Remember the Fair Isle Advent MKALendar cowl-slash-hat pattern last December? Now it's back — sort of — only this holiday season we're doing colorwork socks. And just like last year, the free clues are released in my Mighty Networks community.
Read on to learn all about this year's advent mystery knitalong!
What the What?
With the Fair Isle Sock MKALendar you'll create a pair of colorwork socks in 25 days while waiting for the holidays. The socks come in five sizes and two leg-length options: mid calf or over the knee.
The pattern is released over 25 days starting on December 1 and leading up to Christmas Day on the 25th. Clues 1 through 24 are presented as stranded colorwork charts for the advent. The socks come to a conclusion on December 25 when we work forethought peasant heels with short-row mini gussets.
Construction & Sizing
The Fair Isle Sock MKALendar mystery socks are knit one at a time from the toe up. Instructions for casting on the toes are already included in the pre-release information package so you can jump right into colorwork on December 1.
The socks feature a forethought a.k.a. peasant heel: waste yarn is inserted to mark heel placement. The waste yarn later unraveled to make an opening for the heel and live stitches are picked up all around the opening. To make more room for the heel and reduce pulling across the instep, mini gussets shaped with short rows are worked in both corners of the heel.
The sock pattern is available in five sizes (XS to XL), intended to fit approximate shoe sizes of EU 30/31 [36/37, 39/40, 43/44, 47/48] or US kids' 12–13 [adults' 5–6, 7–8, 9–10, 11–12]. Always go by finished measurements (below) when choosing a size in any knitting pattern.
The usual sizing advice for socks is to go for 10% of negative ease. But since colorwork is not as stretchy as regular stockinette, I recommend starting with a size that's a bit larger than you'd normally make: about 0–5% of negative ease in foot circumference. For example, I usually knit my fingering-weight vanilla socks with 64 stitches. For these ones I sized up to 72 stitches in the foot.
Foot length can be personalized within the limits of the pattern. The pattern comes with guidance on how to measure the right heel placement to fit your (or your recipient's) feet. And if your gauge differs from the pattern, I've also included a formula with which you can precisely calculate your heel length.
Once you get past the heel, leg circumference can be tailored to fit as the sock progresses. Instructions are provided to add calf shaping to your sock if you have shapely calves and especially if you're doing the knee-high version of the socks. In my socks, for instance, I knit the foot and two colorwork charts after heel placement with 72 sts, increased to 80 sts for the rest of the leg, then went back to 72 sts for the ribbed cuff.
Speaking of which, the sock pattern has two leg-length options: mid calf or knee length. For mid-calf socks, work colorwork clues 1–12 of the MKAL on one sock and clues 13–24 on the other. This will obviously produce fraternal instead of identical twins. If you want a pair (or two!) of matching mid-calf socks, work the same clues on both socks.
For knee-high socks, work clues 1–24 on both socks. The two socks will be identical. I must warn, though: the knee highs are a lot of knitting. If you know you'll be busy during December (and who isn't?), I recommend going for the mid-calf length instead.
In addition to leg circumference, leg length can also be adjusted to fit your or your recipient's measurements and preferences: you can stop after completing any day's colorwork chart when you feel like the leg is long enough. With five sizes and lots of customization options, you could knit a pair of fun advent socks for any member of the family. Perhaps not the dog, though?
Yarn, Colors & Other Materials
The clues on December 1 through 24 are presented as two stranded colorwork charts: one for a light(er) background and another for a dark(er) background color. For some charts I've also added in a third accent color.
In either case, all colorwork charts can be worked using just two colors of yarn. But they are just a starting point: you can use as many colors as you wish! Regardless of how many colors you pick, in traditional Fair Isle fashion all colorwork rounds are knit with just two colors and short floats that, for the most part, don't need to be caught.
To knit the socks you'll need fingering-weight sock yarn in at least two colors for a total of
mid-calf socks: approx. 280 [340, 380, 470, 560] m / 310 [370, 420, 510, 610] yd
knee-high socks: approx. 550 [600, 670, 780, 890] m / 600 [650, 730, 850, 980] yd
This is a great opportunity to use up all sorts of sock yarn leftovers, scraps, half-a skeins, unicorn tails, or advent calendar minis! Your color choices determine whether your advent will be filled with classic or modern interpretations of traditional Fair Isle motifs.
Like last year's MKAL, this one also comes with a primer on color theory to help you choose colors for your socks and apply color theory to Fair Isle knitting. My socks are a hodgepodge of (mostly) hand-dyed sock yarn scraps, alternating between a light and dark colors. But to give the socks a close family resemblance, I used the same colors on both socks — only the colorwork motifs are different.
In addition to yarn, you'll also need 2.5 mm or US #1.5 needles (or size to obtain gauge), a bit of fingering-weight waste yarn to mark heel placement, and a darning needle. Optional materials that are not strictly necessary but might come in handy are a colorwork yarn guide (also known as a Norwegian knitting thimble) and a locking stitch marker.
I highly recommend trying the socks on periodically to ensure a good fit, especially in the leg. For this you might need to transfer heel stitches on a spare set of needles or some more waste yarn.
How to Join?
Fair Isle Sock MKALendar kicks off on December 1, 2023 at 8:00 am UTC in my Mighty Networks community. The pattern is free for a limited time: the clues will be available free on Mighty Networks from December 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024.
Can't wait? You don't have to! Join the dedicated MKAL group in advance and start planning your colors. Once December 1st rolls around, you can share your progress photos, ooh and aah over other participants' socks, and ask questions should they arise. If you're new to Mighty Networks, please wait a while to get access to the community because all members need to be approved manually.
The pre-release information package comes with a list of materials, a detailed schedule, tips for planning your color palette, and instructions for casting on the toes. All of these will be released in the Fair Isle Sock MKALendar group in my Mighty Networks community in the days leading up to December but you can also download it now on Payhip or Ravelry (seizure warning).
And don't forget Instagram! The hashtag to use is #fairislesockmkalendar.
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