fun. But the socks I wear are simple socks with ribbing and stockinette stitch and an easy heel and toe.
These socks are featured in the preview excerpt of Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions. (The preview is on Ravelry now, and the full book is in production now and going to the printer later this year. If you purchase the preview, with 3 patterns and the introduction with my personal story and the story of June Hall, my co author, the $10 price will count toward a future purchase of the final book.)
They are two of my favorite pairs of socks that I’ve ever made. They buck trends because they are so plain, with a basic ribbed cuff, and stockinette-stitch with stripes and pooling hand-painted yarn on the leg and foot.
Sometimes I work the ribbing down to the ankle. Sometimes I also run the ribbing down the top of the foot all the way to the toe shaping. In these socks, following the photos of vintage socks from Lithuania, I only knit the cuff in ribbing and worked most of the leg and the entire foot in stockinette stitch.
I also worked on very small needles to get nice firm, tiny stitches. That makes the socks feel really good and also gives them extra strength. Working at a loose gauge is great for sweaters and scarves, but it doesn’t give socks the structure or longevity that I want.
This black and white photo is from the English-language 1979 book Lithuanian National Costume by Antanas and Anastasia Tamošaitis and the Lithuanian-language 1939 book Lietuvių moterų tautiniai drabužiai, Sodžiaus menas 7-8 (Lithuanian Women’s National Costume, Country Arts vol. 7 & 8) by Antanas Tamošaitis. The photo is meant to show the shoes, but you can very clearly see the simple striped stockinette-stitch socks in the picture.
I made my stripes different widths for variety, and because I’ve seen different stripe patterns in Lithuanian vintage socks in other books and museum collections. But I kept the design simple and used the most basic heel and toe construction, one that would have been memorized by knitters when they were still young girls, and that would most likely have been used on every pair of socks they made, whether for holiday wear or everyday wear. These simple socks would be the every day variety. You don’t find many of them in museum collections because they were work to pieces and they’re rarely featured in books because they’re not as exciting as the ornately detailed holiday socks.
Another fascinating photo I found in the same books is this one, showing crocheted shoes which were worn by poorer people who could not afford shoes from better materials, and socks that are quite obviously hand-dyed in a resist method that created a self-striping design. The description says the socks are red with white stripes. The pattern is uneven and not truly self striping the way we would use the term today, but it still creates the effect of “stripy-ness” quite effectively.
I used a hand-dyed yarn from Holiday Yarns for my version and let the yarn pool however it wanted to. I was tempted to fudge on the sock on the right and make it come out more stripy but I actually like pooling yarns and watching what happens as you change the number of stitches and patterns in the sock as the pooling changes, so I left it. I know some knitters would be driven to distraction by this, but I love these socks. In fact, they may be my favorite pair from the book.
This pattern is available now in the preview excerpt of Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions (on Ravelry), and the full book is in production now and going to the printer later this year. To be notified when it comes out, sign up for my mailing list.