Directions for Making Socks: My First Historic Knitting Project

Firstly, let me say a huge, big THANK YOU to everyone who has checked out my blog or followed me this week! My friend over at Knitter Nerd said many nice things about me, and now the pressure is on to live up to them!  Thanks Polo for sharing my blog and posts, and I wish you so much luck with the Knitter Nerd re-launch!  Please make sure you check out her amazing blog, if you haven’t already!

As Polo mentioned, I work at a small community museum in my hometown, and I am a complete history junkie.  My love for history has crept its way into my knitting addiction, and I have recreated two patterns found in Godey’s magazine: my Sontag and the Sortie Cap, both patterns dating to the mid-1800s.  For special events, I get to dress like a Victorian, and these knits complement my costume very nicely.  I’ve perused other Godey’s magazines, that conveniently have been digitized and are available for searching online, and I have other patterns I’d like to make, but I have a feeling they will be a project for me in the new year, you know, after the holiday knits are complete!

My first historic knit came from a pattern not nearly as old as the Godey projects, but the pattern is 100 years old.  Simply titled ‘Directions For Making Socks,’ this pattern was found in the Ontario Reformer in 1915, with the intention of promoting making socks for soldiers who were fighting overseas in World War I.  After tackling only one pair of socks previously, I decided to make a pair of WWI socks in the spring of 2014.

Directions for Making Socks, as appeared in the Ontario Reformer, Friday Sept 3, 1915, p5
Directions for Making Socks, as appeared in the Ontario Reformer, Friday Sept 3, 1915, p5

Word to the wise, when working off directions from 100 years ago, basic knowledge in sock construction is key. Thankfully, I have very helpful friends in the knit circle I attend, and they held my hand when it came to setting up and knitting the gusset, and my grandmother was very helpful when I needed confidence in following the heel turn instructions.  Otherwise, it is a very simple sock with a lot of ribbing and plain knitting.  The sock was quite an investment in my time, but I think if I was to make another one, it would make up much faster.  My knitting has improved and I’m much faster now, but the 12 inch leg truly tried my patience!  Knitting the leg along was a test to my dedication of the project!

The completed WWI Sock
The completed WWI Sock

Above, I keep referring to the singular sock.  I finished the first, and second sock syndrome set in… big time.  Eventually, I came to the conclusion that for demonstration purposes, the museum only really needed the ONE sock, so its mate never got completed.  Thankfully, the dedicated women in the 116th Knitting Society had more fortitude than I.  They were a group of women who worked hard and made socks throughout the First World War which in turn were sent overseas, and the local newspaper frequently reported on their progress.  As an example, in early December, it was reported that 56 pairs were sent to France.

We also know that the socks were greatly appreciated by the soldiers who received them, as the newspaper once published a letter which was sent to a woman in the 116th Knitting Society, expressing his deep gratitude at receiving the simplest of gifts.  The First World War was a hard war.  Yes, I know this is not a fair statement as no war is ‘easy,’ but this was one of the first with trench warfare, and trench foot was a very grim reality that soldiers faced.  The arrival of new socks, lovingly made by those at home, would likely have been a source of joy and relief in an otherwise grey world.

Once again, many thanks to Polo, and to you readers for stopping by my little blog! I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving (to all of my fellow Canucks), Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day (to those south of the border), or just enjoying your Monday!


Not Feeling the Gratitude

There is a story behind these socks.

I was in one of my LYSs, over eight months ago, and my attention was grabbed by an eye popping yarn: Wisdom Yarn’s Naked Socks in the Oceanic colourway.  It’s blue, it’s green, it’s teal, it’s oh-so-me.  It is also 93% acrylic, but it is soft and silky!  I had to buy it, so buy it I did.

Wisdom Yarns Naked Sock - Oceanic colourway.
Wisdom Yarns Naked Sock – Oceanic colourway.

By this point, I was a novice sock maker (not that I’m anything of an expert now!), having only made 2 or three plain ol’ ‘vanilla socks: no patterning, no lace, just a simple rib, at the top, heel flap and turn, and stockinette in between.  But with this yarn, the Naked Socks yarn, I wanted more.  Inspired by the colours and colourway name, I wanted a sock pattern that would remind me of the sea.  Think waves, think breeze; I began searching for a sock pattern with lace and/or cables.  Then I found Gratitude.

This ‘Tangy’ sock pattern was originally published in Knitty, the wonderful online knitting magazine, designed by Brenda Patipa.  Drawn in by the picture on the Ravelry pattern page, I knew this was the sock pattern for this yarn.  After buying the right size needles (remember, novice sock knitter with only size 3mm), I cast on.  The date was November 6.

Between the beginning of November and the beginning of August I had knit only 40 rows.  I have hundreds of excuses for my inactivity: Christmas knits, the sweater I wanted to make, knit commissions, presents for beloved friends.  I know the real reason though: I just didn’t wanna do it!  It’s not the pattern’s fault, for it is a beautiful, well written pattern with clear charts.  I couldn’t motivate myself to sit and knit and pay attention to the rows.  It was ignored by my own sheer laziness.

Finally, after finishing my Hermione Everyday Socks, I was on a sock-knitting roll, and I wanted to keep the good times coming.  I heaved a heavy sigh, looking into my yarn storage and found the Gratitude socks.  I pushed past my hesitation, picked up the needles, and started knitting.

Last Monday was a holiday for many of us here in Canada, so Monday morning I settled in with a coffee, Law & Order SVU and the Gratitude socks.  This time, everything was different, for the slips and yarn overs were happening so easily! Before I knew it, I must have knitted 6 rows with great ease!  And then, I noticed it… A dropped stitch many rows back… With the cables, decreases and yarn overs in this pattern, I could not see a way to fix this mistake.  So I took a deep breath, choked back the tears, and started frogging.  Rip-it, rip-it, rip-it.


And then I cast on…

Fast forward four days, and the leg is knit, measuring around 5″.  I began the heel pattern and thought, ‘This would be a great time to try the sock on, see how it’s fitting.’  Might I add, as I kept knitting, my hesitation and nervousness about the size kept increasing – they looked rather narrow…

And that was as far as it would go.  There was no going over the heel...
And that was as far as it would go. There was no going over the heel…

My nerves were well placed.  It took everything in me not to cry/throw the damned project across the room.  I’m putting the socks in a permanent time out – I can’t even look at them to frog it back again.

So, on Thursday night, I broke out another set of DPNs, and I began a Vanilla Sock.

I Think I Found My Mojo!

Last week, when I posted, I was tapped for inspiration and barely knitting.  I’m not sure which invisible switch was flipped, but my needles have been hard at work this week!

I finished my first accent pillow, and the Whovian in me is simply delighted!  Knit with the colours of the Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf, I finished seaming the pillow and adding the zipper on Monday.  I like making these knit pillow cases with zippers, so that if they need washing, it doesn’t become a huge production.  I can unzip, wash, then rezip.  Easy peasy.

Every house needs a touch of Doctor Who, doesn't it?
Every house needs a touch of Doctor Who, doesn’t it?

After completing this pillow, I grabbed a yarn that had been in my stash for a few years and started making a cowl.  I lost the ball band, but a friend helped me identify this yarn as Sirdar Donegal Tweed.  I’ve loved it since I first bought it.  It reminds me of crushed Smarties (for any Americans reading this, the Canadian Smarties are like M&Ms, candy coated chocolates), and really, who doesn’t want to wear something that reminds you of chocolate!

With the Sirdar, I cast on and completed a second ‘Cousin Cowl‘, a project I initially reversed engineered for my cousin, hence the name.  I was inspired by the Leaf Lace Bandana Cowl on Ravelry, and took the general structure of the cowl and made it my own with a completely different lacework pattern.  I liked the one I made for my cousin so much, that I made another.  A quick knit, I finished it in four days.

The colour difference with natural light and direct sunlight is amazing! The bottom picture shows the colour flecks of the tweed!
The colour difference with natural light and direct sunlight is amazing! The bottom picture shows the colour flecks of the tweed!

And finally, I needed to keep my hands busy on Saturday, so I made excellent progress on my Hermione Everyday Socks, finishing Sock #1 on Sunday, and casting on the second later that afternoon.

Hermione Sock #1 Loving the self patterning yarn, and the texture of the knit fabric is just lovely!
Hermione Sock #1
Loving the self patterning yarn, and the texture of the knit fabric is just lovely!

Seriously, what happened to the girl who was seeking inspiration?!

Many thanks to those who commented last week!  I now have new patterns in my ‘Favourites’ on Ravelry, and I was shown different features of this beloved site to check out when I need inspiration.  This blogging community rocks!


I got home from work on Tuesday, and all I could think about was my Turtlepurl yarn.  I bought it a few weeks ago in Toronto, and it’s been waiting patiently for me, alluring, perfectly wound into a cake.  The colours, the possibilities… So naturally, I got home, made a coffee, turned on the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which I have been unashamedly marathoning), and started searching Ravelry.

Yarn, coffee, and Ravelry – what else do I need!


I’ve had two sock patterns in my queue for quite some time, the Hermione Everyday Socks, and the Petty Harbour socks, but neither of them seemed quite right for this yarn.  I thought long and hard about the Petty Harbour pattern – I liked the pairing of a Canadian dyed yarn and a pattern named after a place in Newfoundland, but ultimately, with a vibrant yarn, I felt that I needed a subtle pattern, and I decided on Laura Linneman’s Afterthought Heel Sock, a basic sock which won’t disrupt my stripes at the instep.

The thing is, I really shouldn’t be starting another project.  I am more than two-thirds of the way finished with Gryffindor Scarf #1, and I really want to finish it within the week, and I have two other pairs of socks already on my needles! I have a very simple, plain sock that is excellent for when I’m travelling into the City, and the other is a more detailed, intricate lace pattern, which required full attention and only a few rows get done in one sitting.

But when you have yarn as pretty as my Turtlepurl is, just sitting, waiting to become something even more beautiful, the cast on was inevitable.

Just look at that sweet self striping action!
Just look at that sweet self striping action!

Yarn and the City

I love living close to a big city.  In just over an hour’s time, I can travel from my home town to Toronto, and while sitting on the train, I make the trip and don’t even break a sweat.  I happily use the time to keep my fingers busy, and socks make the best travel project!  I began a very simple sock pattern using yarn I bought months back, Bernat Sox yarn in a fun Desert Storm colourway – it’s khakis, greens and browns and knitting up in a camouflage-esque pattern.  When I stashed this yarn, I always knew it would end up being socks.

While in TO, I was able to visit two yarn shops.  The first was The Knit Cafe on Roncesvalles.  My sister discovered this shop in her neighbourhood a few months back, and she didn’t wait to text me to say ‘you need to come visit and check out this shop!’  Well, I finally checked it out on Saturday, and it was a lovely shop with very friendly staff and an interesting selection of yarn.  I was very excited to leave the shop with new needles (I have a thing for knitting needles… I just love them and adding to my collection), and two hanks of sock yarn from Turtlepurl Yarns, an ‘indie’ Canadian yarn dyer.  The yarn is their Striped Turtle Toes, and when they are complete, they will be two identically striped socks.  This makes me happy.  They are already wound – any excuse really to use my swift – and they are ready for casting on whenever I am ready for them.

Turtlepurl Yarns, Mystic Topaz Striped Turtle Toes Yarn
Turtlepurl Yarns, Mystic Topaz Striped Turtle Toes Yarn

The other shop I visited was Romni Wools on Queen West.  I once saw this places described as ‘an Aladdin’s cave for knitters,’ and whoever came up with this apt description wasn’t wrong!  A huge shop with great selection, rows and rows of yarn.

After I left Romni, without making a purchase (this time), I’ve realized that I have a hard time buying yarn for the sake of buying it.  I have a hard time justifying buying yarn unless I know that I can use it for something.  Sock yarn is one exception, because it has an obvious project that can be completed with it.  However, buying the odd ball or two, or more even, just to buy it, I just can’t do it.  So I left Romni without making a purchase, but the next time I go back, I’ll have a project in mind and I’ll find the perfect yarn there.  Really, half the fun is in the discovery.